Sunday, September 29, 2013

Unwritten: Participant Observation "The Project"

Twanx! You think I should publish it?

Sent from my Kindle Fire

From: (redacted)
Sent: Sat Sep 22 04:39:50 CDT 2012
To: PowersThatBeat 
Subject: Re: Fwd: Parody! Any thoughts? NOT PUBLIC (yet)

Dear EL,

So very damned glad that you are waking up to the charade! Il Balo En Maschera!

Thanks for this...


> On the "Projects"
>  אל
> Begin forwarded message:
> From: Steve @Zidlow
> Date: August 25, 2012 8:54:52 AM EDT
> To: PowersThatBeat 
> Subject: Re: Fwd: Parody! Any thoughts?  NOT PUBLIC (yet)
> Reply
> You should keep all your writing and then publish it.Off course its good!!
> Thanks,
> Steve
> Visit Our Blog
> From: PowersThatBeat  
> Sent: Saturday, August 25, 2012 4:08 AM
> Subject: Fwd: Parody! Any thoughts? NOT PUBLIC (yet)
> I can't believe my mom thought this was funny. Maybe I should go ahead and publish it with the video I made! 
>  אל
> Begin forwarded message:
> From: Karen
> Date: August 25, 2012 12:03:08
> To: PowersThatBeat 
> Subject: Re: Parody! Any thoughts?  NOT PUBLIC (yet)
> Outrageously good Elyssa!  You are the best!
> Love, Mom
> Sent from my iPad
> On Aug 24, 2012, at 10:43 PM, wrote:
> Just had a funny thought!
> You know how much crack I could get this weekend? People are
> trading electronics in the parking lot for drugs. Too bad I don't smoke crack! 
> Trying to arrange for *worthy* charity to donate  my stuff to because I don't want these filthy crackheads to sell or trade my beautiful things for drugs when I leave. 
> I watched the property "monitor" take multiple items out of apartments after they mysteriously disappeared leaving all their belongings behind. 
> I heard they were deported by 287(g) but they could have easily been murdered or killed like the man who lived down the hall and no one would be the wiser since despite the OBVIOUS "foul play" the landlord didn't even know that the police found
> his naked dead body in the middle of January after he started to smell a little. 
> I wonder what happened to his things after they changed the locks three weeks later! 
> Dumpster diving is common place around here... Sometimes they are looking for drugs or prescription bottles to refill; other times they are hiding from the police inside the closed dumpster in the dead heat of summer... 
> But as sure as I'm sitting here right now, I watched the "monitor" take a briefcase, dishes, and some other items right out of their apartment into his own home. 
> Other employees took furniture, electronics and clothing away in their "Academy" Moving Truck (same company that moved me from one crime infested property to another) and the same "COMPANY" that collects the trash and mows the fence (true story) 
> I'll be damned if these animals raid my apartment the minute they think I'm gone and put their dirty hands on my property so they can get a rock or a few tabs.
> I don't even care if sell my second hand TV for diapers at this point. I am *that* desensitized to their needs after seeing how they behave and operate.
> One hell of a case study. 
> Participant observation sucks. 
> I don't recommend it to anyone who thinks it sounds interesting or exciting. It's not. 
> You may get a best seller, a movie deal or 15 minutes of fame, but you will pay a price. 
> I guarantee you will never look at social welfare programs OR human beings the same way again. 
> They simply don't deserve my help or anyone else's. 
> I
> don't regret the years I spent volunteering my time or resources to help the poor or the needy gain access to public resources and government programs, but I can now see that these programs are a total charade and do more damage than good to the community as a whole. 
> So as my time here comes to a close, I am both better and worse from the experience.
> I no longer feel the need or desire to "help" people who don't appreciate the services they receive, and I especially hate the "agencies" who profit off government contracts and rake in millions through public private ventures providing sub-standard care and unfit living conditions to the tune of many millions of dollars.
> In reality these "Projects" are modern day slavery and social darwinism and genetic engineering designed to keep the people sick, confused, and completely dependent upon the corrupt system by flooding their "homes" with drugs, crime, chemicals, and black budget babysitters like Vernon who look the other way to keep REPORTED crime rates down so the police and the city don't lose their precious funding. 
> She gets it. And she wants out! 
> Thank god I haven't lost too much of myself from this "experiment" to go back to my real life and work on something more worthy of my time and energy than live in disharmony with these animals. 
> Truth is stranger than fiction.
> Now that I have my exit date, all I need is a title that can compete with some of my favorite authors, scientists and visionaries that inspired me to write this book.
> Gorillas in the Midst, The Jungle, Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch, Orwell's Animal Farm AND 1984, Kafka and the Truman Show all mixed into ONE helluva game changer! 
> From an "UNDISCLOSED LOCATION" I bid you good night. 
> אל

