Archives for category: Administrators, superintendents

Soon after MaryEllen Elia was selected unanimously by the New York Board of Regents to be the State Education Commissioner, she gave me a call to introduce herself. We had a very pleasant exchange, and I made one request of her: Would she be willing to meet with the board of New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)? I explained to her that NYSAPE was the primary organizer of the historic opt out from state testing last spring, leading to about 200,000 students refusing to take the mandated tests. That’s 20% of the children who were supposed to take the tests. I told her that I thought it was important for her to meet them and hear their concerns. She readily assented.

Commissioner Elia took office on July 6, and she met with the leaders of NYSAPE (a few were away on vacation) on August 4. I joined the meeting to hear the discussion. From the outset, it was clear that Commissioner Elia intended to listen and that she is warm and personable. She may have heard that parents had a serious problem with her predecessor John King, who lectured them and seemed never to listen. Commissioner Elia asserted that there would be no teacher-bashing from her office; she was a teacher, and she wants the public to respect teachers.

That was a good start. Then the parents and educators expressed their views candidly. They do not like high-stakes testing; they do not like teachers’ evaluations tied to test scores, because that distorts the educational process. They are not opposed to testing, so long as testing is used only within the school for diagnostic purposes. The parents of children with disabilities complained that the tests were too long (three hours a day for six days), and in some cases, meaningless to their children. There were complaints about the State Education Department’s failure to answer FOILS (freedom of information requests) in a timely manner (or at all!) and complaints that the SED had failed to appoint a chief privacy officer, as a state law required.

What was striking was that this group of leaders are very well-informed. They have testified at hearings in Albany and in their towns. They are active in their communities and interact with elected officials. They are determined and they are not going away. One promised that if there were no policy changes from the Regents or the Legislature, the number of opt outs would grow.

Commissioner Elia was very cordial, but she hinted that there might be some kind of sanctions for opting out. It is hard to see how the state could withhold funds from school districts without incurring the wrath of some powerful state legislators. She also said that although Pearson had been replaced by Questar, Pearson’s tests would be used again this coming year. The new tests would be used for the first time in 2016-17. I am not sure if the change of vendor breaks the trend line, nor do I know anything about the record of Questar.

Commissioner Elia calmly but clearly stated her support for evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students. She did it in Florida and says that the teachers supported the practice. She is also a fan of online testing and raised the question of “embedding” online testing into instruction.

Carol Burris, the recently retired principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center (and new executive director of the Network for Public Education Fund, of which I am chair), participated in the meeting. She read off the ratings of teachers at very low-performing schools in Buffalo; many of the teachers in those schools received high ratings. Then she read the ratings of teachers at the high-performing Scarsdale public school, and an extraordinary proportion were rated “ineffective.” Commissioner Elia agreed that these results made no sense. Carol Burris wrote about this same meeting here. She suggested that New Yorkers hoping for a change in direction should not hold their breath waiting.

Of course, Commissioner Elia has to deal with the political realities. New York has a governor, Andrew Cuomo, who loves high-stakes standardized tests and wants to find and fire teachers who don’t “produce” them. Elia can’t write her own laws. But the story isn’t over. The leadership of the Board of Regents might change next spring when new members are appointed. There is already a strong bloc of retired educators on the Board who don’t like the current regime of high-stakes testing and don’t think the tests are either valid or reliable. That bloc might become the majority, and the realities would change.

It was a friendly and cordial meeting, but the differences in opinion were large. If NYSAPE was hoping for a change of direction, it seems unlikely to happen soon. Commissioner Elia agreed to meet again, and NYSAPE will no doubt continue to try to change her views. If nothing changes, the number of opt outs could increase in a big way next spring.

Glenda Ritz released this statement today:

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz will seek reelection to her current position in 2016.

INDIANAPOLIS – Glenda Ritz, Superintendent of Public Instruction, issued the following statement announcing her decision to seek reelection as Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“Over a million school children are starting school. They begin this school year with the hope and optimism that education can make a difference in their lives. The best use of my time and talents will be to serve our children, their families and the taxpayers of Indiana as Superintendent of Public Instruction. I must continue to be 110% engaged in supporting public education.

