Wednesday, December 31, 2008

SEIZE FIRE


Jews and Arabs Agree in Nashville, Tennessee and around the world!
WE WANT A CEASE FIRE!



It is not that complicated: snake 'em, take 'em, or hide from your friends if you need to-- Just get rid of the them. I WANT A CEASE FIRE NOW!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Due to increased demand for tickets, ticket requests are being handled at http://www.volunteernashville.com/



A broad array of musicians and celebrities will be in attendance including Gospel music legend Dr. Bobby Jones and bluegrass/country singers Sharon and Ricky Skaggs.The ball will be held at the Maxwell House Hotel, beginning at 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 20.Tickets are available online at http://www.volunteernashville.com/.



The ball is intended to bring people of Nashville together, regardless of race, religion or politics.



CONTACT: Elyssa Durant, Host Coordinator at (615) 424-8810
Tim Chavez, Media Relations at (615) 512-8209




We apologize for the inconvenience. Kindly contact (615) 569-3010 for additional information and media relations.

Middle Tennessee Republicans Join the Celebration




ABC News and its Memphis affiliate are spreading the word to the nation about the Music City Inaugural Charity Ball slated for Jan. 20 to set an example to America about how to come together behind Barack Obama's presidency and the crisis of these economic times.

Organizer, the Rev. Enoch Fuzz, has set the theme for the event as one of unity and self-empowerment, quoting the inaugural speech of President John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

Here is what the Memphis ABC-TV affiliate ran:

Nashville, TN - For the first time in history, Music City will host it's own Presidential Inaugural Ball.

Set for the night of January 20 at the Maxwell House Hotel, organizers said Music City's version will be the largest inaugural ball outside Washington DC.

The Reverend Enoch Fuzz came up with the idea and quickly sought the help of other religious leaders in the Nashville community, including Dr. Charles McGowan.

A broad array of musicians and celebrities will be in attendance including Gospel music legend Dr. Bobby Jones and bluegrass/country singers Sharon and Ricky Skaggs.

The ball will be held at the Maxwell House Hotel, beginning at 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 20.

Tickets are available online at www.volunteernashville.com.

Reverend Fuzz said the ball is intended to bring people of Nashville together, regardless of race, religion or politics.


TICKETS AVAILABLE ONLINE: http://www.volunteernashville.com/
or call: (615) 569-3010

Elyssa Durant, Host Coordinator at (615) 424-8810
Tim Chavez, Media Relations at (615) 512-8209

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The New York Times: Obama's Stamp of Approval


The campaign, produced on behalf of ServiceNation.org, is timed for National Mentoring Month, which has been observed each January since 2002.

THE NEW YORK TIMES
BUSINESS December 19, 2008
Obama's Stamp of Approval, Prepresidential
By STUART ELLIOTT


President-elect Barack Obama will soon be doing something before his inauguration that has long been the province of presidents: appearing in a public service campaign.



Friday, December 19, 2008

Change We Need: Mentor A Child


The campaign, produced on behalf of ServiceNation.org, is timed for National Mentoring Month, which has been observed each January since 2002.


THE NEW YORK TIMES
BUSINESS December 19, 2008
Obama's Stamp of Approval, Prepresidential
By STUART ELLIOTT



President-elect Barack Obama will soon be doing something before his inauguration that has long been the province of presidents: appearing in a public service campaign.

http://darknightdurant.blogspot.com/2008/12/change-we-need-mentor-child.html

The Music City Inaugural Ball

The Music City USA Barack Obama Presidential Inaugural Ball

Tuesday January 20, 2009

7:00pm

Millennium Maxwell Hotel Ballroom

Rosa Parks Blvd.

Nashville, Tennessee


"Celebrating An Historic American Night"

Formal Attire Please
Proceeds will be donate to nearly 20 community organizations, services, and institutions: Little League Teams, three Nashville High Schools have been selected, several college scholarship awardees, after school academic enrichment tutoring programs, and youth development programs are just a sample of the wonderful Nashville community groups that will recieve much needed donations of 500, 1000 up to 5000 dollar grants from this marvelous charity celebration.


Tax Deductible Invitations go on sale December 15, 2008. The price is $100.00 per person. Live music, dancing, food, cash bar, eight foot television screens tuned to DC, Obama Memorabilia, personal fun photos with President Obama, slide shows, and America's newest hit dance, "The Music City Obama Slide".


















Our Special Guest:

"Bob the Builder"

Yes We Can


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

PRESS RELEASE: INAUGURATION DAY BALL


The Music City

USA President Inauguration Day Ball


Tuesday January 20, 2009

7:00pm

Millennium Maxwell House Hotel

Rosa Parks Blvd.

Nashville, Tennessee


On the morning of January 20, 2009 Barack Obama will take the oath of office as America's 44th president.

Listings number hundreds of traditional events in and around the nation's capital in honor of the new president on Inauguration Day.

But outside the overcrowded nation's capitol in Nashville, Tennessee, a "Host Committee of 44" people are supporting The Music City "USA President's Inaugural Day Ball".

The Nashville Inaugural Ball is spearheaded by longtime Nashville pastor, the Reverend Enoch Fuzz. The "Host Committee of 44" consist of some of the community's most notable persons including:

Davidson County Sheriff Darren Hall, Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors, Gospel Music Icon Dr. Bobby Jones, Criminal Court Judge Monty Watkins, Award winning newspaper journalist Tim Chavez, Metro Parks Director Roy Wilson, attorney Linda Jones, Metro School Board Members; Karen Johnson and Mark North, acting Schools Director Chris Henson, Metro Council At Large Member Megan Barry, the Reverend Edwin Sanders, Rev. Dr. ray Richardson and former Dean of TSU School of Engineering Dr Ed Isibor.

And some who did not vote for Obama -- but feel it is now in the best interest of our city and nation to work together and hopes for the new president to have success -- include several former Metro Council members, business owners and community volunteers.

Successful Nashville business owner, Carol Jenkins of Priority Hospice and the New Hope Foundation has signed on her company as a major sponsor of the event. Jenkins who served on President Bush's Small Business Advisory Council volunteered her company's support when asked to serve on the Host Committee of 44 saying:

"I feel this is an effective way to create positive opportunities in our community."

The proceeds from the Music City USA President's Inaugural Ball will be donated to twenty one selected nonprofit community organizations and programs. Some of the groups that will recieve $1,000 or more are:

Northwest YMCA, Maplewood HS, Whites Creek HS, the Inner City Boy Scouts, the College Trust Fund, AT&T Community Network Tennessee, the First Response Center, Faith Family Clinic, several little league ball clubs, some academic tutoring programs, job mentoring, and faith based programs are also included.

Ticket Invitations to attend the formal attire event are $100 per person and can be purchased online starting December 22, 2008. Those attending the Music City Ball will dine on awesome Southern food, dance to the music of DJs and live bands, be entertained with stand up comedy acts, and stay abreast of all the official Washington, D.C .,Inaugural Ball activities by way of 10-foot television screens in the grand ballrooms at the elegant Millennium Maxwell House Hotel.

Many at the Nashville Celebration may seem closer to the Obamas than those in D.C. The event organizers estimate that near 200 invitations to the Nashville Ball have been requested as word got out about the event and expects it will be sold out one week after tickets go on sale December 23.

Stay tuned for invitation information.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Is Equal Opportunity Just A Myth?

Is Equal Opportunity Just a Myth?
America claims to be dedicated to equal opportunity, yet equality is not sufficient in urban communities. These kids need more. We need to think about equity, not equality. It is not enough to hide them away. These are visions we should never forget. [[click below to link to full text]]
View more »





In Amazing Grace: The lives of children and the conscience of a nation, Jonathan Kozol paints a vivid picture of the conditions in the poorest sections of New York City. During the early to mid 1990’s, Kozol made several visits to Mott Haven in the South Bronx. As he describes in Amazing Grace, the South Bronx is one of the most severely segregated and poorest Congressional Districts in the United States.

