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Murdered Teacher’s Son Publicly Forgives Student Killers

On Tuesday, November 02, 2021, Iowa Spanish teacher, Nohema Graber, went for a walk in a local park, as was her habit.

Two 16-year-old students apparently knew of her habit, and they apparently planned ahead of time to take her life.

On Wednesday, November 03, 2021, Graber was reported missing.

Later that same day, Graber’s body was discovered in that park, concealed “under a tarp, wheelbarrow, and railroad ties,” as CBS News reports.

Here is a public statement from the City of Fairfield, Iowa, Facebook page:

UPDATE 1:40 pm 11/4/21

On November 3, 2021, human remains were discovered in Chautauqua Park in Fairfield, Iowa. The remains have been confirmed to be those of Nohema Graber, who had been reported missing earlier that day.

Special agents from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations (DCI) conducted a preliminary investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Ms. Graber, which appears to be a homicide. Two individuals, Willard Noble Chaiden Miller, age 16, and Jeremy Everett Goodale, age 16, have been charged with Homicide in the First Degree, an A Felony, and Conspiracy to Commit Homicide in the First Degree, a C Felony.

Ms. Graber was employed as a Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School, where Miller and Goodale were students. Based on the circumstances and their ages, Miller and Goodale are being criminally charged as adults.

Personnel from the Fairfield Police Department, Fairfield Fire Department, Iowa State Patrol, Jefferson County Emergency Management, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, and Jefferson County Attorney’s Office assisted the DCI with the investigation.

This remains an ongoing investigation. Law enforcement would like to thank the public for their tips and concern following the announcement of Graber’s disappearance. Law enforcement does not believe there is an ongoing risk to the public.

Questions should be addressed to the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office.

A criminal charge is only an accusation, and criminal defendants are innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Though no official motive has been disclosed by investigators, it seems that at least one of the students was disgruntled about his grade in Graber’s class. reports that “according to court documents, Goodale posted details about planning the killing and a possible motive on social media.” Bloody clothing was found at Goodale’s and Miller’s homes, and Miller admitted to participating in concealing Graber’s body.

In Iowa, a conviction for first degree murder carries a term of life in prison.

On Thursday, November 04, 2021, Graber’s son, Christian, publicly forgave his mother’s murderers on Facebook:

I’m sorry I can’t respond to the all of the messages but I’ll just say what I’ve been told. My mother passed away. As I understand it was pre attempted murder by two students. I forgive them and feel sorry that they had that anger in their hearts. There’s no point in being angry at them. We should hope that they can find peace in their lives. My mother was an angel of a woman and was one of the kindest souls. She gave me the gift of the Spanish language and helped many of her students over the years. She was well loved in the community and around the world. Thanks to everyone who reached out. I may ask for some help with things in the following days but in the end everything will be ok. Te amo madre.

What a phenomenal son.

Nohema Graber and son, Christian


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Former La. Labor Sec.: Since School Grades Aren’t Working, Let’s Keep ‘Em.

On October 27, 2021, former Louisiana secretary of labor, Garey Forster, wrote a ramble of an opinion piece entitled, “If Education is the Future, Louisiana is Headed for the Deep Ditch.” Forster begins with the flawed assumption that postsecondary outcomes, such as median salary, can be purchased by those postsecondary institutions and ends with wanting to preserve school letter grades. Here’s his opener:

A state that can afford to pay LSU’s football coach $9 million a year — and then $17 million to get rid of him — ought to be able to afford to have LSU make the top 500 in 2022 Best College and University Rankings by WalletHub. But it doesn’t.

To determine the top-performing schools at the lowest possible costs to undergraduates, WalletHub compared more than 1,000 higher-education institutions in the US across 30 key measures. The metrics range from student-faculty ratio to graduation rate to post-attendance median salary.

Now, it is true that it takes money to reduce the student-faculty ratios, but “graduation rate” is a bit dicier; also included in those 30 Wallethub metrics are “student loan default rate to former students outearning high school graduates.” What Forster rushed to not consider is whether students who would otherwise not steep themselves in student loans are being forced to do so, say, by a test-centric, ed-reform system that forces all Louisiana juniors to take the ACT— as in American COLLEGE Testingrequires all Louisiana seniors to either complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or opt for a waiver in order to graduate– thereby luring students into debt by showing how much “money” they can get to go to college (and that without a full tutorial on student loan default and indebtedness and what percentage of a starting salary in a given field must be devoted to paying off those debts).

And Louisiana does have jobs that pay well and require no college degree, as the February 05, 2021, reports:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018), these are the median annual wages for some of the highest paying jobs that don’t require a college degree:

Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels: $93,010 

Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers: $83,020 

Supervisors of Construction and Extraction workers: $65,230 

Police Supervisors and Detectives: $89,030

Commercial Pilots (excluding airline pilots): $82,240

Elevator Installers and Repairers: $79,780

Postmasters and Mail Superintendents: $75,970

So, you see, interpreting those 30 Wallethub college ranking criteria is complicated– but not if your endgame is place responsibility for Louisiana’s economy on its K12 schools.

Forster jumps from his college-ranking chagrin to Louisiana’s ACT scores, which began a decline prior to the pandemic:

If the overall competitive performance of Louisiana’s colleges doesn’t bother your thinking about the state’s economic future, consider how underperforming Louisiana’s high schools are on a national test of college readiness. The exam is called ACT and measured 2021 skills in English, reading, math, and science.

As reported by Will Sentell in this newspaper, Louisiana’s score fell for the fourth year in a row. The state’s composite score is 18.4, down from 18.7 last year out of a possible 36. Only Mississippi, Nevada, and Hawaii scored lower. The average nationally is 20.3, which dropped from 20.6 last year and is the lowest score in more than a decade.

In Louisiana, 98% of high school seniors took the ACT, which is among the highest participation rates in the nation. Relatively few states require all students to take the ACT. But only 20% of our children met national benchmarks in math, 23% in science, 31% in reading, and 48% in English.

