Meet Aramis Ayala on May 24 & Charlie Crist on June 8 on Zoom! + Danny Fuqua & Friends’ Charity Work

Here’s a mass email I wrote today in my role as Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party. We have some exciting events coming up and wonderful charitable work going on.

May 22, 2021

Dear fellow Democrats,

I am writing to share with you news of two exciting upcoming digital meetings!

On Monday, May 24, 2021 at 7:00 PM, hear from former State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who is considering running for the United States House of Representatives in 2022! She is our guest speaker at the Volusia County Democratic Party meeting. Click here to RSVP and receive the Zoom link.

On Tuesday, June 8, 2021 at 7:00 PM, hear from Congressman Charlie Crist, a Democratic candidate for Governor of Florida in 2022 who knows the job well, having served as Governor from 2007 to 2011. He is the guest speaker at the Volusia Young Democrats meeting. Click here to RSVP and receive the Zoom link.

We would love to see you at these virtual events, and there will be an opportunity for questions. You can also reply to this email with a written question for either candidate, and we will consider it.

Secondly, I would like to take this opportunity to spotlight the wonderful charitable work the Volusia County Democratic Veterans Caucus has been doing, including Mr. Danny Fuqua, who will be running for Volusia County Council District 2 in 2022. Last week, they delivered hundreds of care packages to students and veterans in the Florida panhandle who have been displaced by hurricanes. Please click here to read all about it in The Hometown News.

Finally, I have a request: Your donation helps Democrats succeed! Please click here to donate on ActBlue, or write your check to the Volusia County Democratic Party and mail it to:

Volusia County Democratic Party
P. O. Box 11613
Daytona Beach, FL 32120

When we work together, anything is possible.

Dr. Richard Thripp, Chair
Volusia County Democratic Party
VCDP Text Message line: 386-232-8172

Against Testing

Against Testing
By Dr. Richard Thripp
May 8, 2021

An over-emphasis on testing is often justified on the basis that we need to be able to measure student learning and achievement. Proponents of testing herald it as valuable data that teachers and administrators use to inform their practices. In truth, teachers rarely use data from many of the standardized or district-level assessments being used, and administrators often use it to draw precisely the wrong conclusions. Assessments themselves are often lacking in the way of design and relevance, with a focus on multiple-choice questions with 4 choices per question and questions that are misaligned with curricular standards, what is actually being taught, and what is of actual importance to be assessed. Furthermore, as a teacher, I have on several occasions observed district assessments where the “right” answer was in fact subjective and debatable, due to another choice being just as good. In some cases, such as a question that claimed the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee was established in the 1950s (it was established in 1938), they are just plain wrong.

Although I am astute enough to avoid subscribing to the logical fallacy of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, nonetheless it is not debatable that assessments gobble up valuable instructional time. Why do we keep finding ways to restrict, curtail, and interrupt instructional time? Tests on top of tests, along with unnecessarily disruptive events, announcements, safety drills, and school procedures that are almost deviously designed to entice truancy. For example, in my teaching practice at a high school, it was discovered mid-year by administration that they had no way to produce reports on students who skipped only some periods, but not the whole day. This burden was promptly shifted to teachers by way of a mass email asking teachers to report such students, which once again serves to take away instructional time. Many teachers have 10%, 20%, or even more of their periods taken up with tasks such as distributing testing notifications or other papers to students, writing passes, unlocking or asking a colleague to unlock credit retrieval assessments, and sending mountains of emails.

While the aforementioned problems are not new, in the wake of COVID-19 they have been exacerbated by increased absenteeism, and, in Florida, a 2020–2021 school year that started out with fake promises of fewer assessments, when in fact politicians and school leaders should have said we are not only going to do the regular amount of assessing, but add assessments for the noble goal of enhanced “monitoring” of student progress, plus administer all the assessments that were canceled last year due to the virus. Clear-minded educators know that assessments are of no value unless they are assessing the fruits of actual teaching and learning. Teachers and students alike are dejected, with a sizable proportion of students just guessing or picking at random on most items. Others want to succeed, but have not actually had the requisite instruction needed to succeed on the assessments. Instead of making time and space for education, we test them anyway, and then we congratulate ourselves for doing such a good job testing them, bandying about terms like “accountability” and “growth.” Sometimes, as in April 2021, we announce that statewide exams are not going to count, but we are still going to do them and they may count depending on how it goes. Where is the logic? When are we going to end this charade? Most educators are loath to speak out because in education, we live by the Japanese proverb, “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” This needs to change.