The members of this community have been segregated into a hell plagued with sickness, violence and despair. Kozol argues that this strategic placement serves to isolate the rich from the realities they have thrust upon their fellow man. New Yorkers do not stroll through the streets of Mott Haven, and taxicabs take no short cuts through Beekman Avenue. Many taxicabs will not even venture past East 96th Street. Out of sight is out of mind.

As I was reading Amazing Grace, I remember thinking back to my days living in Manhattan, coincidentally around the same time Kozol conducted his interviews in the South Bronx. I lived in what Kozol refers to as Manhattan’s “Liberal West Side,” an area that was undergoing rapid transformation and gentrification at the time Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took office.

There is no excuse for the conditions in which these people must live. No person should be forced into an apartment that has a higher ratio of cockroaches and rats than human beings.

In 1995, the American Sociological Association (ASA) held its annual conference in New York City. Prior to that meeting, they sent out a fact sheet that may be of interest to ASA members. In this sheet, they too described the same social conditions and asked their members to take note of the changes that occur at 96th Street. I can assure you that the conditions Kozol describes in his book were not exaggerated.

These children are desperately in need of the best schools, yet we give them the worst. They have few libraries, few safe havens, few doctors, and few role models. They have every reason to believe that they are throwaway children and we have certainly not shown them anything else. The social services we have provided are a bureaucratic nightmare. People in need are treated as sub-human, and made to feel ashamed of being poor.

These are among the sickest children in the world. Americans claim to be dedicated to the children and fool ourselves into believing that we are doing them a favor by providing them with medical care, public education, and public housing. Yet, the quality of their neighborhoods speaks volumes of our sentiment and intentions.

Shortly after Amazing Grace was published, managed care rapidly moved onto the New York scene. Around the same time, the Mayor announced he would be closing some of the hospitals that served the poorest of the poor because of financial problems associated with payment and large trauma departments.

Kozol makes the point that people could attempt to gain admissions at a better hospital than Bronx-Lebanon; yet, the privatization of Medicaid has now made this completely impossible. Further restrictions on medical care are inevitable as the result of Medicaid managed care. The law is not designed to protect these people, and this was made obvious in a recent conversation I had with a friend who practices medicine in New York.

My friend John works as a board certified trauma physician at a private hospital on the Upper East Side. The last black patient he treated at Beth Israel was famed rock singer Michael Jackson. I asked him if he ever gets any asthma patients in his ER. He knew immediately of whom I was speaking. “You mean the kids from the South Bronx?” he asked. He told me that they know better than to show up at Beth Israel. “But if they do?” I asked, and he replied, “We ship them back.”

This is the reality. The best doctors treat the wealthiest patients rather than the sickest. Schools educate the best students rather than the neediest. It is no wonder that these children perform poorly in school. By every measure, these children are destined for failure. Their home life is less than enchanting, and they do not benefit from enriched environments and educated parents.

Certainly, there are many dedicated parents who care about their children, but is that enough? When I was in school, children frequently asked the teacher, how will this help later in life. In my class, there was an unequivocal reply, but it could be argued that what children in the South Bronx need to learn couldn’t be taught in the classroom.

There is no doubt that the prevalence of violence in urban neighborhoods affects the ability of children to perform well in school. There is a large body of empirical evidence that demonstrates the effects of chronic stress on memory and the learning process. Rather than taking the children out of these communities, we have constructed prison like buildings for them to attend school. They routinely have gunfire drills reminding them that danger is never far behind.

Children cannot learn in this environment. This constant stress triggers “hot-memory.” Hot memory can be thought of as learning with your heart and not your mind. It is no wonder children perform inadequately in this environment.

It is bad enough that children live in such conditions, must we educate in them too? If we want underprivileged children to learn and grow spiritually, we must create an environment that allows their cool memory systems to take over.

It is only under these conditions that children will permit themselves to learn and develop their intellectual strengths. We have failed to create a safe home environment for urban children, but we can give serious thought to creating a school environment outside of the community so they have fewer fear-driven hours each day.

Studies consistently report lower academic achievement in urban neighborhoods like Mott Haven in the South Bronx. Children growing up in urban neighborhoods have a much higher incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Most researchers believe this to be the direct result of living in stressed communities plagued with street crime and violence. The potential impact of chronic stress on academic performance and achievement is not known, but reading scores in neighborhoods like Mott Haven certainly seem to indicate some type of causal relationship. There is virtually no research on looking at the long-term effects of this inflated incidence of PTSD among urban populations. It is important to develop an understanding of the effects of fear on the academic performance of urban adolescents so we can begin to dismantle the myths regarding school performance and minority children.

Under these conditions, it is not surprising to learn that students also report pervasive feelings of fear and do not feel secure despite the added presence of security personnel on school grounds. For these students, school is a mere extension of the violent communities in which they live.

Since urban communities have many different sources of stress, it is important to examine how school policies contribute to the learning environment in public schools. The quick response has been to install weapons detectors and hire school security for urban schools. The presence of school security certainly affects the climate of American public schools by establishing school environments that focus more on student behavior than student achievement. Together, the urban public school and the community it serves are a constant reminder of the poor living conditions and social reality of urban America.

The secured environment is an indication of the roles students are expected to play later in life. This is a lesson they will not soon forget.

Kozol makes it quite clear that there are several exceptional children in this community. There are probably as many exceptional children here as every other community around the country, yet, so few of them will make it out of the South Bronx. Kozol is careful not to dwell on the exceptional cases of children who successfully navigate their way into the main stream of society. Kozol does this so we do not develop a false sense of hope. If we cling to a few exceptional cases, we may come to believe that what we are giving enough to children like
Anthony or Anabelle. Clearly, we can do more. Failure should be the exception—not the rule. Success should be the norm, and until it is, we should not give up hope for these children.

America claims to be dedicated to equal opportunity, yet equality is not sufficient in a community like Mott Haven. These kids need more. We need to think about equity, not equality. It is not enough to hide them away. These are visions we should never forget.

Welcome to America. The Wealthiest Nation in the World.

Reference: Amazing Grace: The lives of children and the conscience of a nation. (by Jonathan Kozol)

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1251493/is_equal_opportunity_just_a_myth_.html?cat=2

Friday, December 5, 2008

MESSENGERS OF PEACE NEEDS YOU!

This business supports Health Care for America Now
This fall marked the beginning of one of the greatest tragedies in American history: Hurricane Katrina. This is further compounded by the potential devastation that awaits New Orleans residents when they return to the unknown losses that await them as Hurricane Gustav looms of the Gulf Coast and inches its way closer and closer to the Louisiana border.

Several years ago, I made an online statement that Nashvillians in need of benefits should apply "before the Louisiana people utilize whatever resources we have left." In retrospect, that statement seems crass and insensitive. Now that several years have passed, I would certainly blame this disgusting war as the main culprit of domestic waste. Unfortunately, I cannot turn back the hands of time, and that statement exists- floating around for all eternity in the magical world of cyberspace. All I can do now is try my best to explain what prompted that statement and hope that those who read my previous piece will also see this retraction.

I would like to take this opportunity to explain what prompted such an apparently callous, insensitive comment and set the record straight.

We live in a country that rallies together when faced with domestic and international crises. We open our hearts, our homes, and our wallets for disaster relief here and overseas. We also live in a world where smaller crises exist everyday albeit poverty, hunger or homelessness. Such domestic problems tend to be chronic in nature and often slip under the radar. The battle lines have been drawn and we lost. We are losing. With every day that passes the casualties grow to astronomical proportions. We failed.

After Katrina, Tennessee residents took in many refugees. The local papers printed countless ads offering shelter, financial assistance, and job opportunities to "Survivors of Katrina." After calling some of these people in response to their apparent act of altruism, I learned that these offers were only applicable to survivors of Katrina and not to local residents. I was angry.

I was angry because in the months before that devastating storm hit the Gulf Coast, there was an urgent call for people to open their homes to the 30,000 children and adolescents in desperate need of foster care. Children without a home. Children without a safety net. Our city did not respond. Our residents did not rise to the occasion and countless children continue to live in uncertain conditions without the necessities they need to thrive in this complicated, fragmented society.