Let’s begin with what is practical but has been pushed aside in our era of test-score-idolization: If the test, ACT, is intended to provide information about college aptitude, and if the entire population of Louisiana high school juniors is required to complete it whether college-bound or not all because overtesting/misuse of testing is what we do now in the name of Accountability, then one can reasonbly expect that the state ACT average will not be what is expected in order for the average Louisiana ACT test taker to attend a flagship university free and clear (in LSU’s case, an ACT composite of 22 is required for unconditional admission).

Moreover, Forster does not acknowledge that an ACT composite of 17 is sufficient for a Louisiana high school graduate to qualify for a two-year scholarship for technical training. Surely there are corporations who value employees with associate degrees or other one- or two-year certification.

However, there is another, more crucial piece here that Forster fails to consider:

Perhaps the dropping of Louisiana’s ACT composite to its lowest in a decade is actually an accurate measure of the failure of test-centered accountability. Perhaps that dropping score is a relfection of, say, a generation of K12 public school students losing roughly a quarter of the school year in authentic learning to an anemic substitute– testing and more testing– along with fiscal stress directly related to school systems channeling millions in revenue to pay for all of that testing and requisite test prep.

Time for some testing severance. If it costs millions, it’s not like it would be a new expense.

Still another thought: Perhaps what we are wtinessing is a phenomenon known as “diminishing returns”– at some point, the cost of pumping time and enegy into all of this testing and retesting far outweighs the results; Louisiana has reached a scoring peak, and in order to continue with a test score rise, officials need to resort to more drastic measures– say removal of children from their parents at the age of three and placing those toddlers into test-preppery boarding schools so that One Day, all Louisiana juniors will max out with ACT composites of 36, at which time we can set our sights upon future complaints that Scores Remain Flat at 36.

You can tell I’ve had enough of this test worship by the likes of legislators and economists.

Nevertheless, since Forster continues, so will I. I give you Forster’s *education will attract jobs*:

Louisiana has to be competitive for employers to want to come here or decide to expand here rather than at another of their locations. A significant component of that decision-making formula is education. The better the education, the better our chances to attract jobs.

Major job losses in the fossil fuel industry mean education is more important than ever to diversify the economy in Louisiana. But when colleges aren’t top-tier, and high school seniors are weak in math, science, and reading, many businesses just may not be interested.

Again, Forster totally disregards TOPS Tech with an ACT composite of 17. Also, those fossil fuel job losses are directly related to plummeting oil prices, not to Louisiana education, but Louisiana education is expected to save the day. But let’s move on.

Here’s a truth nugget: Employers make decisions based upon the ability to turn a profit. They are interested in low overhead and high revenue. So, if corporate America really wants an educated workforce, well, that involves taxing those corporations and investing the resulting revenue into the Louisiana economy in order to improve infrastructure such as a state’s education system. In Louisiana, it means restructuring corporate taxes to yield greater revenue for the state.

Even so, I repeat, the issue is complicated. We haven’t even discussed the corporations that move to Louisiana and primarily offer Louisianans minimum-wage or otherwise low-paying jobs, like this deal that former governor Bobby Jindal made with Smoothie King, to “create 60 jobs over the next five years.” An averge of 12 new jobs a year, you say.

Smoothie King employees are often high school or college students working for a nonlivible, hourly wage.

This is the same Bobby Jindal who cut state revenue to hospitals and universities. In the name of privatizing the hospitals, Jindal– not Louisiana education– forced the legislature into a corner to pony up the money needed– or to put the private hospitals in the position to leave the state or cut their services. (See more here.)

Forster would have done better to *ditch* his own test-score focus and instead consider the impact of Jindal’s cut to higher education on the costs currently passed on to Louisiana’s college students– and how Jindal’s decisions might be directly impacting that student loan default component of that Wallethub finding that LSU did not make its top 100.

But what does Forster want? What is the point of his piece?

He wants to keep Louisiana’s test-based ed reform in place:

When LEAP test scores took a nosedive earlier this year in math, English, science, and social studies that affected every school district in the state, some administrators and teachers wanted to scrap letter grades for public schools. November is the time letter grades are announced to show taxpayers how schools are performing.

The state’s budget surplus and the extra billions in federal funding for education offer an excellent opportunity to develop a plan to reward better performing schools and remediate the under performing ones. It shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all funding formula for new money.

You must have accountability and school performance grades in public education in order to identify the successes and shortcomings in the system. Otherwise, once the ACT scores are in, it’s too late to go back and fix the math, science, and reading programs which shortchanged the students’ chances for whatever future they want to pursue.

Rewarding better performing schools and develop a plan for remediating underperforming ones? America has been instituting varied takes on this since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

It hasn’t worked.

Moreover, test-centered school grading has not lived up to its improve-the-system hype. We’ve had school letter grades since 2011. We’ve changed the formula (2013) and changed the criteria (2018). But the moment of triumph in Louisiana test scores has not arrived.

Grading schools is misguided, and thinking that grading schools will boost test scores and, in turn, save the Louisiana economy is simplistic. But back to *jobs*:

Louisiana’s jobs situation is further complicated by what we have learned during the pandemic. Right now, employers across the nation are having difficulty filling jobs. Like that declining ACT national average, employee scarcity is not just a Louisiana phenomenon. In fact, in many cases, it is now the potential employees themselves who hold leverage over corporate America. Meanwhile, here I sit, a college-educated, K12 teacher, one who holds advanced degress and has an established work history and who is weary of a job that expects be to be excellent in ever doing more with less.

According to, Louisiana’s entry-level truck driver income rivals my veteran teacher salary. No college required. ACT score irrelevant.

Teachers are tired, Mr. Forster, and they are leaving the classroom at a faster rate than they are being replaced. Instead of continuing to burden us with test-based reforms that had a decade or more to work but are clearly not working, you might consider that such faithful adherance to failure is actually worsening Louisiana’s labor market by exacerbating a teacher exodus.


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The Big Ask: “Can You Watch a Class During Your Planning Period?” My Thoughts.

American public education is certainly in a human resource crisis. The pandemic has pushed the crisis much closer to the edge, but it did not put us there. Roughly a decade ago, governors, legislators, business leaders, and an assortment of other leaders turned on the K12 classroom and its teachers in the name of bucking “the status quo.”