Now is not the right time for me to run for governor. Under my leadership, I have brought the discussion of public education into the public discourse and have started to fundamentally change how we support schools. My work is not finished, and my passion is stronger than ever. I am resolutely dedicated to educators, students, and families from Pre-K to graduation.

Recent stories in the news media have pointed out that we do indeed have major issues that impact our families. Two of them particularly concern me—a rising childhood poverty rate and a major decrease in the numbers of college-level students pursuing majors that will lead to teaching. Both of these issues require a redoubling of my commitment to serve as Superintendent to provide the needed wrap-around services to our children and to address the barriers that have been put in place to attract and retain teachers.

The people of Indiana know we need a new governor, a governor that supports public education that directly affects their abilities for better jobs and stronger communities. As Superintendent, I will continue to advocate for what is right to educate our children to improve our economy for all Hoosiers. With the help of all of you, we will keep education the focal point of the gubernatorial race.

Many of my supporters will be disappointed in my decision, but I know that we share a vision for education. My heartfelt thanks goes out to all who have so passionately supported my campaign for governor.

With my personal commitment to doing what is needed to prepare this and future generations for the challenges of tomorrow, I will enthusiastically seek re-election as your Superintendent of Public Instruction. ”


New York State Commissioner of Education MayEllen Elia has been on the job since July 6, and she has won over many–but not all–critics.

Whereas Her predecessor John King was young, inexperienced, and had worked for a brief time in a charter school, Elia has many years as a teacher and administrator. She gets points for that.

But her agenda is the same as Cuomo, King, and Tisch: high-stakes testing, school closings, teacher evaluation by scores.

The one group not yet charmed by Elia are the opt out parents and educators at Néw York State Allies for Public Education. It is the agenda they oppose, not the messenger.

Reader Christine Langhoff read a post about Philadelphia’s Superintendent William Hite, a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendent’s Academy, who filled top jobs with other Broadies. Broadies are trained to support charter schools and to close down public schools.

Langhoff reported similar trends in Boston, since the appointment of Tommy Chang as superintendent. In Los Angeles, Chang was in charge of the disastrous technology program. Now, he has surrounded himself with corporate reform types, all either from Broadie groups or Gates groups trained in the corporate reform ideology.

She writes:

Superintendent Tommy Chang, late of LAUSD and the iPad melodrama; his previous school experience was to run a Green Dot charter school with 580 students. He’s Broadie, class of 2015.

He has named Barbara Deane-Williams, also a Broadie 2015, as his Senior Deputy Superintendent of Operations.

His Chief of Staff comes to us from Families for Excellent Schools.

Doannie Tran, the newly-appointed Assistant Superintendent of Professional Learning in BPS comes from TFA and TeachPlus.

At least one new principal was a TFA’er whose classroom experience is quite limited.

And TNTP is hiring – (isn’t that the school system’s job?) :

“Leadership Coach – Boston Public Schools

Boston, MA

Seeking passionate school leaders!
TNTP seeks a full-time Leadership Coach to support school improvement efforts in Boston, MA. This position is available immediately and is based in Boston.” Wondering if they’re bringing their walkie-talkies and bugs for teachers’ ears.

More of the same at the state level – Heather Peske, current Associate Commissioner for Educator Quality in DESE comes through TeachPlus, Education Trust, and Teach for America.

And – oh glee!

“E4E Focus Groups: Educators for Excellence (E4E) is a teacher-founded non-profit that works with teams of teachers to help them make change at the school, district, state, or union level. They are considering coming to Boston and are interested in learning from current BPS teachers: what are the current issues facing Boston teachers? what channels do teachers have to take leadership on issues that matter to them? This is also a chance to learn firsthand about E4E’s model and how it might work here in Boston. Fill out this brief survey to tell me which dates work for you for a 2-hr meeting (dinner/lunch included):”

Stealth takeovers of the public system.

I hope you will read the opinion piece that I wrote for today’s Los Angeles Times about what priorities the next superintendent should have.


For those of you who have frequently criticized the LA Times as a tool of the charter industry, please note that I was invited to write the article.