After considerable thought, I came to the conclusion that the media and current policies that allow such unfortunate states of existence are partly to blame, but so too are the American people and the residents of this fine city that I like to think of as home. So why is it that we are so generous in times of urgent need by allowing pervasive states of poverty for our local residents and out children? Are they damaged goods? Are persons in poverty to blame for their circumstances? Are they too week? Are they somehow supposed to magically lift themselves out of the dark and somehow find the path into enlightenment of financial security? Is this the ultimate act of Social Darwinism where survival of the fittest means people who are fit to survive against all odds? Is it just a coincidence that the words indigent and indignant sound so similar?

As Hurricane Gustav approaches, I call upon our local residents to do more than just welcome the fleeing victims to open their hearts and their homes. I challenge each and every one of you to continue this charity after the storm has cleared. Even after the storm in the Gulf has moved past the coast and becomes another chapter in history, there is much to be done right here, right now. Do we accept the indignation of indigence and poverty with indifference? Or do we act?

We can do so much on the home front before our indifference creates a storm of domestic disaster. It is unfortunate for us that people have been too blind, too indifferent, and too complacent they do not even see such a storm brewing. But if you look, and if you listen, it is not hard to see how such a storm is brewing just beyond the horizon.

Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.


This business supports Health Care for America Now

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chapter II: Older & Bolder

I first started posting this blog shortly after my 35th birthday. It was a gift to myself so I could live my life without being too scared that I might be discovered for being a little bit crazy, a little bit lonely, and making a whole lot of noise. I started by disclosing my deepest secrets, often exposing to my deepest fears. Initially I chose the motto: "Too old to start over, Too young to forget." Eventually that moniker evolved into something a little more challenging and inspirational, "Too old to start over, Too young to give up." Now that my 36th birthday is just around the corner (actually, more like an intersection) I plan to spend the last few days I have in this demographic bracket uncovering some the essays I have written that still need a little tweaking, and a whole lot of twacking! So be prepared to find a few typos, a few disconnected thoughts without making an obvious transition. Because I am naming the next phase of my life, you know, the "35 and up" phase, "Chapter II: A Little Bit Older, And a Whole Lot Bolder." I have enjoyed the feedback I have gotten from so many people from all walks of life who have written in response to something I have written. Women I have never met, from places I do not know. Women like Joy and Cat who encourage me to keep writing even if they disagree with some of my core values or excessive use of profanity. Women (or men) who have somehow managed to stumble across my writings in one of their many raw forms without realizing that just by contacting me, much of the fear and hesitation I once felt about publishing my collection of personal (and professional) essays have been replaced with a new found sense of pride and accomplishment. Fear and uncertainty have are quickly evolving into confidence and proliferation. Personally, professionally, and spiritually, I hope to continue "kicking ass and taking names," because at this point in my life, I may actually start doing that a little bit more. You will notice that I am reclaiming my name and uncovering the many aliases I have used over the years... I am done hiding. I'm am not perfect, and I will always struggle with my obsession to find just The Write Words, but I'm guessing it is probably good enough. Probably good enough so that most people will won't even notice if I forget to capitalize a proper noun or if I end a sentence with a preposition. So be it. You may also notice that I am reclaiming my name, and will be using try to cut down on the number of anonymous postings I listed under an alias because I was afraid I would be embarrassed if my work was not well received. I am ranges from the less obvious accounts I have created to maintain a bit of distance between myself and my classmates, peers, and colleagues, but in addition to "Miss Elyss" or "Lyssie D." I am even willing to admit that I have created so many login accounts and user names to post anonymously, that I have forgotten most of the passwords to access my own content. But I am rather proud of the creativity I demonstrated when I came up with two of my personal favorites, "I.M.Phobic" and "EyePhobic." I never could get into that whole IM thing, webcam or chat rooms! The way I see it, it is bad enough i need to put on clothes and make-up to leave the house-- I'll be damned if I have to put on make-up to send an e-mail! Yes, they were all me. They are a pert of me, because like so many women-- no... like so many people... I'm a little bit of everything... so for those of you who are listening and even to those of you who just wish I would shut the fuck up already; be careful what you wish for! The more content I create, the easier it becomes to let go... and the more I let go, the more I can heal. The more I can heal, the more I can focus on the academic issues that will always be my first and primary area of interest. However, it seems rather obvious to me now that the only way out is through. So, I will continue to write through the dark and hope that it I can become more present minded rather than being trapped by memories from the past. To Joy, Cat, TA James, and a few others, thanks so much for the gift. I hope I can make you proud! Goodnight to you all,
The curious can find anything and everything! I often wonder why it is so much easier for others to to get my information about me than it is for me to get about myself! I'm a digger. To be clear, that is "digger." I never use the "N" word, and I'm way too proud to marry for money. I'm a digger. I love information. I love to find, I love to collect it, but most of all, I love to use it. I love to dissect it, analyze it, formulate new questions and ponder the answers. I love the journey of natural inquiry... never knowing where my racing mind will take me, often surprised surprised by the answer, but always, always intrigued by the things I encounter along the way. So I set out to find the answer to one question, and instead I find myself asking a million more. It keeps me up at night, and allows me to avoid the day. My life is not unexamined, and my thought patterns may be far from typical, but the things I have learned along the way are by far the most intriguing and most unique. I am not afraid to ask questions, nor am I afraid that I don't have all the answers. As a digger, I do know that it is the path least taken: the creative, atypical mind; that is riddled with creativity, tangential thoughts and questions that often deliver the most interesting answers. But sometimes, it is the answers that deliver us to the most interesting questions. We often think that questions drive the inquiry-- at least that's what they tell us in school. To use the "Scientific Method." And of course, to never, ever color outside the lines. But aren't the best discoveries the ones we weren't searching for? The unexpected gift... the non-occasion. The beauty is in the every day. The challenge is in the unexpected. Call me crazy if you like (and many have) but I can assure you that there will come a day when all of that R.A.M. will come in handy. I am definitely asking the right questions... and maybe one day you will too. Finding my voice has allowed me to appreciate the silence. The hours between dusk and dawn where the rest of the world sleeps and I dig. I dig and I write. I fill the lonely hours with my innermost thoughts, and my very best friend. So as the rest of the world sleeps soundly, surrounded by loved ones in a sanctuary they call home, I fill myself with books, journals and information. Lots and lots of information. Who would have thought that loneliness can become a family in it's own right? It is always there and it is always familiar. That solitude can become our greatest companion and that strangers can become our best friends. I miss New York. I miss Dr. Stu. I miss Jefferey and I miss Todd. I miss my wild, brilliant friends plagued by curiosity, insomnia, and creativity. Hey boys-- guess what? I'm coming home! Let's go to hot and crusty at 3 a.m. when everything really is, yes, "hot and crusty!" Lets go the Internet cafe across from the Hello Kitty store and wake up old friends that actually dare to sleep when it is dark out??? WAKE-UP TODD! I've been calling you for hours! I have a joke to I want to tell you! New York, New York... The "City" that never sleeps? See I don't think it was ever really about the city, I think it is more about the anonymity. Someplace you can be yourself, and never worry about being judged by your in-bred hillbilly neighbors who are, in all honesty, much more focused on raising hell then raising children... To them, I am "strange." I am "weird." I am "Italian." or "Jewish" or "something!" because I talk really really fast! You are all wrong: I'm from New York! So while you sleep, I dig. I learn , I question, and I write. But I do it alone, and I'm starting not to like so much. So for all of you out there who are insomniacs: "writers," "consultants," "perpetually un and underemployed yet overqualified" computer geeks -- please enjoy my video blog below. I chose a few songs have keep me company at night. Just loud enough to drown out the drunk couple outside my window having yet another domestic dispute, but low enough so that the neighbors downstairs won't complain. Hopefully, you will know some of the selections that have kept me dancing in the living room into the wee hours of the morning, and can learn something about my favorite word if you are paying attention... You'll find all of my favorites in one place. So enjoy the trip my friends, it's getting early for some, but late for others, and I've got some shit to do before the world wakes up, because to quote John Cougar (or is it Melloncamp?) I Ain't Even Done With The Night! http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=04EA65F6BD91E91B DESCRIPTION: Everything from my favorite word to my favorite website. There's something in there for pretty much every mood-- songs to make you cry, videos to make you laugh. Political ads that make you sick and some that will give you chills-- but at least they make you feel!!! Finding my voice, and hearing those of strangers has given me the strength I needed to move on. So for so many of you who have contacted me lately, via the web, via your cell phone, or even by way of a nasty website-- stand tall and stand close because much like fear, courage also rubs off on you somehow when you are surrounded by the right people. So a big shout out, and a sincere word of thanks to all of you who have helped to find my voice once again and the courage to say whatever is on my mind... Say it loud, say it proud, just say it! I will not be ignored and I will not be forgotten. But guess what, Here Comes the Sun. I made it through night and now it's time to go, because that was SO yesterday! Thanks for giving, good luck forgetting! Elyssa D'Educrat / Elyssa D. Durant Nashville, Tennessee / New York, New York http://www.youtube.com/user/elyssadurant