Cuts in funding, choking of resources– including classroom teaching time to make ample room for bloated standardized testing– have hit hard. The COVID pandemic has just added that extra slap.

About a decade ago, the teacher blaming, and grading schools and teachers using student test scores, and threats of traditional public schools being replaced by education businesses and charter schools, arguably sent a number of veteran teachers into a retirement that they would not have sought so soon. In my district, teachers who were not near retirement hit the sick days to such a degree that we were told in the case of absence not to reserve any more substitutes; in an effort to counter exceeding the subsitute teacher budget by millions, our district sent the six-figure-salaried Central Office employees into the schools as “substitute substitutes.”

As one might expect, those individuals who counted on making a steady (or any, for that matter) income as substitute teachers could no longer do so– which logically killed an ample pool of substitutes. Too, it seems that after the crisis passed, no concerted effort was made to renew our district’s pool of subs.

Then comes the pandemic.

Now teachers are asked (expected? pressured?) to surrender planning time in order to watch classes.

Requesting that teachers use their planning time to act as substitutes is not unique to my district or state. Far from it.

In public education, teachers nationwide are often expected to make up for the inadequacies of America’s K12 public system. When it comes to time, a teacher’s paid day is never long enough to do all that is necessary to stay on top of the job, if for no other reason than that the very nature of the job is one of being in direct charge of groups of students for most of the school day. The behind-the-scenes part of the job– planning, grading, contacting parents, filling out paperwork, arranging for special student circumstances– requires time without being tethered to students.

I haven’t even mentioned time to eat lunch, use the restroom, and just take a breather in order to remain psycologically balanced.

The official school day does not include enough time for both instruction and all that must occur for instruction to happen.

In my case, one secret to my success is that each day, I arrive at school an hour and a half before it begins.

I also guard my time without students during the school day.

If I don’t, I will burn out.

Ever since COVID hit in March 2020, I have taken on the role of caregiver to an aging parent. My mother is still able to live alone, but she must have substantial, weekly assistance to do so. Therefore, once a week (usually Saturday), I drive the 2.5-hour round trip to her home in order to bring groceries, clean house, cut grass, wash her hair, help her pay bills, and anything extra. Medical appointments I try to schedule during school breaks or on weekends.

I do not want to miss school, and I am pleased to write that as of this posting, I have not missed a day.

I am well aware that I am walking a tightrope to avoid mental and physical exhaustion. In order to get home by noon on Saturday, I must wake up at 5 a.m. I need to remember to feed myself a good meal before I head to my mother’s home, and I begin the shopping for the next week on Saturday evening so that I can sleep in on Sunday and have the day to recuperate.

I have learned what it takes in order for me not to burn out. I need to go straight home after school at least two days a week (no errands). I need to have at least the middle part of my Saturday to myself. I need that Sunday recuperation time. I need to have at least part of any holiday break to myself.

And as a regular, reliable part of my school day, I must have breaks from being in charge of students.

Yes, I am walking a tightrope. But I know what I must do in order to succeed in that walk.

I must build margin into my life.

Teachers, figure out what it is that you need in order to foster balance in your life and do it. We each have different life circumstances, various ways that was can (and should) build margin into our lives so that we might be successful both professionally and personally. Take time to figure out your way.

You must.


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La. Teen Who Beat Disabled Teacher Charged with More Severe Felonies

On October 19, 2021, WVUE reports that Larrianna Jackson, the 18-year-old Louisiana high school student who on October 06, 2021, beat a disabled high school teacher as other students filmed the event and posted it “for notoriety and publicity,” has been charged with more serious felonies than initially reported.

Jackson’s October 06, 2021, Inmate Record

Jackson was initially charged with the felony, “battery of a school teacher,” which has a maximum sentence of six months in jail. However, upon reconsideration, on October 15, 2021, the district attorney’s office charged Jackson with felony second-degree battery and cruelty to the infirmed. The penalty for second-degree battery includes a possible fine of up to $2,000, and/or 8 years in prison with or without hard labor. Penalty for cruelty to the infirmed holds a higher possible fine ($10,000) and more prison time (10 years), or both. Though WVUE reports that Jackson faces up to 10 years in prison, it seems that the two charges could garner up to 18 years if conviction of both felonies does not include concurrent sentences.

Jackson is scheduled to be arraigned on December 8, 2021, in Louisiana’s 22nd Judicial District Court.

The other two students involved were charged with unlawful posting of criminal activity for notoriety and publicity, a misdemeanor that carries up to a $500 fine and/or six months in prison.


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Teacher Self Care Hinges Upon a Single Word

My Dear Teaching Colleagues:

This school year, I have noticed that the term, “self care,” has been floating in the air, as if the mere popularizing of the term is enough to solve the problem of teacher burnout in a pandemic, when profound shortage of what is necessary for competent professionalism looms.

If you listen long enough, you might notice that the very folks seemingly advocating self care are also asking too much of you, over and over again. It is not that they are malicious; it is just that the nature of pervasive shortage yields a scramble to keep the day running, and this scramble sets people at cross purposes. They may not mean to, but in reality, they are asking you to set yourself up for your own burnout.

You must not let it happen. Help alleviate the pressure put on your colleagues and school where you are able, but do not play the role of nice, compliant, silent sufferer, foregoing all of the margin in your life necessary for balance and well being, or you, too, will become complicit in snowballing the problem when you yourself crash.

Self care first involves identifying healthy boundaries and then setting them by saying no–a polite “no,” but no, nonetheless.

Even if you feel guilty, say no.

Even if you hate to disappoint, say no.

Even if you feel shy or intimidated, if you know that saying yes is going to take you out in the long run, say no.

That is self care.

Self care does not happen passively. It requires assertion.

My best to you all.

Take care of yourselves.



Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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La. Student Assaults Teacher; Others Film, Post to Social Media. All Are Arrested.

On Wednesday, October 07, 2021, a Louisiana high school student repeatedly punched a disabled teacher as two other students were involved in filming and/or later publicizing the event.

That same day, October 07, 2021, 18-year-old Larrianna Jackson was arrested and charged with the felony of battery of a school teacher.