Friday, September 27, 2013

Unwritten: Guilty as Charged © 2008-2013

I am so glad that there are at least a few people out there who remember me from when I was a kid, and a few people who can identify my body without three DNA blood tests to determine what medical facility would accept me as a transfer. Ever heard of EMTALA people? Ever heard of HIPPA? Ever heard of Patient Dumping? Ask Jim Blumstein, Professor of Law at Vanderbilt Law School or take his course Law 734: Health Law & Policy.

Yes, I ASKED to be committed. I called for help. I said it every single way I knew how, without asking people who were most able to give it.

I never forget a slight, and I am extremely grateful to people who didn't ask questions or doubt my intentions. I will hold them in my thoughts, and can safely promise that I will never again call upon you for help.

There is something to be said for paying it forward. So to people who actually took the time to physically see if I was okay, and to two very special ladies who brought me clothing after everything I had in my possession was taken away from me... and to the photographer who actually observed my injuries, thank you. I can honestly say that I took one for the team. For the tweeters and twackers who let me know I was alone in my journey... you're right I wasn't. You can tweet for peeps without being certifiably nuts. That's not to say I am not certifiably nuts, but I thinks it rather pretentious for y'all to think that you know my mind better than I do after 36 years. I want to believe that this feel connected to a world filled with hatred, bigotry and violence.... I made it through. And I already paid it forward.

It is pretty clear what I need, and I so tired of people asking why I can't find one. Have you seen the news? What I need is hot water. What I need is a safe place to go. What I need is the idiot who fucked up my computer to fix the damn thing. I wouldn't mind having a safe place for Spotty, and a little bit of acceptance. So out of respect for people that I once held in high regard, I chose to take the proper channels. I fed them information without claiming ownership... I sold a news story for $1.00. Kool... I made a dollar last year. That will pay the bills.

There were people I respected and admired, and now see as shallow and insincere. People who are afraid to be associated with someone "like" me? What exactly does that mean anyway? Aren't you impressed that I'm a Harvard Legacy? Am I not one of the "Chosen People?"

Do you think I am living on a total income of $615.00/month because it is fun?

If you can do better, pleeeeeze let me know...

If I can see somebody else doing it, then maybe I could figure out how to do it myself. I am willing to learn from anyone. Just think of all the valuable lessons Hitler taught us??? Yes, people are sheep.

I learned even your mistakes, so is there nothing of value that I can bring to this community???

Would you like to try going on welfare for three months or so? I think you would enjoy the application process. After all there is nothing quite like it in the world.

So, I was "ordered" not to volunteer, not to call the police if I hear gun shots, because only crazy people call 911 several times in one day. Only thing is, "crazy" people exaggerate the situation, so clearly if I have lived for three years, then I can certainly wait another few months. Really?
I am only allowed to use than 100 words or less in my written correspondence. Thank God for Twitter, it is good training.

BTW (by the way ;-) The Gettysburg Address was only 267 words. Less than two tweets. Granted, I am no Lincoln, but every once in a while, I do say something important.

