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Director / CrewThis is Ceyda Torun, director of KEDi a documentary about the street cats of Istanbul...AMA!

Feb 9th 2017 by ceydatorun • 12 Questions • 646 Points

My bio: Three years ago I decided to get into the fight of preparing children for the workforce of tomorrow. I ran and won a seat on a School Board in Hampton Roads. In that time I've learned a lot about local Education and championed causes that I think make our community a better place.

The Department of Education has limited influence on k-12 education. Local leaders, such as members of the local School Board, make a surprisingly large number of decisions in public education. I believe that public education is the most efficient path to the American dream.

Proof: Here is post on my public facebook page for proof.

If you have any further questions, you can follow or like me on facebook. To be a leader of the people I need to hear from the people, so ask me questions.

EDIT: I'm still answering questions. Let's keep the discussion going. I also have more initiatives from my school division on my facebook page that you can ask me about.

Q:

I love the movie and have so many questions! Biggest one - how long did it take to shoot, how many hours of footage did you have, and what was it like extracting a story from all that footage? Or did you go into the project knowing that you wanted to follow certain cats and create a story based on what they do?

A:

You should take a few minutes and explore r/personalfinance. You'll encounter countless young Americans who are clearly ill-equipped for life beyond school. Most do not understand basic budgeting, let alone tax code. Many run into financial distress before they turn 30. How does your local school district teach our tax code and budgeting to students? What sort of programs are available to the students that prepare them for managing debt and their personal finance?


Q:

Hi! Thank you!!! :) We shot for two months, all day, every day :) Ended up with 180 hours of footage but we knew we'd have to edit the individual cat stories first, that part was easy... The hard part that took a while was how to string those stories together, what transitions to edit together so that the over all film would be an emotional journey... There were a lot of stories we had to abandon either because we didn't get enough material or because they didn't fit into the overall theme... :(

A:

Financial Literacy is actually an integral part of the curriculum in our schools. In fact, Menchville and Woodside high schools were named 2015-2016 W!SE blue Star Schools for their students' performance on the W!SE Financial Literacy Certification Test. The national certification test is given to high school students upon completion of the personal finance course. To earn the Blue Star designation, students attending the school must achieve a 75% pass rate on the test with either a majority of students at a given grade level taking the test or an average score of 80% or higher by students who take the test.


Q:

Merhaba Ceyda Hanım Hoşgeldiniz

I have two questions for you

-Which part of istanbul have best kittens(my favourite places are Heybeliada and Cihangir)

-I think that it was hard to direct this,you said "Pisi Pisi" many time when you are directing ? How did you decide make a movies about cats ?

A:

As a 2008 grad of York High I can say, the financial and tax education then was garbage. We had one guest speaker come into our homeroom and give us a 30min lecture and that's it.


Q:

Merhabalar! Hmmm... that's a hard question, but we saw more kittens in areas of town where there was less neutering - more in Kumkapi area (where the fishermen are in the film) and in Galata Tower area too! And there was a lot of psi-psi'ing throughout the shoot. Actually, often we didn't talk with words with even each other, started meowing and psss'ing the whole time! The decision to make this movie evolved over time, but I had felt a debt to my feline friends growing up but it was the recent internet cat obsession that allowed us to get funding and realize this dream :)

A:

Very sorry to hear that your experience was poor. In Newport News we've built up strategic partnerships with the banking community to make real-world financial experiences for our kids. For example, we have student-run credit unions at many of our schools. I hope this builds a better experience for your children.


Q:

I want to watch it, i cant find on if festival list,

A:

What is your response to the confirmation of Betsy Devos as Education Secretary?


Q:

Ne yazik ki gecen sene iF Istanbul'daydi film... Elimizden geleni yapiyoruz, cok yakinda sizlere haberlerimiz olucak :)

A:

Secretary Devos wants the Federal Government to establish Charter Schools, which I think violates the 10th amendment US Constitution. The constitution of Virginia gives local school boards the authority to establish Charter schools. I think that authority should remain with a local body so that Charter schools can be customized to the localities they serve. In Newport News we have a great charter school because the school board worked with the community to establish a winning model. Devos is advocating an over reach by the Federal government. So I'm not excited about the new Devos administration.