Larrianna Jackson Inmate Info

The video her accomplices filmed provided the evidence, not only for Jackson’s arrest, but for theirs, as well. On October 08, 2021, 18-year-old Trinity Gervais and a minor-aged student were also arrested, as KACT reports, “for allegedly filming a student attacking a teacher.”

But the enticement to publicize the filming of crimical activity assisted the police quite handily. All who are tempted to break the law for those few moments of social media fame should remember that their foolishness entails posting evidence against themselves.

According to WWLTV, “Both students were charged with unlawful posting of criminal activity for notoriety and publicity, a misdemeanor.”

Apparently those who filmed the event thought it might be enough to post some sort of disclaimer on the video. The Covington Police Department released the video, which appears to be taken from the phone of one of the participants.

From the video, it appears that the incident took place at the end of class when most students were near the door, apparently waiting for the bell to ring. The video itself is askew, which bespeaks attemps to video without being detected.

The student operating the phone’s video capabilities apparently knew something was about to happen, otherwise, why video the situation? Instead of intervening– instead of being shocked into action, knowing a disabled teacher was about to be assaulted– this student videoed, added a disclaimer to clear self (“not my english teacher”) and posted anyway on social media. This WBRZ article once had the posted video but now has only a message that Facebook removed the media.

According to this October 06, 2021, Insider article, there is some question as to whether a purported “slap a teacher” challenge began “as a rumor on Facebook.”

On social media, a rumor is often more than enough for some who seek social media fame.

These students chose their mark– a disabled teacher– and maliciously, callously, and intentionally participated in her injury. I argue that this incident is enabled by the easy videoing capabilities of hand-held devices coupled with the split-second ease of worldwide (!) dissemination via social media platforms.

These students chose to wilfully harm a disabled colleague.

I am disgusted.

But I’ll tell you what: I was eating lunch while watching the news on Saturday, October 09, 2021, when I first learned that the students participating in the filming of the incident had also been arrested. And I felt glad to know that those arrests had happened and that that part of the story was what was now being publicized.

Students, if you choose to participate in criminal activity in order to look cool on social media, including if you agree to participate in criminal activity by filming the event to enable publication, you are contributing to your own undoing as you share with the world the very evidence against youself and your accomplices. A disclaimer that only betrays your willingness to take part in harming another even as you try to excuse yourself will not help you.

More than that, students, I hope that being challenged to participate in any capacity in harming another human being to gain notoriety is a not only line that you most certainly would not cross but also that you would choose to protect those threatened by alerting authorities.

Let your fame come from building a reputation for doing what is decent and benevolent.


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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A Senior’s Advice: Keep Swinging.

Ty Cosse is a senior at Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia. Ty is originally from Chalmette, Louisiana, just as I am. I know his family very well. His great grandfather was my middle school bus driver. His grandparents and mother have been close friends of mine for 30 years. I attended his parents’ wedding. I have framed photo of Ty as a toddler in my hallway gallery. I visited Ty and his family at his house in Louisiana the weekend before Hurrican Katrina hit.

From my hallway gallery. Ty and another of my friends, David Handrop. Arabi, LA, December 2004.

In September 2021, Ty committed to play baseball for Sewanee, a liberal arts college in Tennessee, as a pitcher and outfielder. In his essay below, Ty weaves together America’s Favorite Pastime and lessons from his own life.

Ty Cosse

I am pleased to offer my readers Ty’s essay, “Keep Swinging.”

Keep Swinging

Ty Cosse

I dig my metallic cleatsinto the dirt and the white chalk outline in the batter’s box. The grass and dirt on Jerry Queen field is illuminated by the bright stadium lights and the voices of the cheering crowd. The pitcher stands tall on the mound, sweat dripping down his face marked only by a dark brown stain of pine tar underneath his hat.I grip my bat and take a deep breath to let everything go as I stare into the impassioned eyes of the pitcher.

Living with a widowed single mom,staring down daunting challenges is a common theme throughout my life. At the age of two, my childhood home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, however, this catastrophic storm not only destroyed my house but my family as well. My father went back to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina and passed away while giving everything he had assisting members of his community in their time of need. I believe my father set the ultimate example of giving back to his community.I honor him by serving my community with service projects such as “Meals byGrace” and working in the “Christopher League”. The memory of my father compels me to be the best member of the community, son, friend, and man I can be each day. WHOOSH! The first pitch whips past my bat as I swing entirely too late.

The umpire calls strike one and I step out of the batter’s box. I take a deep breath, grip my bat, and once again get ready to swing. The move from Louisiana with no possessions was hard and to add to the chaos we found out my mom had cancer. I became resourceful, hardworking, and self-sufficient because of my mother. My mom beat cancer and led by example while working full time as a teacher and tutoring after school so that we could make it on our own. She taught me to cook, do my laundry, do yardwork, take out the trash, and most importantly, to be a hard-working self-reliant member of society. She instilled a desire in me to be the best in all I do. KABAM!!! The leather of the catcher’s mitt engulfs the baseball as it misses my bat for a second time.

The umpire calls strike two and I step out of the box. Accustomed to a bad hand, this 0-2 count was no different. Things started going my way until 2015 when my world once again turned upside down. A new man entered my life. My stepdad and his sons moved in after he married my mother, however, little did we know what they were hiding. They lied, they stole, and worst of all they cheated. Abusive with their words and actions, they made my life miserable. Thankfully they were removed from our home and lives. That curveball taught me to stand up for myself and stay true to who I am despite the toxic environment. I had to be there for my mother by stepping up and doing extra jobs around the house, while also attending school and playing sports. WHAM!!! The pitcher throws a curveball that misses my bat for strike three.

The ability to handle failure and keep striving for success are common themes in baseball and life. Throughout my journey, I have learned that no matter what life throws at me I just have to keep swinging and always be ready for the next pitch.

Congratulations, Ty. I am so proud of you and wish you the best with your future swings.


La. Supt. Cade Brumley Dumps COVID Quarantine Mandate, Frames Change as “Parental Choice.”