There is something to be said for brevity, but there is also something to be said about honesty, isolation, and the value of technology for people with disabilities. So let this be my project for "Save The Internet" because Legal Aid thought it was kinda funny when I told them that my Internet was scheduled to be disconnected.

Who needs the internet anyway? Who needs information, access, a forum, a voice??? And even if some tweets make me laugh, is that so bad?? Maybe even a small diversion from reality? Am I not worthy?

I foolishly believed that by volunteering in the community, I would come across a real job with real wages and real benefits. Yeah, that was a great idea.

Don't worry... I learned my lesson. I will volunteer no more. After all, why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?

Let it be known I'm a pretty quick study. I am cursed with an exceptionally vivid memory. My cortisol levels have been running low since '95. You figure it out. (Robert Sapolsky: Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers)

I am truly offended by the events that led people to call my family half way around the world and the country, when all they really needed to do was ask me. Not all "kids" are lost... some don't want to be found.

Yes, I am reckless, I am loud, I am always right, and I am "out of my mind fucking nuts" also known as "OTWFN: Off The Wall Fucking Nuts" and that is the presumption. Don't forget, I am very much father's daughter, and am very much my mother's alibi. So thanks. Points!

All the better for them because the crazier I am, the less embarrassed they feel. How about some extra credit for their excellent parenting skills.

Crazy? Loud? Different?

Guilty, as charged. I am sooo embarrassed... how dare I post crazy shit like this online? Don't I know how bazaar that seems? Don't you? Because let's face it... there are two possibilities:

(1) I'm telling the truth, and it's serious,




(2) I'm NOT telling the truth, and it's serious.

So for everyone who told me to go home... did you actually think my parents would rush in to rescue me? Sorry, but no. Not my family. Now I'm stuck here, and you are stuck with me.

And for the record, even suggesting that there is "home" to go to... well than YOU haven't been paying attention.

Don't you realize I am home?

I find it so hard to believe that after all this time people find it easier to speak around me and actually think that is in my best interests? Sorry, but no.

And, you need not worry-- I don't need to be told twice where I'm not welcome.

I am less than 20 miles from several people who called Philadelphia, only to find that they don't want me either. Why would they possibly want to have me in their pristine, well-decorated homes when you paint such a lovely picture?

Guess what-- I' have never even seen my father's home... nor do I expect an invitation to Thanksgiving or Christmas.

So to all the people who "phoned home" to complain about e.d., job well done, you're stuck with me now.

And since I can't get a get a job, and I can't really afford the gas to go anywhere, I don’t think you need to call in a crisis team. I am perfectly happy sitting here by myself listening to my favorite YouTube videos and thinking about everyone else tucked safe and snug in their Ethan Allen beds. Good night to you all... you don't need to read this, and of course, you can ALWAYS hit delete.

That makes me sick. I never was really was a child, and it is really odd that people would start treating like one now. That is such bullshit, because child support was terminated on August 15, 1988. No other provisions were made, and I earned more money at 14 than I did in the last 10 years out together.

I miss the Barge. I think it is ridiculous that people would complain that I am "embarrassing myself.” At least I'm willing to take ownership of that one... was it less embarrassing to find out my mother contacted my professors and withdrew from classes because I was "too ill" to go to school.

Is any less embarrassing then being left at the airport on Thanksgiving Day? Or told that you do not deserve to go the dentist; that you can't sleep in the guest room if you have nightmares because you I might ruin the furniture think I actually give a shit about embarrassing myself? Do you think for a second they are counting on it? Did you think for one moment that there might, just, may be a reason I do not want to go home.

Is it less embarrassing than having your mother finds you "housing" at a long-term state psychiatric hospital, or being told that you might not have a fill on your soda because it cost $1.00? Is it any less embarrassing than finding out you have a new brother two months after he was born?

Yeah, I am embarrassed. Send me to Canada PLEEEZE!!!

