Friday, August 3, 2012

The Don

“we have a lot of exciting work ahead of us, and we’ll need all hands on deck to succeed in providing every student in every community with access to a high quality education.” “As you may have heard,” “thoughtfully engaged” Full Day Pioneer Schools Extra time in the classroom is critical to students' academic success, as both the quantity and quality of instruction can mean the difference between a high school dropout and a college graduate. I was a teacher, my wife was a teacher, I was raised by teachers, and many of the members of my leadership team are former teachers. “equipping our students with tools that will help them be successful as they return to school.” “With only 57 percent of students graduating high school, achievement gaps for African American and Latino students remain in the high double digits, and only 7.9 percent of 11th graders testing college-ready, we have much work ahead of us.” “one-stop shop” Input from each of these groups regarding the full school day – and the many important initiatives and efforts taking place throughout the District – is critical to the success of our students. We look forward to continuing to engage critical challenge of closing the achievement gap that exists between African American students and their Caucasian counterparts, As a school district and as a community, we must put our kids first no matter the opposition. It's the only way to ensure we are doing right by our students, families and city, and by those who have come before us. I could have no better ally than you as we climb this mountain together, and I'm grateful for your hard work and support. As CEO of this district, it's my charge and commitment, and that of my staff, to provide all the support schools need to drive student success. It's undeniable that we have many excellent schools, as well as many, many principals and educators committed to student achievement in our district; but, unfortunately, too many of our students are falling behind. Not enough are graduating from high school and most of those who do are not prepared for college. We know these decisions aren't easy for many, as many of our teachers, principals, students, parents and communities have deep, personal connections to affected schools. he result is REACH Students, which will provide a clear picture of effective teaching, while also establishing better communication practices between educators and giving meaningful feedback to teachers to help them drive student learning. I believe that success is possible. In fact, on Monday I celebrated 94 success stories representing the CPS schools that made the 2011 Illinois Honor Roll “better drive student learning” CPS simply does not have the revenue to support the way we currently fund our schools. Making the structural changes necessary to put our District on a path to financial sustainability so we can better support student learning will require difficult decisions, but we face no choice—they are decisions we must make. “a world-class, work-relevant education that will ensure students graduate equipped, not only for success in college, but also for cutting-edge jobs in the future.” 7 hours in elementary, 7.5 in high school, up from 5.45 and 7 respectively. “Scrubbing our budget LINE BY LINE, CONTRACT BY CONTRACT and PROGRAM BY PROGRAM” The proposed 2012-2013 calendar is just one of the initiatives we are implementing as part of our overall strategy to boost academic achievement across the district. The information I gathered from these meetings is some of the most valuable in informing our work throughout the District. It was clear from that conversation that parents want their kids to have more time in the classroom, and they want it to be quality time. I could not agree more. The Full Day is about more than just adding time – it’s about improving whatwe teach, how we teach and the time we dedicate to providing students with a better quality education than they’ve ever had before. I urge us all to share stories like Devonte's with our students, ensuring they know that—whether a child or an adult—we must all speak up, shine a light and help those who need it. “parents, teachers, school and community leaders across the district…” My respect for teachers runs deep, and I have a genuine appreciation for the great work they do every day on behalf of our students both inside and outside the classroom. I hope you share my excitement about the coming school year PRESS RELEASES - “We’re pleased to see academic achievement among our students continues to grow, but it’s clear we still have work to do,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “That’s why we’ve spent this year focusing on initiatives that will give teachers and students the time and tools they need to boost achievement in the classroom, resulting in a high-quality Full Day for all schools beginning next school year.” – ISAT - The revised SCC includes substantive changes designed to promote positive learning environments for students and staff and limit the use of disciplinary actions that remove students from the classroom. - “I am a strong believer in limiting mandatory disciplinary actions that remove a child from their