In a move that apparently caught some members of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) completely by surprise, Louisiana superintendent decided that students exposed to COVID can remain in the classroom simply because some “educators and parents” are tired of the quarantining.

The medical guidance has not changed on this point, and BESE– Brumley’s boss– has not officially changed its stance. Just Brumley, going rogue in the name of “parental choice.”

Even a director of ed-reform, choice-friendly Stand for Children isn’t buying it. However, some local superintendents are jumping aboard the no-quarantine-by-choice train, under the guise of following Brumley’s so-called “guidance.”

From the September 30, 2021, Advocate:

State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley’s plan to let students exposed to the coronavirus remain in the classroom sparked pushback Thursday from the education and health communities and even the board that hired him 16 months ago.

Sandy Holloway, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, called Brumley’s announcement Wednesday abrupt and inconsistent. …

She and others on the board, which picked Brumley in May 2020, said they were blindsided by the change.

“The full board was not made aware of and did not have an opportunity to review the guidelines prior to their release,” Holloway said. …

Brumley said he is telling local school districts they have the option of letting students who come into close contact with students or staff who test positive for COVID-19 to remain in the classroom if their parents or guardians opt to do so. …

On Thursday Dr. Leron Finger, chief quality officer for Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, who has advised Brumley and BESE on virus policies, said he would recommend that quarantine guidelines remain in place.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said he also favors keeping current quarantine guidelines intact, especially amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases among children.

BESE member Belinda Davis, who lives in Baton Rouge and is one of the governor’s three appointees on the board, said she and others learned of Brumley’s new guidance in The Advocate.

“Until now, every COVID recommendation LDOE (Louisiana Department of Education) has made has been in line with the recommendations of LDH(Louisiana Department of Health),” Davis said.

“I am at a loss to explain this abrupt departure,” she added, a reference to state Department of Health guidelines.

…Brumley said. “I have just had an increasing number of educators and parents share with me their frustrations around the students not having access to their school because of quarantines.”

“We are not mandating,” Brumley added. “Nor am I speaking out in favor. We are just simply giving systems an additional option.” …

Brumley said Thursday he spoke with members of the medical community “who felt this was an appropriate response” but declined to cite specific doctors. …

The Livingston, Ascension and West Baton Rouge parishes school systems said they will adopt the new state guidance. …

Brigitte Nieland, director of government affairs for the advocacy group Stand For Children, disputed Brumley’s claim that his new guidance is called “parent choice.”

“When you give more choice to select parents by taking away the choice from the majority of parents that is not a choice,” Nieland said. “And that is what he is doing. To put a potentially infected child who is infected with a deadly virus in a classroom with unvaccinated children and a teacher, those other parents have no choice. You have removed all of that.”

The full Advocate article can be found here.

A Brumley bob-and-weave in the name of “not mandating” yet “not in favor”– just changing the LDOE stance on quarantining in a manner that allows Brumley to shrug off any “district-chosen” consequences.

Brumley’s change is pretty wild. “Do what you want” is the antithesis of guidance, and why are we doing this?

Well, because some people complained, and some unnamed doctors said it’s okay– and with the whole deal bypassing official channels. Think about that. With this one, Brumley chose to snub both BESE (his boss) and the governor (his endorser).

A fine effort in souring those who keep you in your state superintendency, Brumley.

Readers, I give you dumb.

Cade Brumley


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Teach Two Years, Climb Ed Ladder, Score $5M Contract from Brand New RI Gov via Brand New Consulting Firm.

I have been following a story in Rhode Island in which new governor, Dan McKee, who took office on March 02, 2021, initiated a bidding process for millions in educational contracts on March 23, 2021, then awarded the lion’s share (just over $5M) to a “consulting firm” that had been formed on March 04, 2021— only two days after McKee took office.

The name of the consulting firm in question is ILO Group. has two excellent articles on the situation. Some info from the first, dated September 07, 2021:

A brand-new consulting firm has landed a state contract worth over $5 million to help guide Rhode Island’s back-to-school policies, despite charging millions more than a rival with a lengthier track record, a Target 12 investigation has found.

The new company — ILO Group LLC — was incorporated on March 4, two days after Gov. Dan McKee took office. Its leaders are former executives at Chiefs for Change, a prominent education nonprofit whose CEO is longtime McKee ally and adviser Mike Magee, who served on the governor’s transition team last winter.

ILO Group won the seven-figure contract after the initial bidding process unraveled, in part due to the new firm’s vastly higher estimate of how much it would cost to do the work. ILO initially put in a bid of $8.8 million, while a competing firm that has served as a state education consultant for two decades — WestEd — said it would only cost $936,000.

Documents obtained by Target 12 show the bidding process was initiated by the governor’s office on March 23. The R.I. Department of Administration convened a four-member review panel the next month to examine the bids that included an unusual choice for such a group: North Providence Mayor Charlie Lombardi, who is close to McKee.

The review panel’s members gave ILO Group and WestEd nearly identical scores, but they declined to go with the lower bid, saying the nearly $8-million gap between the two firms’ starting bids showed the original request had been too “broad and vague.”

ILO and WestEd then submitted revised bids of $6.5 million and $3.3 million, respectively, and by late spring the state settled on awarding two one-year contracts: $5.2 million to ILO, and $926,000 to WestEd.

ILO Group’s initial bid for the education contract made no mention of Chiefs for Change even though multiple ILO staffers worked there and Magee remains its chief executive. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit is known for helping recruit and promote up-and-coming school leaders, including Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green.

Julia Rafal-Baer, ILO’s managing partner, served as chief operating officer at Chiefs for Change before leaving to found ILO in March. Another partner, Cerena Parker, was Chiefs for Change’s director of operations. A third partner, Rebecca Shah, was a fellow at Chiefs for Change, according to her LinkedIn profile.

And from the second article, dated September 14, 2021 and updated the next day:

Gov. Dan McKee sent a letter to General Assembly leaders Tuesday making the case for his administration’s decision to give a $5.2 million contract to a brand-new consulting firm, following a storm of controversy over the agreement.