Yes, I can act crazy. Yes, I may be crazy, and I sure a shit wish I was because there might be a possibility that created all of this "in my head.” It is not normal to have 43 addresses on file. It is not normal to care more about a cat than any single human alive. 

So, no, I am not normal, but does that make me bad? Does it make me dangerous? Does it warrant being told to "leave town" or take my own my own life so that society is not burdened by caring for me financially? Well, guess what-- I do not really care anymore, and there have been many times in my life where I would rather not be alive, I refuse to let "them" win.  Not like that.

So for so many people who have silenced me before, keep in mind I am NOT psychotic. And I am definitely mot "normal"

I am done. I so "over it" by now that if your embarrassed by my actions then you are giving me way too much power. I can own my behavior, and I can accept my feelings. If you.

But I will not live in fear for the rest the of my life. And if I do get evicted tomorrow, so be it. It won't be the first time. And if you’re really lucky, there will some great new books donated to the public library. Yes, I AM ANGRY. Anger is a very strong emotion that is key to motivational theory. So yes, I am angry AND I am motivated.

According to my mother, lovely little creature that she is, I was evicted from childhood homes in Cherry Hill, Lawrence, Great Neck (North and South) and yes, of course, that was somebody else’s fault too.

Apparently was all my stepmother's fault. Nice. At least their mother would not allow them to be thrown away with each new boyfriend, tummy tuck, and Jaguar or diamond ring.

So aren’t you guys glad you called my parents because now you’re stuck with me, my medical bills, and student debt. Isn't that special? I came here to WORK. I came here to be a part of something. I came here to leave the past behind me. I filled my long nights volunteering at the Family Shelter. I spent my dad’s sleeping in four-hour shifts, and hoping that my oh-so-vivid dreams might actually be pleasant for just one night.

So if and when I do leave, you can trust that I might just have to look back and think... about my death benefit of $543 dollars and the mound of debt I acquired because think I'm capable enough to work.

Why do I know that? Because I'm paying attention to the rules and I'm paying attention to the news. It is not so random, and it not so crazy.

So here's your challenge: Blue vs. Blue; Curtis v. Klein, and Pennsylvania Act 62. But don't worry, I’m NOT a lawyer. And I have never filed a single lawsuit in my entire life. Yes I have filed appeals, but that'd getting old since no one bothers to follow up. What the ~ is wrong with THAT picture?????

All I can say is this, I tried. I tried damn hard. But ya know, crazy is, crazy does.

Aren't you guys lucky to have me? This is my home. This WAS my home. Thanks for making me feel so welcome. e.d. over and out.



antismut pages

Fravia's Nofrill
Web design

October 1999
Smut sites busting

"Crackers against commercial smut"

(Fravia explains elementary CGI-tricks) 
redA general approach
redsource checking
redcgi reverse engineering: one
redcgi reverse engineering: two
redServer exploits: one
redServer exploits: Essays
redHow to allow any luser to access any commercial smut site for free :-)
redrestricted access: one
redBackground information (and essays)
redHacking wwwhack

Fravia's antismut page
is alive and kicking! 
The reasons of our attempt to stop the proliferation of the commercial smut sites on the web are explained elsewhere (see for instance the general page), this is all quite difficult (and contested) stuff, please bear with us, keep cool and, foremost, SEND MORE CONTRIBUTIONS!

A small digression: stalking

Of course all the stuff on my "enemy stalking" pages can be VERY USEFUL for this section as well. You may find it quite interesting to better understand which tools and techniques you can use to individuate the culprits... on the right side you go...1) General stalking techniques
1.1) Simple email stalking techniques
2) Reversing language patterns
3) Luring and social engineering tricks

And now let's begin!

CGI-script reverse engineering and related activities

A general approach to Web sites nuking
How to comb the web
How to find "crumbs" of information inside the source code of web pages
How to exploit the weak CGI-script and PERL programs used by the Smut dealers
How to make a smut site go Ka-Boom!