The article is a strong plea for a leader who will restore public confidence in public education. Given that Los Angeles has a very rich, very powerful lobby for privately managed charters, it was written to counter their pressure to convert more public schools to private management. They heavily invest in school board candidates who follow their agenda. In the last election, the charter lobby managed to place a charter school operator on the district school board. Only an awakened public can defend the public sector from raids by the corporate sector on what rightly belongs to the entire community.


Los Angeles’ public schools are indeed in crisis. The solution is not to abandon them, but to rebuild them so as to meet the needs of the children enrolled in public schools.



Rahm Emanuel picked an experienced technocrat to lead the Chicago Public Schools, after misfortunes with out-of-town educators J.C. Brizard and Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

Catalyst, the Chicago education publication, says that Emanuel is reverting to “the Daley way” by choosing a non-educator, in this case one who is known for cost cutting.

“Today, Emanuel opted for his own chief of staff and the former president of the Chicago Transit Authority, Forrest Claypool — who has no experience in education and says his first priority will be “making the system as efficient as it can possibly be.”

Jon Pelto is shocked that Democratic legislators in Connecticut are afraid to confront Governor Dannel Malloy. The governor vetoed a bill that would establish qualifications for the State Commissioner of Education.

Despite their overwhelming–almost total–support for the legislation, the legislature refuses to override the Governor’s veto. This leaves the Governor free to hire another inept and politically motivated superintendent who is in the pocket of the super-rich charter industry.

Pelto writes:

“In preparation for the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2015 constitutionally required veto session, Democratic legislative leaders announced yesterday that no votes would be taken on whether to sustain or override the nine bills vetoed by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy during this year’s legislative session.

“The most noteworthy of the bills that the Democrats are unwilling to bring up for a vote is PA 15-176, which was House Bill 6977, AN ACT ESTABLISHING QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION.

“The legislation requires that any person serving as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education have an appropriate education degree and teaching experience.

“The legislation arose in response to Governor Malloy’s decision to name Stefan Pryor, a charter school founder and corporate education reform industry advocate, to be his first commissioner of education, despite the fact that Pryor had no educational experience.

“Stefan Pryor’s performance as Malloy’s Education Commissioner led both Democrats and Republicans to call for legislation requiring future leaders of the state department of education to have the requisite education experience.

“The General Assembly’s Education Committee held a public hearing on House Bill #6977 and went on to pass the legislation by a vote of 32 – 0.

“At no time did Malloy or his administration testify against the bill or publicly announce any opposition to the concept.

“The bill went to pass the Connecticut State Senate by a vote of 36 – 0 and the Connecticut House of Representatives by a vote of 138-5.

“In the end, only one Democratic legislator voted against the bill.

“With its passage, HB6977 become Connecticut Public Act 15-176.

“But despite the overwhelming level of support displayed for the bill by the Connecticut General Assembly, Governor Malloy vetoed the legislation.”

This letter was forwarded to me by Long Island Opt Out. It is a model for other parents who object to high-stakes testing.

Dear Dr. Lonergan,

I received your letter dated June 22, 2015 regarding the NYS Assessments that was sent home with my third grader and was disheartened by its message. So much so, that I felt obligated to write a response.

Going into this 2015-16 school year, I will have three children enrolled in the Longwood Central School District. One in fourth grade, one in second grade and one in the universal pre-kindergarten program. I have been extremely pleased with their performance thus far. All of the teachers and staff that we have interacted with have been welcoming, encouraging and helpful both to myself and my children.

It was upsetting to receive a letter such as yours at the end of the school year. A letter that was not commending the staff of your district on a job well done or wishing parents and children a happy and productive summer, nor was it to thank the community for consistently approving the school budget or to show excitement about the new programs and staff that are being added because of passing that budget. Instead, this letter was a threat to parents that if they continued the opt out process, they would be hurting the district that we had just shown our collective support.

Opting out of assessments has not proven to hurt any district and to state otherwise to parents is to promote threatening propaganda. Opting out has proven to be an effective boycott, which has forced our elected representatives to hear the message we are trying to send. If I allowed my children to be involved in something that I do not feel has a place in their lives, I would not be doing my job as a parent.

My children have accomplished great things while attending school in the Longwood Central District. To state that a flawed assessment process is a necessary tool to show that growth is an insult. I have the utmost confidence in the highly qualified staff of Longwood.