The governor sent the three-page letter to House Speaker Joe Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio. It was accompanied by more than 30 pages of procurement documents and a work summary from the new firm, ILO Group LLC.  …

McKee’s letter comes one week after a Target 12 investigation examined how the consulting firm — which incorporated two days after he became governor on March 2 — landed the state contract despite an unusual bidding process. Lawmakers are considering whether to hold hearings examining the contract.

“While ILO is newly organized as a Rhode Island-based business, its team members have worked together for years and have an extensive background working in Rhode Island and throughout the country on education consulting projects,” McKee wrote. He noted that ILO’s managing partner – Julia Rafal-Baer, who owns a majority stake in the firm – is a Cranston resident.

McKee didn’t mention that ILO’s proposed hourly rate for the work still totaled $228 an hour, compared to $123 for WestEd — meaning the bids were still nearly $3 million apart. Those numbers are too small and blurry to read in the supporting documents sent by the governor’s office. (Target 12 has separate copies of the original.)

In another section of the report, McKee also downplayed the overall price tag of the ILO contract, saying he doubted the firm would end up billing taxpayers for that much money in the end.

“To avoid unnecessary spending, the contract is to be billed hourly up to the amount of $5.1 million instead of a fixer retainer fee,” McKee wrote. “Based on ILO’s billable hours for work performed since the beginning of July 2021 when the contract began, we expect to remain far below this cap.”

There are many directions I could take with this post, but I want to focus on Julia Rafal-Baer, her credentials, and her connections to two power-wielding, ed-reform organizations, Chiefs for Change (C4C) and (not mentioned here) Teach for America (TFA).

In order to better understand Rafal-Baer’s strategic positioning in getting a $5.2M contract after having formed her LLC only two days after a new RI governor is elected, readers must know some background on C4C as well as how being associated with TFA can place people with minimal K12 classroom experience into politically and/or fiscally influential positions in K12 education, which is at the center of the story of the likes of ILO managing partner Julia Rafal-Baer, who is both C4C and TFA.

To this end of grounding readers in C4C/TFA background, I will focus on someone notable for his connection to both: former Louisiana superintendent, John White.

Chiefs for Change (C4C) was the original creation of former Florida governor, Jeb Bush. In March 2013, I wrote about the members of C4C and their usefulness to their leader in promoting the test-centric, market-based education reform that Bush so ardently supports. One of those members, John White, started with TFA (including a three-year teaching stint in NJ and continuing as a TFA exec); was a deputy superintendent under Joel Klein in New York, and was brought to Louisiana first as New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) superintendent in April 2011, but only to get him in the door as the next state superintendent, which unofficially happened only seven months later, in November 2011 and officially nine months later, in January 2012.

In this October 2011 email, Jeb Bush put out the word to his C4C membership that he needed (expected?) their help in getting White, then-Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal’s, choice for state ed superintendent, in that job. C4C member Paul Pastorek had picked White as RSD superintendent and lied to La. House Appropriations saying he had not yet made a choice even as a press release for his choice was being published that very day. Seven months later, Pastorek stepped aside and ushered in Jindal-chosen White as state superintendent. (Pastorek non-decision lie and press release, both April 07, 2011; BESE approval April 08, 2011.)

White also had his Chicago connections pushing for him. White was formerly TFA executive director in Chicago, and it shoud come as no surprise that Chicagoans President Obama and Arne Duncan were both pitching for White to skyrocket into the state superintendent position.

Why not just make White state superintendent of Louisiana straight from his position as deputy superintendent in New York? Well, for all of his time as a NY deputy superintendent, it seems that White needed no advanced degree, nor did he hold any supervisory credential. This New York teacher certification lookup site produced one result for “John White” (I looked up “John C White”), who holds a permanent certificate in English, grades 7 – 12 granted in 2003. According to White’s education certification in Louisiana (lookup link here), he did not receive his masters degree until 2011, the same year he was hired as RSD superintendent. No month is provided, but word was that when he wanted to hire White for the RSD, Jindal was miffed that White did not hold a master’s degree. (Also, NYU has White as a “recent graduate” keynote in April 2012.) So, it seems that the RSD position may have helped buy some time. I am happy to be corrected on ths point, as White does not seem to want to publish specific dates related to his degrees except for the PhD that he does not yet have (dated 2022).

A few more points about White, and TFA, and wielding power over lots of money that one can direct toward those with similar, ed-reform connections:

  • Under White’s watch, in 2017, Louisiana contracted with a TFAer-run, new nonprofit, SPEDx, which was involved in a no-bid contract scandal to the tune of $4.4M in Texas. Former TFAer Penny Schwinn was involved; she is now Tennessee ed commissioner and is becoming known in that state for her no-bid contract penchant.
  • In June 2018, along with another fellow TFAer-gone-superintendent (NJ) and NYC ed connection, Paymon Rouhanifard, White began his own nonprofit, Propel America, while still Louisiana state superintendent, AND that nonprofit began doing business with Louisiana while White was still superintendent AND, Louisiana BESE was apparently caught unawares, so that may well figure into his March 2020 departure-by-resignation, announced January 8, 2020.
  • After White left the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), he and a number of his former LDOE/TFA connections created other LLCs, including Watershed Advisors (for consulting). It’s what those in the business of education do. Former TFAers do not return to the classroom. They look for high-paying admin jobs, and/or they try to leverage themselves in the education business in order to live on education-related, contract money.

Now back to Julia Rafal-Baer, ILO managing partner who has been given a $5.2M ed contract from the state of Rhode Island and who the new governor who granted the questionable contract is defending as competent in this brand-spanking new capacity because he knows of her previously and because he doesn’t think her consulting firm will really bill for that full $5.2M anyway.

Juila Rafal Baer is a former TFAer who completed a two-year stint in the K12 classroom and then was catapulted to NYC ed administration.