(this is the stuff you wanted to read and never found on the web)

Crackers against commercial smut
redA general approachcommercial smut sites bombing(Why and how to annoy them)
redcombingi.e. how to find the "commercial smut" sites(how to identify the weak ones)
redsource checkingHow to exploit 'crumb trails' inside a page(forgotten snippets of information inside counters and images)
redcgi reverse engineering: oneHow to exploit weak CGI-script and PERL programs used by the Smut dealers(How to nuke a page against the will of its owner)
redcgi reverse engineering: twoHow to exploit CGI-script, server side includes and perl ticks(How to see a smut site going Ka-boom! under your very eyes)
redServer exploits: oneHow to exploit Micro$oft's IIS bugs(How to fish scripts or programs that should have been hidden)
redServer exploits: Rudicarell'sHow to exploit weak sites with your browser(Some interesting logs and redirecting tricks)
redHow to allow any luser to access any commercial smut site for free :-)How to seriously annoy smut sites...(Some interesting proxy info for lusers)
redrestricted access: oneSome apostrophe + boolean value tricks(Advanced perl-sites nuking)

Crackers against commercial smut
Some background information

by Fravia+, October 1997

by Fravia+, May 1998

by Fravia+, October 1999

Read .sozni's fundamental redessay: The Art of Guessing
by .sozni, October 1999

Hacking wwwhack 
(And a small digression about passwords)

If you are interested in site-access techniques, you may download here a simple 'bruteforcer' that you may use for ALL sites that have HTTP basic authentication. (that's when you try to get to a site and your BROWSER, not an HTML form, asks you for the password).
Download redwwwhack, a very simple, yet effective, password busting program, quite useful to gain user access and study the directory structure of your commercial smut targets... wwhack, keeps TRACK of the sites you gained access into in a file called sites.dat and stores its passwords inside a file called password.txt. wwwhack is a 'best before protection' (at least in this version), which expired on 19 June. Of course this doesn't matter much for Fravias, here you go...
:03723 83781005       cmp dword ptr [eax+10], 5
:03727 7F0C           jg 00403735     ;; You may want to change this to 7F3F = jg 00403768
:03729 83781005       cmp dword ptr [eax+10], 5
:0372D 7539           jne 00403768
:0372F 83780C14       cmp dword ptr [eax+0C], 14
:03733 7E33           jle 00403768

* Referenced by a Jump at Address:00403727(C)
:03735 8B5371         mov edx, dword ptr [ebx+71]
:03738 8B4204         mov eax, dword ptr [edx+04]
:0373B 6A00           push 0
:0373D 6A00           push 0
:0373F 68A5FC4200     push 0042FCA5 ;; ->"This copy of wwwhack expired on June 19."
Redirecting the jump (do not just nop the 7F0C, it won't work :-) will make wwwhack work whenever you want, yet as I said, this is just a very crude program, valid only for username/password combinations where BOTH strings are identical. You may of course slightly modify wwwhack code in order to try DIFFERENT STRINGS during your busting approaches, this requires a small patch. (It's incredible how many sites you can bust with the simple wwhack 'same strings' approach, though)
This said, wwhack is only a very primitive tool: in order to gain root and nuke some of the smut sites, as you probably know, you'll want to try also a very old trick: play with finger and with port 79 and 80... telnet 80, for instance... but you'll learn far better tricks either on both my "CGI-wars" public pages one and two or following what you you'll read in my Simple email stalking techniques essay 