Q:

Would it be possible to get a paw printed poster from any of the stars of KEDi?

A:

But you sound like you support state level education, which is the direction Devos is going.


Q:

Yeah maybe! That's a brilliant idea ;) We'll keep you posted!

A:

I support accountability at the local level. I think that it's great that citizens can stop me in the grocery store and ask me a policy question about the school board. Being locally accessible makes me directly accountable for decisions I make.

For example, both of my children attend the school division where I am a school board member. I have to live with every decision that I make both in the community and in my house. I think its great.

I think that local control of schools is essential to innovation, responsiveness, customized learning, and ultimately success. I don't like it when the Federal government, and State government create regulations that make it difficult for public schools to innovate and respond to the community.

I don't like interference from Washington DC or Richmond, VA.


Q:

Hi! Is there going to be a general release in the UK? I'm in Manchester and I'd love to see this film

A:

OMG! YOU FASCIST! HAHAHA What is this Education Accountability thing of which you speak? Every once in a loooong while, some local politician (Southern California) tries to introduce a bill holding schools and teachers accountable for the students achievements (or lack thereof). Their political careers are usually very short lived after the CTA (California Teachers Association, which is one of the most powerful unions in America) gets done funding every one of their opponents.


Q:

We're definitely planning on a release in the UK but not sure what the details are yet... If you like, do sign up to our mailing list on www.kedifilm.com - contact - so we can let you know directly :)

A:

Education Accountability is the concept of evaluating school performance based on student performance and outcomes. The concepts origin is credited to the Reagan administration of the 1980s. The most famous implementation of educational accountability is the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002. The Virginia Standards of Learning were the state's response to mandate of NCLB. Since 2002, every student has had to pass an exam to satisfy accreditation requirements for public schools.

Local control refers to the authority granted to me by Article VIII of the Constitution of Virginia to run the public schools in my locality. The Constitution guarantees that school boards have autonomy to lead the school division and answer only to the people of my community. When I say that I favor local control that means I think public schools run better when they are directly accountable at the local level.

EDIT: One more comment that I think will surprise people reading this AMA. I am now entering the last year of my term(4 years) as a school board member. It has been my experience that the legend of the all-powerful teacher's union is an urban myth. If one thing has surprised me it is that no one from the teacher's union has ever approached me to discuss a policy, demand a raise, threaten a strike, or anything. In fact, I have met with just about every community group like the Kiwanis club, PTA, Rotary, Realtors, etc... but never with the teacher's union.


Q:

Did you bribe the cats with treats to get them to behave on camera? And if so, which treats are most popular on the streets of Istanbul?

A:

Constructive criticism here. My time in Virginia schools in Chesapeake (Grassfield) 2007-2011 was inundated by SOL's that rarely challenged the knowledge base of students and frequently were laughed at as jokes of the system. They were a complete downplay of how intelligent the students were and shaped classrooms to be less effective than previous years. I hope that now the bar has been set higher. Plenty of students coasted because the bar had been set so low.


Q:

Hi! Originally we set out with treats in our pockets but soon decided it was best not to 'bribe' them, but often coaxed them our way with psss'es or helped them into staying in the frame by petting them and quietly leaving the frame :) We did feed them occasionally separate to the filming, if we ever encountered a malnourished cat in a far corner of the city, and it was often fresh little fish or chicken. But it's crazy how they can eat pretty much anything, from rice to pastries!

A:

New testing standards passed by the General Assembly in 2010 were created to make the tests harder just as you describe.