classroom and school, which, in many cases, ultimately causes more harm than good for those students,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “We need to be more proactive in addressing issues before they become a disruption or a distraction for students and staff. The revised Student Code of Conduct will help the District take leaps forward in creating more positive and safe learning environments so that our children can keep their focus on the classroom.” - “It gives me and our CPS parents peace of mind to know that our students have a caring environment filled with engaging activities – both creative and educational – while they are out of school.” - “This increase in our graduation rate tells a powerful story about CPS and the contributions of our hard working teachers and principals,” said CEO Brizard. “These results are impressive, but we have more work to do in ensuring that every child in our District graduates ready for college and career. Our efforts around the Full School Day next fall will provide additional tools and supports for our teachers and principals to better position them in boosting the academic success of our students.” - “We need to use every tool at our disposal to identify new revenue so we can invest every dollar possible in our kids and their learning,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “These vacant and unused properties will not only help generate new revenue needed for our schools, but will help bring new jobs and development opportunities to communities throughout the city.” “Our students must be given the tools to succeed in today’s complicated economy, and that includes access to practical financial skills that can help them make smart decisions,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “We are appreciative of the support from these private partners in helping to ensure all students have the knowledge, skills and tools needed to succeed in life.” “The District is especially proud of these inspiring educators for their creativity in the classroom, and we thank them for their dedication which makes a difference in the lives of CPS students every day. I extend our gratitude to all teachers across Chicago for the countless hours spent, both in and out of the classroom, helping to educate our future leaders.” JC TALKERS There’s not a more noble profession or one filled with more sacrifice and I am truly grateful for the work our teachers are doing every day for our kids. INTRODUCTIONS As a former teacher and principal, I know first-hand the intimate knowledge and insights teachers can provide from the front lines of our schools Last week was an historic moment in the history of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) as we unveiledREACH Students (Recognizing Educators Advancing CHicago’s Students)—our new teacher evaluation system. Our current system has been in place since the 1970s, and, for many reasons, it was time to make a change. I AM VERY EXCITED CONCLUSIONS In closing, I want to salute not only our hard-working teachers, but also our many school-based staff, such as our principals, counselors, lunchroom workers, janitors and social workers. We truly couldn’t do the important work of educating Chicago’s children without you. It continues to be an exciting year full of new initiatives and educational opportunities that will benefit our students both now and in the future, and I’m looking forward to all that lies ahead for our district. As always, we remain committed to our mission of ensuring that every student in every community has access to a high quality education. In carrying out this mission, we intend to make the best decisions supporting critical priorities that will ultimately empower teachers, whose role on the front lines of education cannot be underestimated. I look forward to seeing the many positive impacts the Full Day will have on our students, and the many opportunities and learning experiences it is sure to provide them! I know you share my sense of urgency, and I want to thank you for your dedication to our students and the hard work you do every day. By continuing to work together, we can and will succeed. BC Additionally, CPS is investing $130 million to support the Full Day, which principals can use at their discretion to design a school day that will best fulfill the unique needs of their own student body. Schools have used these dollars in multiple ways to support student learning. In total, schools have hired more than 500 additional teaching positions for math, reading, science, art and music. Some schools have used these dollars to purchase everything from musical instruments and virtual gyms to iPads and webcams, which will allow students to participate in classroom instruction simultaneously with other kids from around the world. Thank you in advance for doing all you can to make sure your child is in school on the first day. We also encourage you to become active and engaged in every way you can around your child’s education. To learn more, call our office of Family and Community Engagement at XXX. We look forward to working and hearing from you throughout School Year 2012/2013.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