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Brief History of Tennessee Healthcare



(For Historical Reference)



1996: Throughout the three year process of filing appeal after appeal after appeal, I acquired well over 1/4 million dollars in debt due to uninsured medical expenses and student loans. My life will never be the same. My heart will never be the same.

1999: Patient X: Corporate TennCare adjusted the prescription formulary over Memorial Day in 1999 and failed refused to offer a 3-day or 14-Day emergency supply as mandated by Grier.

2001: I have no other benefits. No Social Security checks to count on; no disability payments to pull together; no Medicare to meet me when the bottom falls out, again. This surely is not the first time my Medicaid has not come through as a reliable source of payment. It is not even the second or third time. It more like the eight or ninth, maybe more often than that. I only recently qualified for Medicaid some eight months ago! Since then, I have already acquired several thousand dollars in unpaid medical expenses that have made their way to collection agencies.

2002: Before my benefits were stabilized, learning to navigate the system consumed every waking moment of my life. I was unable to work or attend school on any substantial level and I am frightened to see at might happen if I were to stray from my established, stabilized, treatment plan. If I lose my benefits, will I still be able to work? To function? To be productive?

2005: The massive number of people being dis-enrolled or limited in their access to medical care and other social services will no doubt create significant anxiety, confusion, and chaos for everyone involved in the social service and health care industries.

2006: Without my current level of benefits, I simply do not function.

2007: I remember how difficult it was for me to obtain benefits when I first applied several years ago. I am deeply concerned about how the most recent decision to eradicate yet another class of TennCare / Medicaid recipients (the Daniels class that is made up of SSI recipients by way of a pending federal waiver) will affect the poor and disabled residents in Tennessee.

MAY 2008: And even though my life has become a living hell, I have almost learned to enjoy the sheer irony of it all... for someone with OCD and post-traumatic stress, this is truly a ridiculous little experiment.

JULY 2008: I am becoming increasingly inspired to just burn every last document I own, throw away my keys and my cell phone and take Spotty some place where we can live off the land, but I have come this far, and I am becoming rather skilled at expressing myself without an audience or the obsessive need to check every fact, throw, and typo for capitalization and perfection.

AUGUST 2008: So after all this-- now I face losing my health care once again? Where is the safety net? Where is the American Dream that I so diligently chased after for so many years? What was the point spending so much on an education that will never be utilized? I understand the how; I just don't understand why.

LAST MONTH: So for now... I write. Maybe later, I'll read. But if there is any justice left in this world, maybe someday, I'll actually live.

TODAY: Good-bye for now. I need a break.



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Worst Day Ever

Take a look this ridiculous system we have created of "care" we have: no one accepts responsibility for their mistakes and no one is held accountable for their actions (Or lack thereof). For those of you who do not understand how I can be so busy without a full time job, let me offer you a glimpse inside a day in the life of a TennCare recipient. I spend day after day after may doing the same thing without any result: I offer you an only a glimpse because you wouldn't be able to sit in my car, and I believe my apartment may truly be a fire hazard... This was my daily update posted at 7:30am:

I have done everything humanly possible to clean up the slack; however, I feel I have no other choice than to file a formal complaint so that my entire case is reviewed. The number of mistakes is so overwhelming that I simply don't have enough time to documents each and every one with the respective agency.

I will try to be more specific later without going into too much detail, but unfortunately, that level of detail is required to file the necessary appeals. Ironic huh? This apartment is like my own little cage, and I am just pathetic enough to run around in circles, hoping to find the much like a hamster wheel, rodent chasing in circles hoping to found my way out my way out before I run out air. If only I had finished my damn PhD, I would do my own case study or reality show on how far we'll go to have nothing at all...

I have taken care of the subrogation claim, however, that does bot minimize my level of frustration because I am DROWNING in paperwork. I have contacted several agencies to assistance such as the Disability Law and Advocacy Center; however, I do not have the resources necessary to provide them with timely response. There is a very limited time allowed to Request Reconsideration, or file an appeal.

I also want to be clear that every time I have to call Social Security or DHS, it only compounds my cost of living expenses (40 cents per minute on the telephone -- a bill which is not even considered to be a justifiable expense) Most agencies do not include self-addressed stamped envelopes, and I cannot afford the postage required to mail out all of the requested documentation (e.g., utility bills, medical bills, pay stubs, etc.)

Fortunately, a number of agencies will take online complaints. Unfortunately, my Internet was interrupted for non-payment for several weeks and there is no funding resource or community agency that provides subsidized Internet access or free printer ink.

Transportation costs are ridiculous so going to the library is not an option. Neither is returning to work right now, since it would cost too much to get to the interview or provide official (expensive) copies of my graduate school transcripts that were oh, such a good investment!

Set aside, I am not the most user friendly person right about now, so I have found it difficult to put on a happy face so I can work at McDonald's which pays more than Metro anyway.

The subrogation claim has been resolved but I just learned that my breast biopsy was not pre-authorized and I was told by my INSURANCE CSR (the person who answers the phone!!!) that I should not have the surgery that has already been scheduled at the Women's Hospital for 8/21/2008. AmeriChoice (United HealthCare) did they did not authorize the biopsy last month, and have not, as of yet, received a request prior authorization for the surgery next week...

This was a lovely 54 minute conversation because he would not mail me copies of my EOBs or confirm that what, if any, requests have been submitted for payment since my last inquiry and change of address. He finally told me to call the state (Tennessee) which I have already done several times, and they told me to call Social Security but it was already past business hours and I am not authorized to make changes to my file anyway.

I'll be in touch when I can. Unfortunately each agency has different deadlines, and it takes a lot of energy and time to scan in, copy, or respond to each inquiry in writing, so I find myself running out of time since I can't seem to get anything done unless I just do nothing at all.

And even though my life is a living hell, I have almost learned how to enjoy the sheer irony of it all... for someone with OCD and post-traumatic stress, this is truly a ridiculous little experiment.

I am becoming increasingly inspired to just burn every last document I own, throw away my keys and my cell phone and take Spotty some place where we can live off the land and ignore the fact that society has me chained to a computer screen that screen that does provide the basic necessities I need to live in this .

I have come this far, and I am becoming rather skilled and at expressing myself without needing an audience or the obsessive need to check every fact, throw, and typo for capitalization and perfection.

So for now... I write. Maybe later, I'll read, but if there is any justice left in this world, someday, I'll actually live.

Good-bye for now. I need a break.


With love,

e

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Charity Begins at Home: A Call to Action

Charity Begins at Home: A Call to Action

The last several days, I found myself thinking about a statement I made several years ago. In this modern era of communications, it is difficult for a freelance writer like myself to make retractions- and correct myself given that I only have a small stream of frequent readers. However, I often make mistakes whether it is an ampersand instead of a comma or an opinion statement that could be easily misunderstood. I would like to correct one such statement and set the record straight. Not just for my readers, but also for myself.