Rafal-Baer is connected to the Center for Education Policy and Research (CEPR) at Harvard University. My, that sounds impressive. Below is her CEPR bio, in which her limited classroom experience of two years via teacher temp agency, TFA, is airbrushed out (I underline the airbrushing):

Julia Rafal-Baer

COO, Chiefs for Change

As Chief Operating Officer, Julia Rafal-Baer, Ph.D., develops Chiefs for Change’s organizational capacity for sustained growth, strengthens our decision-making processes and goal-setting, and drives the strategic direction of Chiefs for Change. Prior to joining our team, Julia was Assistant Commissioner of the New York State Education Department where she was responsible for the strategy, management, and implementation of teacher and leader initiatives under the state’s Race to the Top grant, Teacher Incentive Fund grant, and other state-wide initiatives, managing more than $150 million in federal funds. Julia directed, coordinated, and recommended policies and programs designed to raise the achievement of students and improve the quality and diversity of the education workforce. Previously, Julia served as Manager at New Profit, Inc., where she helped lead the design and implementation of the organization’s city-level initiatives. She began her career as a special education teacher in the Bronx. Julia holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Education Policy and a Master’s in Philosophy in Education Research from the University of Cambridge where she was a Marshall Scholar, a dual Master’s from CUNY: Lehman College in Special Education and Childhood Education, and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from The George Washington University.

Another Rafal-Baer bio, this time from the National Assessment Governing Board. Wow. NAGB. Also impressive. Mentions all of her degrees, that she has been COO of C4C since 2016; that she was once a NY state assistant ed commissioner (no date), but no mention of her TFA classroom moment.

I first noticed in 2017 that some TFAers were not including TFA in their bios. It seems that Rafal-Baer is among that crew. Nevertheless, TFA remembers its alum, Rafal-Baer:

Julia Rafal-Baer, Ph.D joined Teach For America in 2004, where she began her career as a special education teacher in the Bronx. Julia went on to become Assistant Commissioner of the New York State Education Department where she was responsible for the strategy, management, and implementation of teacher and leader initiatives under the state’s Race to the Top grant, Teacher Incentive Fund grant, and other state-wide initiatives. Today, Julia lives in Rhode Island and serves as Chief Operating Officer of Chiefs for Change, a nonprofit network of bipartisan state and city education leaders.

Rafal-Baer was in the NY K12 special education classroom beginning in 2004; however, she did not receive her first NY certification until September 2005. That’s how it often works with TFAers– their first year in the classroom is without certification. Rafal did hold a transitional certificate for special populations from 2005 to 2008 as well as an “initial” certificate from 2009 to 2014. (Use this New York teacher certification search engine for information on “julia rafal.”)

Rafal-Baer once had a Linkedin profile, but it has been removed as of this writing. So, I am having to dig for specifics of what should appear in any readily-available bio for someone seeking millions in state money, but so it often goes in the land of intentionally-murky, publicized credentials in the ed-reform world.

It seems that Rafal-Baer earned her master’s degree in philosophy in education research in 2006; was a NY State Education Department (NYSED) fellow from 2010 to 2012, and then became a NYSED assistant ed commissioner in 2012, according to this 2012 Marshall scholar publication.

When I look for “julia rafal bio pdf,” I hit on this document, which includes archived information from numerous Linkedin bios and appears to be from November 2013. It complements previous information in Rafal-Baer’s bios publicized above and confirms that Rafal-Baer spent the usual TFAer’s two years in the classroom and subsequent prodding to then move into positions of influence (and money) than classroom teaching:

Julia Rafal-Baer’s Experience

Executive Director, Teacher and Leader Effectiveness, Policy and Programs, New York State Education Department: August 2012 – Present (1 year 3 months) Albany, New York

Fellow, USNY Regents Research Fund: December 2010 – August 2012 (1 year 9 months)

Manager, Urban Assets Initiative, New Profit Inc.: December 2009 – December 2010 (1 year 1 month)

Education Consultant, Independent: November 2006 – December 2010 (4 years 2 months)

President of Fundraising, Educar, Integrer, & Crecer: October 2006 – October 2008 (2 years 1 month) United Kingdom

Research Assistant, CARET: May 2007 – July 2008 (1 year 3 months)

Special Education Content Specialist, Teach for America: August 2004 – June 2006 (1 year 11 months) Bronx, New York

Special Education Teacher, NYC Department of Education: August 2004 – June 2006 (1 year 11 months) Bronx

Rafal-Baer identified herself as a “special education content specialist” in 2004 despite holding no certification in special populations until September 2005 (a transitional certification, at that, and only for two years, and unrelated to any other positions on this bio). Also note that even though Rafal-Baer held credentials to remain in the NY K6 classroom from 2005 to 2014, she chose to leave in 2006 in favor of piecemeal, education “consultant” employment. Why? To pursue top-heavy education credentials, including “supervising students in the field of eduction”:

Julia Rafal-Baer’s Education

Columbia Business School, Executive Education, Emerging Leaders Program: 2012 – 2012

University of Cambridge, PhD, Education (Focus: Policy and Research): 2006 – 2009
Successfully completed a doctoral program in education from the University of Cambridge in 2009.
Supervised undergraduate students in the fields of education, psychology and sociology. 2006 – 2009 Marshall Scholar.

University of Cambridge, MPhil, Education Research: 2006 – 2007

City University of New York-Herbert H. Lehman College, M.S., Special Education and Childhood Education: 2004 – 2006
Teach For America and Americorps affiliated program at City University of New York. Dual master of science program in special education and childhood education.

The George Washington University, BA, Psychology and Sociology: 2000 – 2004
Studied abroad at the University of Sydney in Australia during 2003

Rafal-Baer graduated with a degree in psychology; did the usual two-year stint with TFA, during which time a TFA-affiliated program with CUNY enabled Rafal-Baer to earn some pretty prestigious-sounding degrees just in time for her 2006 exit from the classroom. She added another masters degree in the year that followed even as she was simultaneously working on a PhD in education policy and research, which she finished in 2009. Rafal-Baer then connected with a nonprofit for about a year (2009-10) until she landed as a fellow at NYSE. After the fellowship, she became a NYSED assistant ed commissioner.

TFA-endorsed, professional top-heaviness complete.

Note also that John White was a NYSED deputy superintendent until mid-2011, so TFAer Rafal and TFAer White have this connection. They also have a C4C connection, as White replaced Jeb Bush as C4C chair in March 2015. Rafal-Baer became C4C COO in 2016.