a small digression about passwords 
Wish I had a cent for all the password I found out! As any hacker knows, the best password attack is NOT a brute force attack, but rather a 'stupidity based' attack. See, there are SO MANY passwords you must learn (at work to enter your Intranet, Internet, resume work, etc. at home to enter the web, free email, special sites, telnet, etc.), that 99 humans out of 100 will REUSE the same passwords more than once and will USE SIMPLE passwords most of the time. +ORC (a notorious paranoid), wrote me once that one of his "older" passwords was TheEarthWillRiseAgainOutOfTheWaterFairAndGreen (which is Unix case-sensitive) and that he did not use that sort of "simple" passwords anymore (and went over to his "anglo-latin" passwords) because he found them to be too easy to guess!
As you'll soon notice using for instance the simple wwwhack program above, there are MANY that use as username fred and as password fred (have a look at the letters f,r,e and d on your keyboard and you'll understand why). I found HUNDRED of usernames: usernameand passwords: password, believe it or not...
There are also, very frequently, "site-related" passwords: if you want to access the financial times database, you shold start with financial and times, and it would probably work. The 'solution' to this problem is of course even easier to hack: if the site-protection gives passwords depending on an algorithmus (and few smut sites do this, because lusers want easy to remember passwords), just reverse the algo and you'r done.

Where to find passwords

Don't be silly: the vast majority of sites advertising free passwords to porn sites are actually smut sites themselves, luring traffic through deceptive advertising. There is at the moment a frantic battle for traffic on the smut sites (see my polite conversation between a commercial smutsite nuker and a commercial smutsite owner), smut sites that attracted their traffic pretending to offer 'free' pictures and videos are now increasingly offering 'free' passwords as well. These 'passwords' come directly from the smut sites that are purportedly being violated. The smut sites can pay to the pasword sites a FEE to feature ostensibly faked passwords. The 'pasword' sites sell advertising banner space to the smut sites and list paid-for faked passwords first (mostly the user will land in a banner-clicking nightmare in those cases). In my experience, four password sites out of five are in cahoots with the smut sites (that is a good reason to nuke some of them as well :-)
Unsurprisingly, providing password defenses has become a booming industry... the problem is that these 'defenses' are most of the time very easy to circumvent (see my CGI-reversing and my javascript advanced pages). There are at the moment more than 100 (yes, one hundred) companies offering verification services for commercial smut sites. Fortunately there's not a single one of them that cannot be cracked. Most of these services automatically cancel passwords if they are being used by two people at the same time or if they are originating from different web addresses over a given period of time. Since the passwords you will discover using the tricks explained here ARE NOT PUBLIC (because YOU will discover them on your own), once you check which ones belong to a common used dynamic IP provider (AOL, compuserve, Infonie, whatever), you'r pretty sure that nobody will ever notice it unless you'r shooting in the same timerange as your turkey (the lamer you have taken the password). Just choose an amerloque turkey if you'r european or an european turkey if you'r amerloque and that's all :)

Back to Fravia's main site

red(c) Fravia 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999. All rights reserved

Thursday, September 26, 2013

UNWRITTEN: Application Denied

Your Name: Elyssa D. Durant
Position Desired: YOURS

What are you seeking in a job at this point in your life?
An advocacy position working with children that would allow me to combine my academic training and educational background with my passion for grassroots policy planning and program development. I have been working at the grassroots level with a number of organizations for many years, and I enjoy seeing the public realize how effective they can be in advocating for themselves. I have witnessed many people take off personally and professionally once they experience how gratifying it can be to become empowered through expressing their views and making their voices heard. I enjoy leading people on this path of empowerment.
Why do you want to work with children?
Having participated in the head start program as a small child, I was fortunate enough to be given additional resources that allowed me to be on a level playing field when I started Kindergarten at 4 ½ years-old. I believe working with Stand for Children will allow me to give a voice to small children and some of the disenfranchised families who have the greatest need for strong, well-organized representation.

How would you explain community or grassroots organizing and what about it appeals to you as opposed to other ways to improve the lives of children?
Grassroots advocacy would allow me to work directly with stakeholders on critical policy initiatives and budget priorities. I enjoy helping the public have their opinions heard and consider myself empathetic to the needs of my target audience and population. I enjoy working towards a stated goal and seeing that programs be properly designed, planned, and implemented to allow for effective program development and policy implementation. In addition, working sat the grassroots level allows you to interact with those who are directly affected by the programs and policy reform initiatives. I enjoy listening to people and helping to empower the disenfranchised populations. Grassroots work allows you to see change happen and letting people know how important each and every voice is on the political spectrum. By establishing a positive network of community alliances and establishing a good rapport with the general public, they will feel that they had a direct role in creating the new programs and policies, and they are much more likely to remain active in their child's education and community programs long after I am gone.