In Defense of Masks: To the Volusia County School Board

I wrote this and sent it to the Volusia County School Board.

May 7, 2021

Dear Volusia County School Board members,

I attended part of the April 27th meeting and want to thank you for your patience in listening to the public. However, please be aware that many of the anti-mask “Moms for Liberty” speakers are organized and funded by dark money:

These speakers are reciting similar talking points which are based on bad logic, appeals to emotion rather than reason, and outright misinformation. It is wrong of these speakers to try to bully you into a decision which may cause needless deaths and lifelong ailments.

The science is clear and readily available regarding the efficacy of masks and dangers of COVID-19. One of the big issues is that although teachers such as me are vaccinated, children under 16 cannot yet be vaccinated and we know they frequently spread COVID-19 to each other and to older relatives at home who may either be vaccine hesitant or contraindicated from receiving the vaccine (e.g., due to severe allergies).

As a Volusia high school teacher, I have had numerous students contract COVID-19, some with lingering symptoms. I put my family’s life at risk each day as I saw many other teachers contract COVID-19, including almost an entire academic department. It isn’t right to ask our unvaccinated kids to put their lives on the line by compelling them to be exposed to other unmasked students. Although some parents have promised to cause legal trouble for you and to pull their kids out of school if the mask mandate is retained, this is the safer and wiser course of action. Furthermore, I believe the contingent of parents who will remove their kids from school if the mask mandate is ended prematurely is, in fact, larger. I know many of these parents personally.

Finally, I will close by debunking the argument that kids are already behaving unsafely during sports and outside of school, so why require masks in the classroom? The answer is that being protected some of the time is better than none of the time. COVID-19 transmission mainly occurs indoors, by air. The less time you spend indoors around other people, and the more time you spend masked, the better. COVID-19 is a proven killer, far more dangerous and deadly than colds or influenza. We should not treat it cavalierly. Right now, we need you to take a stand for the right decision. Although you will be lambasted in the short term, you will save lives and history will remember your bravery.

Dr. Richard Thripp (he/him)
Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party

Q&A on My Activism and Our Goals for Volusia Democrats

Here is a questionnaire I completed about my new role as Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party, my activism and volunteer efforts over recent years, and our plans for 2021 and beyond to engage in our community and fight for people who have been marginalized.

Tell us about your main professional accomplishments at your workplace:

I was just elected Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party on December 8th, 2020. One of our big accomplishments has been getting young people to be politically engaged. I ran for Congress earlier this year garnering 28,661 (48.5%) in the August 18th Democratic primary. The same volunteer base as well as many new volunteers are joining us to engage with voters in Volusia County. Our overall mission is to help marginalized people, particularly by electing candidates who represent and advocate for everyone.

Tell us about your volunteer efforts in the community in the past two years:

Right now we have a prominent local Democrat matching donations to food banks, so we’re hoping to hit over $2,500 donated with that. People are really hurting right now. I was not politically involved before this year and in fact grew up as a conservative Republican. There was a series of things that transformed my perspective, such as studying financial literacy and the marginalization of teachers, women, and people of color during my PhD dissertation. I’ve become a Black Lives Matter advocate, attending many marches and protests, writing public statements and letters, and so forth. I’ve also become a strong advocate for climate justice and a Green New Deal, having learned the enormity of the greenhouse gases dilemma. What we are fighting for requires political action, because embracing the intersectionality of politics and volunteering provides much more leverage than trying to volunteer while avoiding politics. The causes we are fighting for are as real as ever even though they may have receded in public view recently.