The World Is Yours

Last summer, my then-girlfriend asked me to put her on to some hip-hop.

Whenever I get a request like this from someone relatively uninitiated in the genre, I seldom know exactly where to start. After some consideration, I did what I thought made the most sense and started her off with the best: an 80-minute CD-R of Nas' finest tracks.

It's apropos. Fact: Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones is the best rapper ever. Bar none. Period. Accept no substitutes.

Next month marks fifteen years since the release of his seminal freshman album Illmatic. XXL Magazine - a periodical that long ago lost relevance - celebrated the event with an article on the album's making of; with interviews from all the beat makers, producers and the man himself on how each track and the album as a whole came together.

The pictures of a 20-year-old Nas and company capture the true grit of New York hip-hop culture during its renaissance period, and the stories behind the album's ten tracks shine a new and intriguing light on material that I can recite from front to back. ("N.Y. State of Mind" first verse in one take! Busta Rhymes could have taken the beat for "Halftime"!)

Illmatic is one of the top three best hip-hop albums of all time, one of very few perfect records and the best example of the genre's finest producers behind truly prolific wordplay that has withstood the test of time. No matter what Nas does for the rest of his career, no one can take this from him.

For your consideration (click on each scan to bring up the whole thing):

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pac and Primo: A long-awaited union

Okay, okay, aiight...this time I PROOOOMISE to keep up with this blog. As we get through the first quarter, hip-hop starts getting better and hence there's more to talk about.

The first thing that truly hit my radar this year is The Don Primo Edition, a mixtape of classic 2Pac verses over classic DJ Premier joints. Though I'd imagine that two of hip-hop's true talents blended together would be difficult to muck up, I'm sure it's possible. Fortunately for my treadmill run last night, it wasn't.

Twenty-eight tracks with a few interludes and some otherwise pointless guest artists fill out this bad boy. While I don't gush over 'Pac like so many of my contemporaries, I believe - nay, I KNOW - that Primo is literally the best thing that's ever happened to the musical aspect of hip-hop. My favorite cut from the mixtape is definitely "My Enemies Give Me Power:" It's "When We Ride on our Enemies" - that old Mobb Deep diss cut - over Nas' "I Gave You Power." The intro with Bishop yelling at Q in Juice gave me goosebumps.

I miss hip-hop. Download the link above and enjoy.

01. Intro - Primo Pac F Kanye Common
02. Holla If U Friend Or Foe
03. Gettin Money
04. Open Fire W A Full Clip
05. Understand My Style F Nas
06. Sleep On Me
07. Primo Speaks
08. Its All Real
09. Interlude - War
10. My Enemies Give Me Power
11. Here I Am Fk Yall
12. Paper On My Block
13. Hail Mary
14. Interlude - Hip Hops Influence
15. Old School Memories
16. Neva Call U Bth F Jeru Da Damaja
17. Against The World
18. So Ghetto Out On Bail
19. Thug Style
20. A Classic Combination F Kanye Biggie Big L
21. Interlude - From Ny 2 Cali
22. Better Dayz
23. Interlude - Origin Of Makaveli
24. Thugz Mansion
25. This Life I Lead
26. Throw Ya Gunz Up
27. Ready 4 Wuteva
28. Outro

Monday, February 9, 2009

Not gangsta...SO not gangsta!!!

The most anyone's seen Ray J since...ever.

Last Saturday afternoon, following a hellish journey home from Los Angeles, I was too catatonic to do damn near anything, let alone get up and find a remote control so as to change the channel on the television.

And so it stayed glued to VH1 as I played catch-up on my computer. I endured the drivel of reality shows with washed-up 90s stars and camera whores before I finally got up to switch on the PS3 so I could continue watching my "The Tudors" DVDs.

As I got up, "For The Love of Ray J" came on. The pilot episode. I had read about it briefly on the plane ride in that abortion of a hip-hop periodical known as The Source, so my curiosity was ever-so-slightly piqued. I stayed through the first commercial break. Then the second. And then, before I knew it, I'd reached the elimination portion of the show and lost a good hour of my life that I'll never get back.

First off, it's safe to say that VH1 has become the Krispy Kreme of basic cable: Everyone knows the shit is not good for you in way, shape or form, but folks can't stay away. I never, ever go looking for VH1 shows, but if I end up glued on the station for whatever reason - usually a result of being in front of someone else's TV who has it on - I find it difficult to turn the hell away.

But I digress. "For The Love of Ray J" is constructed with pretty much the same formula as all these other "find love" exercises in putting society's dregs out there for public consumption. But for some reason, this series is even less palatable than than the others. I think it has to do with the fact that there is absolutely, positively nothing compelling about Ray J.

Flavor Flav? Interesting motherfucker. Bret Michaels? Former rock god. Who can name more than one song from Willie Norwood? If you can, email me and I'll hit you in the face with pizza dough for being a tool. This cat wouldn't exist in anyone's mental Rolodex if big sister Brandy hadn't had her run. The only reason anyone has mentioned his name in the past three years is because he railed half-Armenian, half-horse socialite/social disease Kim Kardashian and put the shit on videotape for all to see.

Leaking an intimate sex tape to the public without the expressed permission of his partner is plenty enough for any respectable woman to not want anything to do with a guy. But we're definitely not dealing with respectable women. VH1 is single-handedly setting the feminist movement back years with every one of these reality shows, just as the negroid males on the same shows probably took a handful of votes away from Obama.