What adjectives would people who know you generally use to describe you? Name specific work situations in which these attributes have served you.
People often comment on my dedication: I do not take on causes that I do not believe in. I will do "whatever it takes" to see that I achieve results that are beneficial to the community I live in, the organization I represent, and the children who need my voice.
I am sincere and not easily swayed from my viewpoints. I am very true to my clients, and believe in what I say. I am outspoken. I am not easily intimidated and believe that I have a right to be heard, as do the children, families, and communities I represent. I am eloquent, logical, and persuasive. I can usually find a way to relate to my clients, and give them a reason to participate in the legislative process. I help them understand that they are a crucial in seeing effective programs implemented in a way that will best serve the needs of their children and communities. I help my clients feel empowered by showing them how their direct participation can improve their circumstances and the lives of their children. I try to demonstrate how easy it is to participate in developing effective policy and public programs. I encourage them to become more active in their own lives by showing them how important it is to be heard by their legislators, congressional representatives, and their community leaders.
I am effective because I get things done!

What would your former employers say about you? What areas would they suggest you work on?
  • "Her involvement with the class, her interaction with the students and teachers alike, and her willingness to listen while offering fresh insight of her own made working with Elyssa a very enjoyable experience."
  • "Her energy for the work and the educational process showcased both her abilities for problem solving and her well-developed communication skills."
  • "Elyssa's enthusiasm for knowledge and the process of learning impressed me a great deal. She has an active curiosity about education and the learning process."
  • Some employers have not been quite as enthusiastic regarding my level of personal involvement with my work... they may suggest I work on my objectivity in the workplace. I tend to take my work very seriously.

Please list your top five achievements at your last position.
  1. My clients still call me from school in the morning to let me know they made it there safely. None have dropped out and five will be graduating this May!
  2. One former client is no longer abusing small animals after we took a day trip to the animal shelter. He now demonstrates empathy towards animals and treats them with a gentle hand.
  3. Mental health parity has received considerable more attention from the press after the NBCNightly News picked up an article I wrote. NBC requested on camera interview, but my schedule was not the least bit forgiving at the time.
  4. New York State passed a bill for Medicaid buy-in the day after I had organized a trip to Albany for members of my community who were at-risk for losing their benefits.
  5. My persistence locating subjects (participants in a long-term study of children with severe emotional disorders) allowed for more reliable and valid results since a larger, more representative sample was achieved for the third and final wave of interviews. The methods and study results were discussed recently in a prestigious journal of public policy.

Describe an interpersonal challenge you faced with a co-worker and how you resolved it.
I learned that my supervisor had altered some of my case notes for a client file that was scheduled to be audited. After confronting him with my original documentation and the new paperwork that was in the child's file, he told me that it was critical not to reflect abuse in my client files since it would cause the company to loose referrals from the Department of Children's services. After speaking with my sister (an attorney) I decided to make copies and forwarded them anonymously to a child rights organization.

What did you learn from it?
I ultimately resigned since I felt I did not want to be part of an organization that would place financial incentives above a child's welfare.

What experience do you have working directly with children? Concerns for children?
For my undergraduate practicum, I worked as a social skills counselor in a school-based intervention program designed for high-risk youth. After working with various groups of children, I began to notice significant differences in their levels of self-esteem. This made me increasingly concerned about policy issues involved in special education, assessment, and placement. I think it is critical to explore alternative program options that would allow children to receive the special attention they need without jeopardizing their emotional development.