2011: Va Dept of Ed released new Social Studies SOLs 2.2 million SOL tests were being taken online. The General Assembly then mandated that all SOL tests be administered online by spring 2013, except in cases where a student’s disability necessitated a paper-and-pencil test. The new online assessments included technology-enhanced items that required students to apply their content knowledge and employ problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.

2012: Va Dept of Ed released new Mathematics SOLs

2013: Va Dept of Ed released new Reading, Writing, and Science SOLs

2014: 77% Virginia’s public schools were rated as fully accredited for 2013-2014, compared with 93% for 2012-2013. The number of partially accredited schools goes up from 128 in 2013 to 395 in 2014. Partially accredited means that the schools did not pass the tests.

2015: The number of partially accredited schools rose again from 395 to 545.

http://www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/reports/annual_reports/2013_appendix_a_sol_history.pdf


Q:

Hi Ceyda! As someone who was lucky to see the film early, I was struck by how the camera cuts around the cats like a narrative film. A cat jumps up, and we cut to the cat landing. How was this achieved?

A:

What are your views on Common Core?


Q:

Hi Bruce! That's wonderful you've seen the film ;) We always had at least two cameras - canon 5d's on hand to follow the cats as best as we could. We were keen to make the film as true and real as possible. :)

A:

Common Core is about creating a single standard for the entire nation. Defenders of common core often cite a need to have consistent learning standards across all of the states. What the defenders often fail to acknowledge is that we already have national standards in multiple areas. For example, the SAT, ASVAB, and a host of other standardized tests already measure proficiency for the entire country. Why do we need another set of tests for students to take?

Further, I think Common Core undermines the natural competition that we need to spur on innovation and growth in Education. According to the US Dept of Ed, Viriginia is ranked 12th in the nation for education. Should Virginia now adopt the learning standards for North Carolina, ranked 37th in the nation?

I ultimately believe its better for North Carolina to copy Virginia's standards today. Then tomorrow if North Carolina surpasses Virginia then Virginia should copy North Carolina. In this manner, innovation continues in the national education system. On the other hand, if we adopted Common Core and find ourselves failing then whose standards would we adopt? And how do we know that the standards of a foreign power fit our children and our culture?

Of course, this is just my opinion as the decision to adopt Common Core rests in the hands of the Virginia General Assembly. Local school boards do not presently have the authority to set learning standards.


Q:

Do you have a favorite cat in the film?

A:

What are you doing to prepare the school system for district shrinkage due to erosion?


Q:

That's such a hard question to answer because I got to form bonds with all these beautiful cats and they were so wonderful to get to know. Having said that, Bengu was truly the most loving and affectionate one so it was a pleasure to work with her. Psycho and Gamsiz and Sari were a lot of fun to chase around too!

A:

I assume the source of erosion you are referring to is SB1283. This bill would allow the Virginia Board of Ed to establish regional charter school divisions, consisting of up to 3 underlying local school divisions. The regional charter school division would be governed by a separate board of eight members appointed by Virginia Board of Ed and one member appointed from each underlying locality (not the school board). The regional charter school would get the per pupil state funding associated with the jurisdiction in which each student resides.

Our best defense against erosion is a better school division. I hope that the public gets behind the initiatives that I have posted on my facebook page. I know that these ideas will make our schools more competitive.


Q:

Hi Ceyda,

Did you ever consider talking about some of the more practical, day-to-day ups and downs of being surrounded by so many strays? I watched your film with someone who kept saying that there must be so many fleas on these cats or there must be cat waste everywhere. Obviously you are directing the film with other aspects in mind, but did you ever think about including those smaller details?

A:

Actually I meant the erosion on the beaches. How soon until the effects the Navy is currently fighting hit the school district land?