Jimmy Kimmel put it perfectly when he addressed some of the Flavor of Love stars at The Roast of Flavor Flav: "Now where was I before I was interrupted by these whores?" Each of them get on the show and talk in the private camera room about how they're "different" from the rest of the women in the audience because they're "actually here because I am looking for something special; something real." And yet, they all end up 7/8ths naked in front of the camera embarassing the dogshit out of their parents. Dumb broads.

I mean, where do they find these women?? When they're all getting to know each other and rattling off their respective professions, all I wanted to hear -for whatever reason - was "medical school, lawyer, retail buyer." Nope. "Hairdresser. Waitress. Slutpiece." And as fine as most of them are, several of them screw up their natural beauty with terrible makeup, tawdry behavior and clothes that'll never get them invited to any man's dinner to meet the family. I mean honestly...a tattoo of a fucking jungle cat on the side of your face?!?!?!? I hope ol' girl comes from money...

And then you got Ray J himself feigning genuine interest in the women while projecting a not-so-modest solipsism that has him looking like a utter stooge. I always thought Flav was playing something of a caricature of himself on his show, but Ray J doesn't seem to be acting; the D-level singer is probably as surface-level as he'd have you believe.

I'm definitely done after one episode of this show. Especially since he kept the dirty, buttcheek-clapping stripper. If any of you are convinced these shows have any tincture of reality or genuineness, joke's on you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

...And That Right Soon: The Best of 2008

So better later than never, right?

Please forgive my infrequent blogging as of late -- life has gotten in the way of the time/motivation to flex my creative headbone. But as I've done every year for the past half-decade or so, I want to present my compendium of best hip-hop songs of the year.

While 2007 was a boon year for the genre, 2008 left a bit more to be desired. At the end of '07, I had to sit down and make some serious choices regarding what would make it on an 80-minute CD-R. This time, I had to go back and really think hard about what actually made it out last year, and what was worthy of actually making a CD full of my favorite stuff.

It seemed that there was a bit of a dearth in the year's midsection in terms of quality music; the first quarter was uncharacteristically decent (The Roots, Elzhi) and the fourth also provided a few gemstars (Black Milk). But the summer of 2008 was a period in which I truly immersed myself in the world of alternative rock music for the first time in my life. Playing Radiohead all day, every day made up for the lack of good hip-hop to round out my mix CDs.

Royce Da 5'9" and Black Milk both continued their supremacy from 2007, and by extension made it on more than a few cuts on the best-0f mix. Somehow, Kweli made it on this bastard twice, which is interesting considering he's such a fallen star in my estimation, despite being one of my favorite emcees. Skyzoo probably made it on the mix for the last time, as he's getting exceedingly uninteresting and worthy of checking out only for beat choice.

Speaking of beat choice, just as is the case every year, a couple of these cuts are here for no other reason than stellar, infectious production (The Jake One, Nicolay and Kidz In The Hall joints). I'll never claim to be more righteous than the next listener for appreciating shit with empty lyrical content that either bangs in the whip or has fantastic musical quality. The difference is, I just don't make it a habit.

A few more thoughts:

- There are a lot of mixtape tracks on here with cats rhyming over other folks' beats. Every year someone else does far more justice to a beat than the original artist. See Royce and his decimation of every Lil' Wayne beat he goes over.

- Where the fuck is Saigon's album?!?!?!?!?

- This mix features what will probably be the best flipping of a song from a Corey Feldman movie (#10)

- The Foreign Exchange should have been on this mix. But Phonte wanted to make the sophomore album all about substandard crooning, so...

-Nas is still a fucking monster on the mic, but his beat selection has probably faltered forever.

- Termanology basically blew an album full of the best production lineup in like 13 years. But "The Chosen" has a Havoc beat that takes me back to the old Queensbridge days. And Term blacks out over it.

- Elzhi's solo album was a bit disappointing overall, but Detroit hip-hop still trumps everything else.