Have you ever been involved in an effort to change a policy or a budget priority? Please describe.
Yes-several years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the Governor's Roundtable on TennCare. The new CEO had implemented cuts to the program without providing members (or providers) with adequate time or information prior to implementing a major change to the prescription formulary (the list of approved medications.) Because I had witnessed the fallout at my local pharmacy that weekend, my supervisor requested that I draft a written statement to the committee regarding the impact of these changes for beneficiaries. After the newly appointed CEO of TennCare denied receiving any negative feedback on his rapid budget cuts, my boss asked me if I would be willing to speak before the committee and call his bluff. Ultimately, this lead to the passage of the Grier Amendment. Grier provides beneficiaries with a formal procedure that must be followed prior to cutting off any medications prior to receiving a formal appeal. Grier provides beneficiaries with a form of "due-process" protection granting them access to an adequate supply of medication while their physician can has the opportunity to obtain the necessary authorization for medically necessary treatment.
I recently ran into the former CEO that implemented the poorly planned budget cuts. He now works at my local gas station in the mini-mart; however, he claims they offer excellent health insurance with unlimited pharmacy benefits.

Why, in your opinion, do schools, early childhood education, and other programs that give children a fair chance in life receive so much less funding than they need and deserve?
I believe there are several reasons that contribute towards the pattern of under-funding educational programs. First, I believe that the "war on terror" has misrepresented our budget priorities to the general public. Second, I believe that there is a hesitation to re-distribute funds so that they can be used in the communities that would benefit the most from additional sources of funding. Third, I think that the people designing the budget are not sympathetic to the needs of the underprivileged, and they are reluctant to offend wealthier constituents by allocating funds towards impoverished districts. Fourth, I believe that the general public is quite comfortable believing that all is well in American schools, and if we keep adjusting the SAT's to reflect this myth, the true state of education will most likely be ignored. As a society, we must decide that education is a top priority and fund education in the same way we fund the military. I could go on, but I will not!

What specifically can be done to ensure that more public funding goes to schools, early childhood education and other programs that give children a fair chance in life?
We need to think of educational policy reform initiatives and programs in terms of equity rather than equality. Equality is a myth. Some children, schools, communities, and parents simply need more if they are to benefit from the large number of pre-k programs soon to become available to young Tennesseans. We must meet their needs by matching them with appropriate programs and opportunities by virtue of their parent's financial resources. We must reframe the educational model in terms of equity not equality; all homes and all schools are sadly not equal.
I was a head start child myself, and I am proud of my academic achievements. With the new lottery in place, many children will have a new source of opportunity: scholarship money can provide a completely new funding source beyond the standard K-12 public education. We need to reframe the educational model so that we can improve the system for children who are "at-risk" of falling behind so that they have true equal opportunity. There are many new opportunities to be had in the state of Tennessee. Not only can children now benefit from the new pre-K programs being developed, but they can also benefit from educational funding that has become available in the form of Hope scholarships that the lottery program offers for college.
We need to give children a fair shot at actualizing their inherent capabilities and help them to develop a love of learning before they have an opportunity to be lost in the "system."

Share experiences you've had in forming or building an organization.
As the director of special programs for NAMI, I had the opportunity to work with consumers and their families by planning special events and programs. I made frequent trips to the local psychiatric hospital to talk to consumers about how they need to take an active role in planning new programs-especially if they were unhappy with the current programs in place for SPMI (severe and persistent mentally ill) populations. I was amazed at how much you can accomplish on a long road trip by providing a school bus and free lunch for all who were willing to participate and make their voice (and their votes) count!




Recruitment and Retention Rates in Public Education Incentives Needed to Improve Performance

Recruitment and Retention Rates in Public Education

Incentives Needed to Improve Performance 

Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M.

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.

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!

  • Teacher salaries are only part of the problem.
  • Teacher mobility contributes to the instability of urban schools.
  • Metro is trying to fix a problem they do not fully understand.

Elyssa D. Durant © 1995-2013


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

Equity in Education: Are Minorities to Blame for Failure to Meet No Child Left Behind Benchmarks?  by Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M.

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.

Elyssa D. Durant © 1995-2013