By opting my children out of the state assessments, I believe that I am showing Governor Cuomo that I not only feel these exams have no place in my child’s learning, but that I wholeheartedly support the teachers that work with my children everyday. By opting my children out, I am clearly stating that:

• I will not support exams that look to punish those teachers.

• I will not support exams that will make up 50% of a teacher’s yearly evaluation.

• I will not support exams that require my child to sit for three consecutive days reading texts that are designed to be more challenging than their readability level.

• I will not support exams that require my child to sit for three consecutive days involved in math skills that they have not had the time to master.

• I will continue to opt my children out of these assessments and encourage others to do so if they believe it is the right choice for their child, regardless of what type of letter they receive from district administration.

I believe that changes will come. I don’t believe that I have to be forced to subject my children to a faulty system in order to change the as you stated, the “next generation of assessment.” I believe that the people with experience and knowledge of the educational field can get together and make the changes needed without subjecting current students to something developed to rank and dismiss hard working educators.

I sincerely hope that the district’s message at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year is a more positive and encouraging one than the message that was put out at the close of this school year


Susan Sclafani

Citizens of Néw Jersey believe that the elected board of Newark should select their own superintendent. Newark has not been allowed to direct its own schools for 20 years. The state has failed, it is time to return to democracy in Newark.

Newark Residents Should Select Their Next Superintendent

We believe that the people of Newark should be able to democratically govern their public schools.

Fortunately, Mark Biedron, President of NJ’s State Board of Education, seems to agree. Mr. Biedron recently told the Star Ledger that “the people of Newark having local control over the school district…is a good thing.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Biedron will have an opportunity to act on this belief when the State Board votes on whether Chris Cerf should become Newark’s next Superintendent.

If the State Board approves Mr. Cerf, it will be continuing a 20 year history of disenfranchisement for Newark’s nearly 300,000 residents, who have had no say in this decision.

If the Board rejects Mr. Cerf and instead approves a candidate selected by Newark’s popularly-elected Board of Education, it will be putting Mr. Biedron’s admirable philosophy into practice.

There is plenty of precedent for allowing Newark to select its own superintendent.

Newark, Jersey City, and Paterson are all state-controlled school districts. Yet Jersey City’s popularly-elected Board of Education selected its Superintendent, Marcia Lyles. Paterson’s Superintendent, Dr. Donnie Evans, was selected by a committee that included members of Paterson’s popularly-elected Board of Education, along with other community leaders. In contrast, Newark’s popularly-elected Board of Education has had no voice in selecting Mr. Cerf, who was nominated for this position by Governor Christie.

Approving Mr. Cerf is also difficult to justify because Mr. Cerf lacks the qualifications necessary to run New Jersey’s largest school district. Unlike Jersey City’s and Paterson’s leaders, Mr. Cerf has no prior experience as a superintendent.

Nor is there a record of success in related public-education positions on which to base Mr. Cerf’s nomination. In fact, Mr. Cerf’s tenure as New Jersey’s Commissioner of Education was marked by numerous poor decisions regarding Newark, including:

Appointing and continuing to support Newark’s prior Superintendent, Cami Anderson, whose policies and behaviors generated broad-based rejection and rebellion from Newark residents;

Improperly giving in to a demand from Ms. Anderson “to allow her to retain full control over 28 low-performing schools, which resulted in New Jersey failing to comply with federal requirements; and

Forcibly maintaining State control of Newark’s schools by dramatically lowering the district’s scores on the State’s monitoring system (QSAC) from the scores that Mr. Cerf had given the district less than a year earlier.

The people of Newark deserve the right to select their next Superintendent. They also deserve an experienced public education leader with a proven record of success. Mr. Cerf’s candidacy fails on all these counts.

We encourage Mr. Biedron and the other State Board of Education members to vote no on Mr. Cerf’s nomination and to allow Newark’s popularly-elected Board of Education to nominate the district’s next Superintendent.

Newark’s residents have been deprived of their right to democratically control their public schools for 20 years. It is long past time to correct this wrong!