Q:

Hi! Yes of course, and it's not all fun and games for everyone in Istanbul. There are those who don't like the cats, some who are allergic... Fleas weren't a huge problem though it's a seasonal issue of course, and the illnesses they have only really affect the cats. Having said that, I explored all these aspects of cat life in Istanbul, as well as the historic/scientific elements but in the end, the film shaped into a poetic, emotional experience rather than a cerebral one. Which suited me fine, because the best part of a relationship with a cat is that they make you stop thinking with your head and get you to feel with your heart :)

A:

Ah, thank you for clarifying. This issue looks to have the greatest impact in Virginia Beach: http://www.beachapedia.org/State_of_the_Beach/State_Reports/VA/Beach_Erosion. I will have to defer to the Virginia Beach School Board for specific answers to this issue. Here is some general contact info for them: http://www.vbschools.com/root/contactUs.asp

If you do have trouble reaching someone please let me know and I try to assist.


Q:

Are there a lot of pure turkish cat breeds on the street?

A:

Any advice for parents getting their 3 year old assessed for First Step this coming Tuesday?


Q:

That's a challenging question because the idea of a 'pure breed' is a difficult concept... The cats on the streets in Istanbul are often born and raised there, to parents that come from the streets and are a 'breed' of their own... Occasionally you come across a more distinct breed of cat on the street if they've run away or been abandoned but the turkish Van cat for example, with the two different eye colors, is also deaf and never survives on the streets...

A:

First Step is a fantastic program we offer in Newport News. Literacy instruction builds on the child’s need to communicate through meaningful and authentic activities in oral language, reading, and writing. First Step learners gain mathematics concepts through questioning, problem solving, persistence, and communication. Units of study based on science and social studies concepts provide opportunities for students to understand themselves, friends, families, communities, and the larger world in which they live through inquiry and daily experiences. Students have daily art, music, and physical activities to develop the whole child.

I'm really glad you are looking to enroll your child in First Step. First Step provides an advantage for your child backed up by a longitudinal study done in 2007. The only problem with our First Step program is that the number of slots are limited. I hope you and other parents tell the school board that you would like to expand the program so we can have slots available for all of the children.

To get ready for your assessment I suggest you take a look at the brochure on the school division website. Here is the link: http://www.nnschools.org/academic/documents/firststepfacts.pdf


Q:

Merhaba, do you plan on releasing the movie in Turkey?

A:

I was just recently elected to a municipal school board in North Jersey. I'm feeling my way gingerly since I'm getting a crash course on policy, finance and Robert's Rules over these last few weeks.

What was the best thing you have read that has better prepared you for your position?


Q:

Merhabalar! Elbette! Elimizden geleni yapiyoruz fakat tarihler belli degil. Size en yakin zamanda haber yollariz, bu arada mailing listemize katilin ki size direkt haber yollayalim :) www.kedifilm.com - contact. Sevgiler! <3

A:

Here is a book I read last year that I found highly informative. Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools by William H. Parrett and Kathleen M. Budge. This book contains research-based practices that school boards and school administrators can use to bring meaningful change to a school division. My main take-away is that school leaders must seek to understand all of the manifestations of poverty in student outcomes. Once you understand how poverty is affecting students in your community then you can create meaningful policy to disrupt the effects.


Q:

Hello Mr Brown, I'm a resident of Norfolk with kids in the public schools here. If a voucher program were to be put in place like Mrs. Devos favors, how do you think it would affect the public schools in our area?

A:

Kids that go to school on vouchers do better than their counterparts. But that's not the point. The real question is how do vouchers affect all of the children? The answer to that question is that they hurt communities and localities where they've been employed.

In Norfolk your elite private school is Norfolk Academy which holds about 1200 students. There are ~31,000 students in Norfolk Public Schools. So if we hand 31,000 vouchers to families where will all of these kids go? The research has demonstrated that first, the best private schools will pick the best students from your population for admission. This is why the research shows that students getting vouchers do better than their peers. But what happens to the remaining students? The remaining students are stuck but what's worse is now their public school has been weakened. Due to the loss of students teachers have been laid off; test scores are lower; and the best teachers will not want to risk their career to work at a "failing school." As a result, the best teachers will leave to another locality with a reputation for accredited schools. So I do think vouchers hurt children.