This weekend marks the beginning of what I consider one of the greatest tragedies in American history: Hurricane Katrina. This is further compounded by the potential devastation that awaits New Orleans residents when they return to the unknown losses that await them as Hurricane Gustav looms of the Gulf Coast and inches its way closer and closer to the Louisiana border.

Several years ago, I made an online statement that Nashvillians in need of benefits should apply “before the Louisiana people utilize whatever resources we have left.” In retrospect, that statement seems crass and insensitive. Now that several years have passed, I would certainly blame this disgusting war as the main culprit of domestic waste. Unfortunately, I cannot turn back the hands of time, and that statement exists— floating around for all eternity in the magical world of cyberspace. All I can do now is try my best to explain what prompted that statement and hope that those who read my previous piece will also see this retraction.

I would like to take this opportunity to explain what prompted such an apparently callous, insensitive comment and set the record straight.

We live in a country that rallies together when faced with domestic and international crises. We open our hearts, our homes, and our wallets for disaster relief here and overseas. We also live in a world where smaller crises exist everyday albeit poverty, hunger or homelessness. Such domestic problems tend to be chronic in nature and often slip under the radar. The battle lines have been drawn and we lost. We are losing. With every day that passes the casualties grow to astronomical proportions. We failed.

After Katrina, Tennessee residents took in many refugees. The local papers printed countless ads offering shelter, financial assistance, and job opportunities to “Survivors of Katrina.” After calling some of these people in response to their apparent act of altruism, I learned that these offers were only applicable to survivors of Katrina and not to local residents. I was angry.

I was angry because in the months before that devastating storm hit the Gulf Coast, there was an urgent call for people to open their homes to the 30,000 children and adolescents in desperate need of foster care. Children without a home. Children without a safety net. Our city did not respond. Our residents did not rise to the occasion and countless children continue to live in uncertain conditions without the necessities they need to thrive in this complicated, fragmented society.

After considerable thought, I came to the conclusion that the media and current policies that allow such unfortunate states of existence are partly to blame, but so too are the American people and the residents of this fine city that I like to think of as home. So why is it that we are so generous in times of urgent need by allowing pervasive states of poverty for our local residents and out children? Are they damaged goods? Are persons in poverty to blame for their circumstances? Are they too week? Are they somehow supposed to magically lift themselves out of the dark and somehow find the path into enlightenment of financial security? Is this the ultimate act of Social Darwinism where survival of the fittest means people who are fit to survive against all odds? Is it just a coincidence that the words indigent and indignant sound so similar?

As Hurricane Gustav approaches, I call upon our local residents to do more than just welcome the fleeing victims to open their hearts and their homes. I challenge each and every one of you to continue this charity after the storm has cleared. Even after the storm in the Gulf has moved past the coast and becomes another chapter in history, there is much to be done right here, right now. Do we accept the indignation of indigence and poverty with indifference? Or do we act?

We can do so much on the home front before our indifference creates a storm of domestic disaster. It is unfortunate for us that people have been too blind, too indifferent, and too complacent they do not even see such a storm brewing. But if you look, and if you listen, it is not hard to see how such a storm is brewing just beyond the horizon.

Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.
Nashville, TN

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pharmacy Fallout '08 [Draft]

The Powers That Beat


Here's the latest snafu in the State of Tennessee: TennCare Changes Benefits Without Notice Effective October 1, 2008.
.
TennCare providers, beneficiaries and advocates are once again unaware of how the new changes will affect their benefits or services concerning changes to the pharmacy plan that were implemented on October 1, 2008. No information about the changes (e.g., formulary changes, benefits coverage, or appeals, grievances or override procedures were given to providers, participants or local sent

TennCare providers, beneficiaries and advocates are once again unaware of the new changes in the pharmacy program that went into effect on October 1, 2008. New procedures were implemented by providers that have obvious HIPPA violations. Federal agencies and advocates should direct consumers to the appropriate federal agencies regarding HIPPA compliance and other possible violations of federal law.

I did find out some additional information, which is this: THERE IS NO INFORMATION!!!

Providers and consumers are unaware of new changes to the Pharmacy program for TennCare beneficiaries.

I have searched the news, the state, and cannot get through to the TennCare hotline... The last I heard, pharmacies began processing scripts late yesterday afternoon, however they are running into significant problems obtaining approval (specifically--overrides) for their TennCare participants.

I gotta tell you that I found some VERY disturbing information that was callously given to each and every TennCare recipient who had prescriptions filled at the pharmacy I went to.

I will tell you that it is a large national chain implemented new procedures for Medicaid recipients covered under the new plan. They claim it was required to obtain reimbursement from the new Rx provider. I necessary to to deal with the new pharmacy program that went into effect Oct 1, 2008..

I will scan that document and upload it to advocates since it is so over the top regarding medical privacy and HIPPA compliance.

I personally refused to sign the document, instead signing "HIPPA" instead of my name. Prescriptions will not be dispensed without the beneficiaries signature on the master list.

Take now for now,

Elyssa Durant



FOR HISTORICAL REFERENCE:


2008: I remember how difficult it was for me to obtain benefits when I first applied several years ago. I am deeply concerned about how the most recent decision to eradicate yet another class of TennCare / Medicaid recipients (the Daniels class that is made up of SSI recipients by way of a pending federal waiver) will affect the poor and disabled residents in Tennessee.

2006: Without my current level of benefits, I simply do not function.

2002: Before my benefits were stabilized, learning to navigate the system consumed every waking moment of my life. I was unable to work or attend school on any substantial level and I am frightened to see at might happen if I were to stray from my established, stabilized, treatment plan. If I lose my benefits, will I still be able to work? To function? To be productive?

2005: The massive number of people being dis-enrolled or limited in their access to medical care and other social services will no doubt create significant anxiety, confusion, and chaos for everyone involved in the social service and health care industries.

2001: I have no other benefits. No Social Security checks to count on; no disability payments to pull together; no Medicare to meet me when the bottom falls out, again. This surely is not the first time my Medicaid has not come through as a reliable source of payment. It is not even the second or third time. It more like the eight or ninth, maybe more often than that. I only recently qualified for Medicaid some eight months ago! Since then, I have already acquired several thousand dollars in unpaid medical expenses that have made their way to collection agencies.

1999: Patient X: Corporate TennCare adjusted the prescription formulary over Memorial Day in 1999 and failed refused to offer a 3-day or 14-Day emergency supply as mandated by Grier.

1996: Throughout the three year process of filing appeal after appeal after appeal, I acquired well over 1/4 million dollars in debt due to uninsured medical expenses and student loans. My life will never be the same. My heart will never be the same.

TODAY: So after all this-- now I face losing my healthcare once again? Where is the safety net? Where is the American Dream that I so diligently chased after for so many years? What was the point spending so much on an education that will never be utilized? I understand the how; I just don't understand why.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://unitedprofessionals.org/blog/forum/topic.php?id=105

*****************************************

Pharmacy Fallout '08: Here We Go Again
Providers and Consumers Are Unaware of New Changes to the Pharmacy Program for TennCare Beneficiaries, Effective October 1, 2008


Here's the latest in the State of Tennessee: TennCare Changes Benefits Without Notice Effective October 1, 2008.
.
TennCare providers, beneficiaries and advocates are once again unaware of how the new changes will affect their benefits or services concerning changes to the pharmacy plan that were implemented on October 1, 2008. No information about the changes (e.g., formulary changes, benefits coverage, or appeals, grievances or override procedures were given to providers, participants or local sent

TennCare providers, beneficiaries and advocates are once again unaware of the new changes in the pharmacy program that went into effect on October 1, 2008. New procedures were implemented by providers that have obvious HIPPA violations. Federal agencies and advocates should direct consumers to the appropriate federal agencies regarding HIPPA compliance and other possible violations of federal law.

I did find out some additional information, which is this:

THERE IS NO INFORMATION!!!

Providers and consumers are unaware of new changes to the Pharmacy program for TennCare beneficiaries.

I have searched the news, the state, and cannot get through to the TennCare hotline... The last I heard, pharmacies began processing scripts late yesterday afternoon, however they are running into significant problems obtaining approval (specifically--overrides) for their TennCare participants.