And now, in September 2021, Rafal-Baer is in the news for a new RI governor delivering a fresh $5.2M to her new nonprofit.

In the name of “taking on the status quo on behalf of local children and families to create new learning options,” RI Governor McKee peddles his defense in sending millions in federal dollars to a consultant who cannot bring herself to leave before the public a clear biographical detailing of her education and related professional experience.

Quite the lesson on how market-based education reformers leverage themselves for money, power, and prestige.


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School Hasn’t Changed in 100 Years. So Saith TFA.

Part of the education reform narrative is that “school has not changed in the past 100 years.”

Consider this from the Teach for America (TFA) website:

School Hasn’t Changed in 100 Years

Students and families count on school to give children agency to lead and shape a better future for themselves. Yet our schools were never designed to unleash the potential of all children. Schools weren’t designed to meet the diverse needs of millions of students who rely on them today. They weren’t designed to help children facing challenges of poverty overcome those obstacles and access opportunity in a dynamic, global world. And our public school system is remarkably impervious to innovation, adaptation, and change.

TFA is the brainchild of Princeton graduate, Wendy Kopp, who wrote her undergraduate thesis on the idea. I first heard of TFA in 1991 when a college friend of mine who graduated with a degree outside of education told me that he was signing up to teach for two years in a city with a teacher shortage on a provisional certificate with TFA. It sounded fine to me, even altruistic.

Ten years later, by 2001, TFA had shifted its mission to that of cultivating its alumni to seek positions of influence, such as superintendentships, in order to influence education, including education policy. Two years of token teaching would be enough for these bright, capable leaders to advocate and produce change. Of course, this stance also leverages TFA’s power as an organization. For example, TFA alum who become superintendents can clear out a department of education and bring in other TFAers for outsized titles and cozy salaries.

For all of its marketing a need for change in the American K12 classroom, in 30 years, TFA has never made a concerted push to get its alumni to remain in the K12 classroom. As far as the classroom itself is concerned, TFA is apparently fine with manufacturing endless churn as TFAer come and go, riding on a crash course in teaching and without having earned a certificate for the first of those two years, all paid for by schools and districts (and here and here) above and beyond each TFAer a teacher’s salary. TFAers have been taught, however, that test scores are the end-all, be-all, and that their limited classroom experience (limited by time and situation) lends to envisioning themselves as education saviors who are superior to career teachers (i.e., saviors who forego saving rather quickly, but saviors, nonetheless).

But back to the “school hasn’t changed in 100 years” pitch:

That narrative is ridiculous on its face. School reflects society, and over the last 100 years, schools have become increasingly responsible for addressing (combatting? Correcting?) the ills of society. Add to that increased usage of technology; expectation that schools must administer and be graded by annual wave after wave of standardized test scores; changes in legal responsibilities for special populations and minors in general; cuts in funding, and the education reform atmosphere of school- and teacher-blaming, and not only have schools changed in 100 years; school has changed quite a bit over the last three decades since I began teaching in 1991.

Let’s go back 100 years and note a few changes in American education. My namesake finished school in New Orleans in 1923. A few observations from what I know of this time and of her experience:

  • The expected, terminal grade level was eighth grade.
  • No auxiliary services were provided, including lunch or transportation.
  • There was no such thing as any accommodation for a special population. Students not deemed “normal” could be denied admittance.
  • Schools provided no mental health services, and students who missed school due to illness were not entitled to opportunities to recoup missed work.
  • Corporal punishment was expected, endorsed, and utilized.
  • There was no “mixing of the races,” with white citizens leveraged to advantage, including in educational experience.

Is this where we are in 2021, TFA?

Of course, there was also no computerized instruction, no internet until my time in graduate school in the mid-1990s. Drills for dangers, such as atomic bombs, came decades later, and active shooter drills, even later than that.

When I attended elementary and middle school in southern Louisiana in the 1970s, there was a push for self-directed, individually-paced learning and for open classrooms. So, my experience for much of my elementary and middle school years involved kits and packets and consultation with my teachers, sometimes one-on-one, and sometimes, in small groups. This mode worked well for me but was a nightmare for students who required more structure (not to mention the “classrooms without walls” idea made for a chaotic scene when trying to keep track of students, who could easily wander from one open classroom to the next on more social missions).

Standardized testing was not the center of my own K12 educational experience, but that is certainly not true for my students in 2021-22.

When I began teaching in 1991, there was no dumping of millions of dollars annually into standardized testing, and test prep, and grading of schools and teachers using student test results. That misguided, punitive focus would come a decade later with George W. Bush’s bipartisan monster, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). According to NCLB, America should have reached that perfect 100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014– seven years ago. By 2007, the NCLB party was over, and politicians did not want to touch it.

So much change.

For most of my teaching career, there was no Google Meet with simultaneous, in-person instruction. No incessant interruption (and competition) from student use of iPhones and iPods in class. No cyberbullying to contend with, and no interference of social media with the activities of the school day. No wireless availability problems in the classroom. No sophisticated cheating enabled by the internet to contend with. But these complications are a daily reality for me now.

Perhaps those who maintain that school has not changed in a century are hung up on the desk arrangement of all seats facing the teacher. Ironically, the center for Disease Control (CDC) COVID protocol requires all desks facing one way, a rather inconvenient, constrictive way to arrange a classroom for many teachers.

American public education has its challenges, but to say that the K12 classroom has been “impervious to change” over the last century is to promote a lie in order to advance oneself as the solution.

However, in promoting the lie, TFA cuts itself off at the kneees:

Since TFA has been around for three decades, in stating that “school hasn’t changed in 100 years,” TFA is admitting its own failure to impact “school” over the course of the last 30 of those 100 years.

And yet, TFA boasts $406M in end-of-year assets for 2019-20 and paid its top 10 executives a combined $3.2M.

Market-based education reform organizations like TFA suffer from the passage of time. They sell themselves as the solution, but if they retain the narrative that education hasn’t changed yet even though they have been sucking in millions over the course of 30 years in the name of change, it begs the question of why, exactly, anyone would continue to beef up their assets.

Time for a change.


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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