As a teacher educator at the University of Central Florida for over 2 years, I worked to instill a love of learning and of innovative pedagogical practices in our next generation of teachers. Presently I am teaching social studies at New Smyrna Beach High School where I endeavor to bring history alive and meet students where they are at. I have one at-risk student who is showing up to class again, getting excited about U.S. history for the first time, and turning in work. His father is thrilled. In July 2020 I co-chaired the International Conference on Humanities, Social and Education Sciences which brought together researchers from all over the globe in a digital format. Although it may seem a bit unusual, I really love to volunteer as a personal finance educator and want to incorporate this into my role as party chair by holding free events. I have had an enduring interest in this topic having made it the focus of my Master’s degree capstone project in 2016 and Education PhD dissertation in 2019.

Tell us anything else you’ve done to make Volusia and Flagler counties a better place.

I lived in the Holly Hill / Ormond Beach area most of my life and now on the west side of Volusia in Orange City. As a teenager I volunteered (and at age 15 was paid) at the Holly Hill Public Library where I helped put together children’s programs, taught computer classes to senior citizens, and so on. I also worked as a tutor and newspaper editor at Daytona State College, and in 2014–2017 was involved in the Toastmasters nonprofit to help myself and others become better public speakers, as the President of Port Orange Toastmasters for one year and Treasurer for the year after, but I had to give it up to focus on my PhD program.

I am continuing to work now to have a greater impact in this new role as Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party. What we are putting together is a team effort of enormous scope. Volusia has been left behind in so many ways, and our neighbors to the north in Flagler too. Cost of living is high, people struggle to get by and often end up having to leave due to lack of opportunity. We need to get more federal dollars flowing in by expanding Medicaid, and we need to push for jobs, industries, laws, and policies that help the people at large instead of a select few. You can expect that our local elected officials will be feeling that pressure under my tenure.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I’m half Chinese, my mother having escaped Communist China after the Tiananmen Square massacre. I was born at Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach and before you ask, no, did not learn the language.

My wife Kristy and I have a son named Jonah, who is turning 2 on February 27th. He is our world!

New year’s statement from the Volusia County Democratic Party:

We know 2020 has been a terrible year for so many of us. The people of Volusia have lost their homes, their jobs, and their loved ones, and the long winter is not yet over. Here is to a brighter 2021. We are here fighting for you.

Here's to a Bright 2021 from Volusia Democrats

Endorsement of Ione Townsend for Florida Democratic Party Chair

Preface: On December 8th, 2020, I was elected to a 4-year term as Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party and took office that evening. These past few weeks have been some of the busiest in my life. As Chair, I am tasked with working on behalf of the Florida Democratic Party to support and elect Democrats in Volusia County, one of the larger counties in Florida with 436,954 registered voters of which 144,154 are registered Democrats, six chartered Democratic clubs, 150 elected precinct chairs, and numerous caucuses. To these ends, it is vital that we have an experienced and effective progressive leader at the helm of the Florida Democratic Party. I have gotten to know Ms. Ione Townsend, Chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, and believe she is our best choice. If you are a party elector, please vote for her at the Florida Democratic Party reorganizational meeting that will take place on Saturday, January 9th, 2021.

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

I am so impressed with Ione Townsend. She is exactly who we need to lead the Florida Democratic Party. Her success as Chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party is exactly what we hope to replicate here on the other end of the I-4 corridor in Volusia County. She is a grassroots organizing powerhouse, a selfless public servant, and running for precisely the right reasons. Determined, competent, and transparent are her key words and she delivers on these promises in spades. She is fierce and fearless, an accomplished equestrian, nurse practitioner, and progressive leader who will deliver winning results for Democrats throughout Florida.

This isn’t a game. This is life or death. Ione will listen and include all Democrats as stakeholders and as valued voices, not just in our highly populated blue counties but also in red, rural counties that have for too long been de-emphasized. We must get rid of DeSantis in 2022 and win down-ballot races by being visible community leaders. We must organize and show up everywhere, year-round — not just parachuting in people who can’t pronounce “Volusia” weeks before an election. Ione Townsend will help make the Florida Democratic Party transparent, inclusive, and efficiently coordinated with our local parties. Please vote Ione Townsend for FDP Chair.

Dr. Richard Thripp
Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party

Please also read Ms. Townsend’s endorsement from the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida and follow her on Twitter @Townsend4FDP.

I have also posted this to FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram. Please share.