I gotta tell you that I found some VERY disturbing information that was callously given to each and every TennCare recipient who had prescriptions filled at the pharmacy I went to.

One large national drug store chain implemented new procedures for specific to Medicaid recipients covered under the new plan. The pharmacy manager claims this was required by the underwriters in order to obtain reimbursement for covered medications and/or pharmacy services. These changes went into effect the day before the new plan was set to launch.

I will scan that document and upload it to advocates since it is so over the top regarding medical privacy and HIPPA compliance.

I personally refused to sign the document, instead signing "HIPPA" instead of my name. Prescriptions will not be dispensed without the beneficiaries signature on the master list.

Elyssa Durant
TennCare Beneficiary


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Resources
www.familiesusa.org
www.thcc2.org
www.unitedprofessionals.com

Sorry Works!

We live in a society where no one accepts responsibility for their mistakes, no one is held accountable for their actions, and no one, EVER says they are sorry.

Let me you a small glimpse inside the day in the of un/underemployed where I spend day after day after may doing the same thing without any result: I can only offer you a glimpse into day in the life because there is no room left sit in my car, and I believe my apartment may actually be a fire hazard... This was my daily update posted at 7:30am:


I have done everything humanly possible to clean up the slack; however, I feel I have no other choice than to file a formal complaint so that my entire case is reviewed. The number of mistakes is so overwhelming that I simply don't have enough time to documents each and every one within their respective agencies.

I will try to be more specific later without going into too much detail, but unfortunately, that level of detail is required to file the necessary appeals. Ironic huh? This apartment is like my own little cage, and I am just pathetic enough to run around in circles, hoping to find the much like a hamster wheel, rodent chasing in circles hoping to found my way out my way out before I run out air. If only I had finished my damn PhD, I would do my own case study or reality show on how far we'll go to have nothing at all...

I have taken care of the subrogation claim, however, that does not minimize my level of frustration because I am DROWNING in paperwork. I have contacted several agencies for assistance such as the Disability Law and Advocacy Center; however, I do not have the resources necessary to provide them with a timely response and additional documentation they would lead to do a thorough investigation. There is a very small window of time permitted to file a Request Reconsideration, or file administrative appeal.

This is not new information to anyone who has been reading this message-- and if it is, then the agency involved is in much worse shape than I believed. I WANT A RESPONSE~ I WANT AN EXPLANATION- and oddly enough, I WANT AN APOLOGY!

The simple fact that the only time I received a response from MH was when the "fraud" was entered into the conversation. Yet I was not the one who introduced it into the dialogue. It is very unfortunate that my advocate from the DLAC retired just days before we were scheduled to review my case. That was three years ago, and not a single person who sat in on that meeting has acknowledged that it even took place. So here we are, three years later, and I am asking for the exact same things: assistance filing a social security appeal, vocational rehabilitation, and to be treated with a shred of common courtesy. I cannot believe I have to spell that out for you. For anyone. Professional or otherwise. Has no one read my file? Because anyone who has would understand why I find it to be beyond comprehension that trained mental health professionals would do this to any human being, obsessive compulsive or not. Since I first moved to Nashville, I worked very hard to improve community services and de-stigmatize mental illness, yet here I am having to say this AGAIN, OUTLOUD.

I guess none of remember that I same almost the same person I was when I first moved down here. Actually, that not true. I am FAR WORSE, and feel as though I have been stripped of my dignity, professionalism, and any hope I once had to go back to work and be integrated into the world of the living.

I do not even feel comfortable in attending the very came community activities that I used to helps plan. I am so completely baffled and just plain horrified that I actually have to say these things outloud.

There is local attorney I have known or many years. He recently made some very serious, very public and very embarrassing mistakes. Prior to that event, he worked on legislation capping damages in medical malpractice claims. He had an expression that he would use quite often and that was, "Sorry Works!" He was right. "Sorry" does work, yet still haven't heard it being said. Ultimately, those two little words became the driving force behind his political legacy and the force at the core of his being when he went in to recovery. The last interview he did on TV, he told the reporter that he does not wish to be remembered for the mistakes, but how went about correcting them. People, listen up, "SORRY WORKS!"

I also want to be clear that every time I have to call Social Security or DHS, it only compounds my cost of living expenses (40 cents per minute on the telephone -- a bill which is not even considered to be a justifiable expense) Most agencies do not include self-addressed stamped envelopes, and I cannot afford the postage required to mail out all of the requested documentation (e.g., utility bills, medical bills, pay stubs, etc.) So when one your employees tells me that he has removed himself from my case, I should not have to spend 29 minutes on old with the Social Security Administration just to learn that he was trying to intimidate me by threatening to have my funds frozen immediately. I think I should be reimbursed for that phone call. I think he should have to pay out out of his own pocket.

That statement was made not only to me, but also in front if other employees at your agency. It is not only irresponsible and unprofessional, but it also probably illegal, and justifies the complaint I will be filing against him in order to re-cap dome the damages. It is called breach of fiduciary duty, although I expect you probably already know that, but if you don't, you should look it up along with subrogation, since I'm pretty sure that one falls should the scope of services you were contracted to provide for at that time.

Fortunately, a number of agencies will take online complaints. Unfortunately, my internet was interrupted for non-payment for several weeks and there is no funding resource or community agency that provides subsidized Internet access or free printer ink. Transportation costs are ridiculous so going to the library is not an option. Neither is returning to work right now, since it would cost too much to get to the interview or provide official (expensive) copies of my graduate school transcripts necessary to update my teaching credentials, were oh, such a good investment!

Set aside, I am not the most user friendly person right about now, so I have found it difficult to put on a happy face so I can work at McDonald's which pays more than Metro anyway.

The subrogation claim has been resolved but I just learned that my breast biopsy was not pre-authorized and I was told by my INSURANCE CSR (the person who answers the phone!) that I should not have the surgery that has already been scheduled at the Women's Hospital for 8/21/2008. AmeriChoice (United HealthCare) did they did not authorize the biopsy last month, and have not, as of yet, received a request prior authorization for the surgery next week...

This was a lovely 54 minute conversation because he would not mail me copies of my EOBs or confirm that what, if any, requests have been submitted for payment since my last inquiry and change of address. He finally told me to call the state (Tennessee) which I have already done several times, and they told me to call Social Security but it was already past business hours and I am not authorized to make changes to my file anyway.

I'll be in touch when I can. Unfortunately, each agency has different deadlines, and it takes a lot of energy and time to scan in, copy, or respond to each inquiry in writing, so I find myself running out of time since I can't seem to get anything done unless I just do nothing at all.

And even though my life is a living hell, I have almost learned how to enjoy the sheer irony of it all... for someone with OCD and posttraumatic stress, this is truly a ridiculous little experiment.

I am becoming increasingly inspired to just burn every last document I own, throw away my keys and my cell phone and take Spotty some place where we can live off the land and ignore the fact that society has me chained to a computer screen that screen that does provide the basic necessities I need to live in this .

I have come this far, and I am becoming rather skilled and at expressing myself without needing an audience or the obsessive need to check every fact, throw, and typo for capitalization and perfection.

So for now... I write.

Maybe later, I'll read, but if there is any justice left in this world, someday, I'll actually live.

Good-bye for now. I need a break.

With love,

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Media Manipulation: Metro Nashville Public Schools

Educated Decision or Media Manipulation? (The Nashville City Paper, July 17, 2008)

If I didn't know better, I would think that the local media is supporting the ridiculous decision to transfer MNPS principals from one failing metro school to the next after reading "State reorganization moves on to school principal assignments," July 9, 2008.

I find it deeply disturbing that the media (and the community) have failed to recognize this for what it is: a desperate attempt to convince the community that we are actively working to improve the quality of education in our public schools.

This last minute attempt to restructure neighborhood schools will most likely do more harm than good to the community at large. The high rate of student mobility in Metro (approximately 40% per year) is compounded by the constant shifting of district-wide changes to school personnel by transferring teachers, administrators, and support staff on a regular basis.