1. "The Leak" - Slaughterhouse (Royce Da 5'9", Joe Budden, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz)
2. "Done Talkin'" - Royce Da 5'9"
3. "Believe It" - Saigon
4. "Momma Can You Hear Me?" - Talib Kweli
5. "The Necessary Evils" - Skyzoo
6. "What We Live" - Nicolay and Kay
7. "A Billi" - Jay-Z
8. "Let Your Hair Down" - Kidz In The Hall (feat. Skyzoo & Lil' Eddie)
9. "Home" - Jake One (feat. Vitamin D, C-Note, Maine & Ish)
10. "Thou Shall Not Fall" - Joe Budden
11. "America" - Nas
12. "Long Story Short" - Black Milk
13. "Hot Thing" (Remix) - Talib Kweli (feat. Jean Grae)
14. "Royal Flush" - Outkast and Raekwon
15. "Motown 25" - Elzhi (feat. Royce Da 5'9")
16. "Heart Breakers" - Son of Ran and The Messengers
17. "Criminal" - The Roots (feat. Truck Turner and Saigon)
18. "The Chosen" - Termanology
19. "What If We Cry?" - Jay-Z and Coldplay

Friday, January 23, 2009

Waitin' for the porn to change

If there was anything that 15-year-old Dustin knew well, it was the many resplendent joys of pornography.

I couldn’t get a girlfriend to save my natural life, I wasn’t involved in sports and video games didn’t have that six-hours-a-day appeal that they did when I was an adolescent. So I spent my formative teen years chasing after and amassing a collection of hardcore, softcore and HBO-late-night-programming videotapes that ultimately filled a military footlocker so heavy that I needed another hand to help me carry it – often at the cost of loaning out some of the material inside.

In high school, I was all about collecting black porn: the massive-titted bleached-blonde white women most conventionally associated with porn, while nice, became far too quotidian to keep my interest. Thanks to a very open-minded dad and friends in high school who were actually old enough to procure the stuff for me, I got my ample share of chocolate booty on film.

I was an early (read: underage) loyalist of Video Team’s Afro-Centric material -- namely the “Sista” and “My Baby Got Back” series. Fellow connoisseurs will recall the days of black porn laureates like Janet Jacme, Ron Hightower and Dominique Simone, on whose breasts you could balance three dwarves holding meal trays.

I knew all these porn folks more intimately than I probably should have. I knew Midori was singer Jody Watley’s sister. I knew that Crystal Knight actually performed when she was pregnant for a while. I thought that Mr. Marcus was the luckiest motherfucker on two-and-a-half legs. Hell, I still do.

As the years have elapsed, however, I’ve found that my attitude toward black porn has been tangential with my attitude toward hip-hop: the halcyon days have long fallen away, and now we have to dig a bit deeper for quality where there once was an abundance.

Back in the day, black porn starlets looked like they actually took into consideration that the world would see every bit of their creation and thus stayed in the gym. They were beautiful, diminutive and relatively innocent-looking, which made it delightfully shocking when they took penises the size of baby arms in their back doors like it was just another day on the job.

The black women in contemporary porn have devolved significantly. Honestly, these dames look like they’re smooth out of a strip club on the east side of Detroit. Broken press-on nails, belly folds, foot-long stretch marks and faces so buttery you’d think the beautiful women actually developed a collective sense of self-worth and left the porn to their busted brethren.

I think black porn reached its apogee around 1998, when Dee – one of my favorite “black” porn stars who’s actually Puerto Rican – was in her prime. Back then, you could pick up a title like “United Colors of Ass” or “Booty Talk” and know you would get at least three scenes with slammin’ women you’d actually consider taking home to mom if it weren’t for the whole porn thing. Now, I just assume that the sisters are gonna be all grody-looking and I will examine a DVD box much more closely before checking it out.

I can’t even tell you who the hot black actresses are today. It may be a result of a generally decreased interest in porn, as I can’t really rattle off the names of new porn starlets of any race (actually having a sex life drastically alters one’s overall interest in licentious viewing material, I’ve learned), but I pay enough attention to know that the “My Baby Got Back” series fell the hell off after, like, volume 25, and that that’s a reflection of the overall black subgenre.

Since the porn industry is in no real danger of suffering from the recession anytime soon (two things Americans will always need: health care and orgasms), I’m thinking we can get some of these beautiful sisters graduating college to a depressed job market to consider jumping into adult and increase the tone of black porn while netting six figures in the process.

I’m sure Mr. Marcus would be pleased to go back to the days of old. I know I would.