Rosie Grant, Piscataway, NJ
Parent and nonprofit leader

Michelle Fine, Montclair, NJ
Parent and professor

Judy DeHaven, Red Bank, NJ
Parent and writer

Valerie Trujillo, Jersey City, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Jacklyn Brown, Manalapan, NJ
Parent and educator

Julia Sass Rubin, Princeton, NJ
Parent and professor

Linda Reid, Paterson, NJ
Parent and nonprofit leader

Melissa Katz, South Brunswick, NJ
Future educator

Bobbie Theivakumaran, Metuchen, NJ
Parent and investment banker

Lisa Winter, Basking Ridge, NJ
Parent, technology manager and former Board of Education member

Marcella Simadiris, Montclair, NJ
Parent and educator

Michelle McFadden-DiNicola, Highland Park, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Bill Michaelson, Lawrence Township, NJ
Parent and computer scientist

Marie Hughes Corfield, Flemington, NJ
Parent and educator

Rita McClellan, Cherry Hill, NJ
Parent and administrator

Sarah Blaine, Montclair, NJ
Parent, attorney, and blogger

Susan Cauldwell, Spring Lake, NJ
Parent and nonprofit leader

Heidi Maria Brown, Pitman, NJ
Parent and educator

Julie Borst, Allendale, NJ
Parent and special education advocate

Susan Berkey, Howell, NJ
Parent and educator

Darcie Cimarusti, Highland Park, NJ
Parent and Board of Education member

Amnet Ramos, North Plainfield, NJ
Parent and educator

Elana Halberstadt, Montclair, NJ
Parent and writer/artist

Ani McHugh, Delran, NJ
Parent and educator

Jill DeMaio, Monroe, NJ

Tamar Wyschogrod, Morristown, NJ
Parent and journalist

Lauren Freedman, Maplewood, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Lisa Rodgers, South Brunswick, NJ
Parent and business owner

Laurie Orosz, Montclair, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Michael Kaminski, Mount Laurel, NJ
Parent and educator

Ronen Kauffman, Union City, NJ
Parent and educator

Frankie Adao, Newark, NJ
Parent and social media specialist

Kathleen Nolan, Princeton, NJ
Parent, researcher and lecturer

Sue Altman, Camden, NJ

Jennifer Cohan, Princeton, NJ
Parent and publicist

Daniel Anderson, Bloomfield, NJ
Parent and Board of Education member

Debbie Baer, Robbinsville, NJ
Parent and educator

Dan Masi, Roxbury Township, NJ
Parent and engineer

Susan Schutt, Ridgewood, NJ
Assistant principal and public education advocate

Karin Szotak, Madison NJ
Parent and business owner

Tiombe Gibson, Deptford, NJ
Parent and educator

Lisa Marcus Levine, Princeton, NJ
Parent and architect

Kristen Carr Jandoli, Haddon, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Jean Schutt McTavish, Ridgewood, NJ
Parent and high school principal

Virginia Manzari, West Windsor, NJ.
Parent and businesswoman

Stephanie LeGrand, Haddonfield, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Melanie McDermott, Highland Park, NJ
Parent and sustainability researcher

Nora Hyland, Asbury Park, NJ
Parent and professor

Beth O’Donnell-Fischer, Verona, NJ

Susie Welkovits, Highland Park, NJ
Parent and Borough Council President

Gregory M. Stankiewicz, Princeton, NJ
Parent and nonprofit leader

Margot Embree Fisher, Teaneck, NJ
Parent and former Board of Education member

Stephanie Petriello, Dumont, NJ
Parent, educator and business owner

Laura Begg, Bernards Township, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Gary C. Frazier, Camden, NJ
Parent and community activist

Debbie Reyes, Florence Township, NJ

Christine McGoey, Montclair, NJ

Regan Kaiden, Collingswood, NJ
Parent and educator

Moneke Singleton-Ragsdale, Camden, NJ
Parent and administrator

Toby Sanders, Trenton, NJ
Parent, pastor and educator

Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy vetoed legislation requiring the state education commissioner to have educational experience and qualifications.


He said it encroached on the governor’s authority to name anyone he wanted, regardless of qualifications.


Mayor Bloomberg took that path when he appointed publisher Cathie Black as schools chancellor. She lasted three months.


Will Governor Malloy be comfortable if the pilot of his next flight has no experience? Will he go to a hospital where his surgeons are fresh from college with no training or experience?


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