Everything we know about the sociology of education in urban schools shows us that there is a strong correlation between parental involvement and student performance.

One thing that makes magnet, lottery, charter, parochial, and private schools so good is the fact that parents, teachers, students and administrators fight to get in, and fight to stay there.

Successful schools are an extension of the community at large, where everyone works together to create a common set of experiences; creating an environment that encourages parental involvement and community participation.

If Metro continues to alienate educators by disemboweling the organizational structure within public schools, we may just lose the few experienced and dedicated teachers we still have left to surrounding districts, cities, and states.

By failing to examine the issue in further detail, the press and our community leaders are failing in their mission to provide the community with the information they need to participate in the political process that is MNPS. The media have a responsibility to examine and provide the community with the information they need to make informed policy decisions.

Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.
Nashville, Tennessee



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Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2008 1:47 am

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tennesseean Releases Teacher Salaries for MNPS

The Tennessean released data on July 5, 2008 reporting disparities in teacher salaries for Metro employees. The article, “Poor kids' teachers earn less in Metro: Hiring bonuses, other incentives target inequities” raises questions about the hiring practices in Metro Nashville Public Schools, and reports that teachers earn less in schools that are not meeting the No Child Left Behind benchmarks. This article glossed over the magnitude of this desperate situation in Metro schools.

The basic fact that students are not making adequate progress is a reflection of the top-down policy failure by MNPS and the Board of Ed. Students are not making adequate progress, and teachers are being shuffled around in a desperate attempt to fix a problem that they do not fully understand. In order to fix our broken schools, we need to look at schools that work. There are in fact public schools in urban neighborhoods that are successfully educating the students despite limited budgets, supplies, and adequate funding. So what is it about these schools that allows them to successfully educate disadvantaged, at-risk students and how can we replicate their success?

Unfortunately, this article does not offer any new insights into the inner-workings of our neighborhood schools. MNPS does not have the answers, nor does our newly elected Mayor who recently launched an aggressive media campaign to recruit new teachers willing to work within the constraints our over-regulated, under-funded public schools. Teachers, administrators and the community are strangely unfamiliar with the political process, and teachers are expected to implement and carry out policies that were designed by academic professionals or educational consultants.

As an educator and a Metro employee, I earn $10.46 / hour (without benefits) teaching at-risk students, I am offended by the way teachers are treated in the schools, in the community, and by the press. The state Department of Education could not offer any realistic solution to the simple fact that I cannot afford to pay the fees associated with the application fees certification requirements. If the Mayor really needs applicants, perhaps the city should comp the application fees necessary to be considered for employment. I find it difficult to believe that a city so desperate for teachers is not willing to bend the rules just a little or waive the application fee for anyone who is willing to work in such a hostile environment.

My graduate degree in education is from the very same university that Mayor Dean attended in New York City. When I called HR and the “Certificated Office” to inquire about obtaining a provisional teaching license and alternative certification, I was simply told that I was not eligible for alternative certification and without additional coursework, and tuition and fees, I was not deemed qualified to teach in Metro.

I am not qualified to teach in Metro since, apparently, Metro “does not teach education.” What a joke! To make matters worse— I had to pay them to find out that I was not even qualified to work with Head Start. I went to Head Start! Shouldn't that be enough? If MNPS truly wants a better-qualified staff, then the Mayor, the Board of Education, and school administrators need to take a closer look at the methods used to recruit, retain, and reward qualified individuals willing to sacrifice their financial stability for a career in public service. Now that I realize my education was a complete waste of time and money, is it any wonder that I am ready to give up on teaching and maybe even ready to leave Nashville for good. The local hardware store has more to offer including benefits!

The high rate of student mobility is compounded by the constant shifting of school personnel. Many schools may just lose the few experienced, dedicated teachers they still have left to surrounding districts, cities, and states. Such instability in the system may even prompt the younger set to leave the profession all together and discourage future teachers from applying for jobs in Metro.

Everything we know about the positive outcomes in neighborhood schools is their strong reliance upon community buy-in and parental involvement. One thing that makes magnet, lottery, charter schools, parochial, and private schools so good is the fact that parents, teachers, students, and administrators fight to get in, and fight to stay there. The act of choosing, in effect, leads to an enhanced sense of community and builds a supportive, consistent, and structured environment. Calling this project “Fresh Start” is ridiculous-- it would be more accurate to call it a very bad ending!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

No Teacher Left Behind

The City Paper featured a front-page story (“Metro School district begins revamp of failing elementary, middle school,” May 21, 2007) that completely sugarcoated the situation in two metro middle schools that have fired (via involuntary transfer) the entire staff and faculty as a result of their failure to meet NCLB benchmarks.

For the last two years, I have been working as a permanent substitute teacher at Jere Baxter Middle School in Nashville, Tennessee. The experience has shaken me to the core. Everything I used to believe about school finance reform has been turned upside down. Jere Baxter is a Title I school with access to numerous resources including a math specialist on site full time, district mentors to advise and assist new teachers. They have mental health specialists come into several classrooms on a weekly basis, and it is not uncommon to see caseworkers and prevention specialists from a variety of community agencies on campus.

However, despite the plethora of enhancement activities and access to resource materials, the majority of the 7th and 8th graders do not know simple math such as long division, subtraction (if they have to carry the one) or their times tables. You could throw a million dollars into this school, and it would not make a bit of difference!

For the first two weeks, I was assigned to a self-contained classroom. At one point, the Assistant Principal walked in, observed the children, and even acknowledged the small black and white television hidden in the teacher’s aide desk tuned in to the Young and the Restless. She smiled and walked out. Apparently, she did not have a problem with the children watching Tom & Jerry, Sponge Bob and BET music videos from 10 a.m. through dismissal. A few days later, I gave a make-up assignment during the students “free time,” (lunchtime through dismissal) and I was told that my expectations were simply too high. That class in particular lost 15 teachers this year alone—16 including myself.

The children are running the show at Baxter and they know it. The faculty receives little, if any, support from the administration. As a result, the majority of the teachers have simply given up. Dealing with disciplinary problems has become the primary focus in the classroom displacing teaching, learning, and cooperation.

The numerous behavioral disruptions that occur each and every day prompted the administrators to pull the most effective teachers out of the classroom to enforce (or re-enforce) school policy while their classrooms remained empty or were covered by floating substitute teachers.

The children are completely out of control and simply refuse to do any work. I was told not to give any student a grade below 75-- even the one who threw his crumpled up science assignment in my face and walked out of class shouting profanities. What the students have learned is that there will be no consequences for inappropriate behavior or actions. The administration treats teachers with complete disrespect: in front of students, teachers, and guests, completely undermining any sense of autonomy, authority, or cohesiveness. Even I was embarrassed for them, and I was only there for a few weeks!

This is a classic example of a top-down policy failure. As a policy analyst, I always advocated for equity in education, and believed on some level that throwing money into poor schools (poor performance & achievement records to disadvantaged students) might help level the playing field for disadvantaged schools, translating into better outcomes for students and the community.

The City Paper glossed over the magnitude of this desperate situation by calling it a “fresh start.” Students and administrators have treated these teachers poorly enough, and now we have a number of young professionals who are underpaid, uncertain, and unemployed. We all know that teacher pay is ridiculous to begin with, but coupled with the added stress of the re-application process, Metro may lose a large number of educated, motivated, displaced educators to surrounding districts, counties, and states. This is simply ridiculous. By cleaning house, Baxter will lose the few experienced, dedicated teachers they have, prompt the younger set to leave the profession all together, and discourage future teachers from applying for jobs in Metro.

Everything we know about the positive outcomes in neighborhood schools is their strong reliance upon community buy-in and parental involvement. One thing that makes magnet, lottery, charter schools, parochial, and private schools so good is the fact that parents, teachers, students, and administrators fight to get in, and fight to stay there. The act of choosing, in effect, leads to an enhanced sense of community and builds a supportive, consistent, and structured environment. Calling this decision a fresh start is ridiculous-- it would be more accurate to call it a very bad ending! In this case, No Child Left Behind is, in effect, leaving no teachers behind.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Work to Welfare: The Hardest Job I Never Had

Yup! That’s right, I’m on welfare… I’m milking the system for all its worth! I had better go get in line before those Louisiana people and immigrants suck up all our resources (which have never once been available when I have needed them) That’s right, just another Ivy League grad too smart to go to work! I am just waiting on my next free meal ticket, subsidy, or voucher. The opportunities to exploit the government are endless! Where do I begin???

I remember how difficult it was for me to obtain benefits when I first applied several years ago. I am deeply concerned about how the most recent decision to eradicate yet another class of TennCare recipients will affect the poor and disabled residents in Tennessee. Without my current level of benefits, I simply do not function.

Before my benefits were stabilized, learning to navigate the system consumed every waking moment of my life. I was unable to work or attend school on any substantial level and I am deathly afraid of straying from my established, stabilized, treatment plan-- again.

If I lose my benefits, will I still be able to work? To function? To be productive?

Any new public program requires careful planning if it is to be effective. Recent discussions have not focused on the true impact these changes will have on the "street-level."

Has anyone asked recipients how they feel the new program (Safety-Net) should be designed, implemented, or evaluated? How will this impact the community and other social service or welfare agencies??? I want access, quality, and outcomes. I want… I want… I want!!!

The massive number of people being disenrolled or limited in their access to medical care and other social services will no doubt create significant anxiety, confusion, and chaos for everyone involved in the social service and health care industries.

I remember when Mr. Brian Lapps was somewhere very high up on the corporate TennCare ladder in 1999 when they adjusted the prescription formulary over Memorial Day in 1999. I see Mr. Lapps quite frequently since he now works at the local gas station down the street from where I live.

To this day, he insists that cell phones and TennCare are somehow contraindicated. Perhaps he knows nothing of the population he claims to know just all-too-well…. housing conditions that may or may not have electricity, broken families—some riddled with community violence and domestic disturbances. In the hood, your cell phone is your very best friend. 9-1-1.

These people plagued by domestic violence and community instability makes a cell phone the only logical option. How can you find a job with out a phone? How can you find a home with out a job? Yet even 6 years later, Mr. Lapps uses cellular phones as an example how the TennCare program is being abused by lazy, cheap, and unscrupulous second hand citizens who are just shiftless lazy bums waiting around for their next free hand-out.

Anyone who has EVER applied for or relied upon any kind of government subsidy to have their basic needs met, e.g., food, shelter, medical care, dental treatment, etc… let me personally assure you that there has never been a single time where I felt I was “pulling one over” on the government. I am not just one of the poor saps who believed what they told me they in school: I bought it hook, line, and sinker for the mere price of $279,982.00 and not a shred of financial security to show for it.

Even after consolidating my student loans, the interest alone is $10 less than my monthly income from social security.

So what happens now that the state of Tennessee will begin to cut off social security recipients from TennCare? I honestly do not think I can survive yet another re-certification process-- God knows the first one almost killed me. After three years of appeals, my condition had deteriorated so severely that I was forced to drop out of school, lost my home, lost my sanity, and lost hope. In short-- I lost my dignity and my belief in the social welfare system.

By the time my benefits were approved, I had already checked myself in to NYU Psych Ward because simply could not cope with the reality of what my life I had become. I weighed 94 pounds and suffered in excruciating pain that has only gotten worse with time. My extremities were ice cold, and my hands were numb since I went without medical treatment for the spinal injury that was first discovered when I was 22.

I am now 35 years old. My spinal cord is now damaged from years of delayed, sub-standard medical treatment. I owe the federal government $279,982.00 in student loans and when I am able to work, I make $10.46/hour as a substitute teacher in an urban school district. That job comes with no security and no benefits. It does however offer the flexibility I need to receive the bi-monthly epidural injections and other procedures necessary to manage my pain and alleviate the numbness I feel because of the damage to my nerves. And even though I cannot afford the gas money to get my appointments, pay for all of my medication, or even to get back and forth to work, it does allow me a few weeks of mobility so I can drive, use my mouse or hold a pen.

I have an advanced master’s degree from an Ivy League Institution. I am 12 credits shy of a Ph.D. in public policy. And despite maintaining a 3.2 grade point average, the graduate school I attended for my PhD will not grant me any leniency by extending the amount or time permitted to complete my degree-- or allow me to transfer those credits towards another program at the same institution since it has been just over ten years since I first enrolled. Vanderbilt will not even allow me to use any of the credits I paid for (in spades) towards another degree at the same university since they no longer have the program I was initially enrolled in. I think it goes without saying that I do not have the financial resources available to finish my last semester, take the GREs over again, or pay the associated application fees necessary to make the time spent there worth while.

Throughout the three year process of filing appeal after appeal after appeal, I acquired well over 1/4 million dollars in debt due to uninsured medical expenses and student loans. My life will never be the same. My heart will never be the same.

So after all this-- now I face losing my healthcare once again? Where is the safety net? Where is the American Dream that I so diligently chased after for so many years? What was the point spending so much on an education that will never be utilized? I understand the how; I just don't understand why.

Maybe one of these days Vanderbilt University and the Department of Education will realize it might just be cheaper to hire me that harass me, because unless I find a real paying job soon, their collections department will no longer be able to reach me on that extravagant lifeline my friend, Brian Lapps, refers to as a luxury.

If anyone out there would like to “trade places” with me for one month—I will gladly assume his/her responsibilities for that position if you can find a writer who is willing to endure and write about the reality of social services in our fine State. I do not want a paycheck from your organization; I just want the opportunity to put the myth of freeloading welfare mothers to rest. Live in my shoes for 30 days. Can you find the out? Can you balance my budget and make it work? Can you get the bill collectors of my back? Can you afford internet service to file state job applications and apply for services online? Can you maintain pride and dignity without feeling the least bit sorry for yourself and the choices you have made?

When I go to the pharmacy, I am humiliated that I do not have the $3.00 necessary for the co-pay on my covered TennCare prescriptions. At least when it was $40 dollars, I was not so damn embarrassed by my lack of funds.

Remind me again why I went to school. Remind me once more why I bother to speak out. Then remind me right now that that there is somebody listening. I cannot be the only one who actually gives a crap. My contact information is listed below.

Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.
Nashville, Tennessee
E-mail: elyssa.durant@columbia.edu
(FORMER doctoral student in public policy)



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Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.
Nashville, Tennessee
E-mail: elyssa.durant@columbia.edu
http://labs.daylife.com/journalist/elyssa_durant
http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/145691/elyssa_durant.html

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Equity in Education

Equity in Education: Are Minorities to Blame for Failure to Meet No Child Left Behind Benchmarks?

The Nashville City Paper previously reported that African-American students were out-performed by their white counterparts on the ACT (Metro ACT scores drop; Tennessee reaches new high, 2007).

Given what is currently at stake in Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), such casual reporting of racial discrepancy in test scores is irresponsible at best: Does this mean that white children are better students than their black and Hispanic classmates?

What's next for Nashville? Are minorities to blame for our failure to meet the benchmarks set forth in the No Child Left Behind legislation? High-stakes, standardized entrance exams are not only culturally biased, but also politically motivated in their agenda to help bring back a return to basics type of core-curriculum.

Studies in both the sociology and politics of educational evaluation have consistently shown that standardized entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT do not accurately predict academic performance at the college level.

Given the official release of performance data by MNPS officials, I am concerned that less curious readers may place too much attention to such details and misconstrue this information making voluntary, de-facto desegregation less attractive to schools that did not quite make the grade last academic term.

If, as stated in Wednesday's article, the ACT is a curriculum-based measure of readiness in English, mathematics, reading and science, then all these scores show us is that we have failed in our mission to provide an adequate education for all our citizens.

I am not sure exactly what readiness is, but I am certain that our schools are failing miserably at educating those children who need us the most. Let's level the playing field for a change and start talking about equity in education if we truly expect teachers to leave no child behind, we must first give them the tools they need to move forward.



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Resources & References:
The Bell Curve Wars
Savage Inequalities
There Are No Children Here