Archives for category: Administrators, superintendents

Karin Klein of the Los Angeles Times wrote a blistering editorial about the LAUSD school board’s failure (thus far) to get to the bottom of departing Superintendent John Deasy’s $1.3 billion iPad deal.

 

Did the board agree to let him go quietly and to quash the investigation? That would be wrong. Klein rightly says: The public has a right to know.

 

In the separation agreement, the board said it “does not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts.”
Why is the board voicing anything about its belief system while a second investigation is ongoing? There have been rumors that Deasy wanted this investigation to go away as part of his agreement; Deasy vehemently denies that. Although the inspector general is an independent office within the district, the board still has authority over the office’s budget, and there shouldn’t be anything that could be perceived as pressure on the investigation to go one way or another. The appropriate response from the board? Radio silence until the investigation is complete and reviewed by the district attorney’s office, as state law requires.

 

The problem is that, although the investigation might well find that nothing criminal happened, what if it finds some ethical issues? The board has promised to take no action against Deasy on that, which makes sense; probably the worst it would have done to him was ask him to leave, so the issue is moot. It could still take action against any employees remaining, but it’s unclear who those would be. Aquino’s already gone.

 

Unless the board decides to make both reports public, the rest of us will never know whether there was a problem with the way this was handled, or whether Deasy and Aquino were utterly exonerated. Both would be equally important to know. United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl, during a meeting with the Times’ editorial board Thursday, was already talking about Deasy’s “bid-rigging,” without so much as a qualifier, as though Caputo-Pearl had some kind of criminal divining rod. Reminded that we’re a long way from knowing whether there was anything wrong with those or any other emails, much less something criminally wrong, he corrected himself, adding a couple of “allegeds” to his words. There would always be a cloud over Deasy’s head, always these conversations in which he is “convicted” by words on an utter lack of evidence, unless an investigation is made public that clears him.

 

Or the opposite. Before the project was slowed, diversified and then suspended, the public almost spent half a billion dollars on iPads that were about to be made obsolete by new models, with software that hadn’t yet been completed. If there were ethical breaches, the public has a right to the truth in every detail.

 

The board’s appropriate response to an ongoing investigation should have been to say nothing except, “We look forward to a complete and unstinting investigation that we promise to make public.” Deasy’s departure shouldn’t alter the district’s commitment to the public in any way.

 

 

 

 

Michael Janofsky reports in LA School Report that John Deasy may step down as early as tomorrow as Los Angeles Superintendent of Schools. Read here for the details. 

Wow! Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles called the police to remove a school Board member from a school in her district.

Bernadette Nutall was escorted out of a middle school by three police officers. I guess Mike Miles forgot that he works for the board.

“Nutall said she showed up at the South Dallas school around 6:30 a.m. for an emergency staff meeting after Miles replaced the campus’ leadership team and 10 teachers on Friday. Nutall said that when Miles entered the building, he told her she couldn’t be at the school or at the staff meeting and asked her to leave.

“Nutall said she refused and left Miles to talk to staff, greet them and meet with teachers other floors of the campus. When she returned to the main entrance and asked Miles about his changes at Dade, he had three officers remove Nutall from school, she said.

“I have never ever experienced anything like this in my life. I cannot believe he did it,” Nutall said Monday. “I felt like how teachers and principals feel when Miles walks into a building.”

“She added: “This is a clear example of the consistent bullying tactics that we continue to hear about Miles exhibiting to staff. I have experienced it firsthand myself the abusive behavior of power…..”

Miles visited Dade last week and ordered massive changes at the academically low-performing campus. The principal is gone, as are two assistant principals. Ten teachers have been replaced with instructional coaches from other DISD campuses.

Nutall said the main reason for her visit Monday was to encourage staff. “It is a crisis there,” she said….

“Nutall said teachers are scared, worried about their jobs and concerned about how the sudden staffing changes will affect children. Nutall said she was escorted out of the building right after she questioned Miles and deputy superintendent Ann Smisko on the changes at Dade.

“Dade, which is rated “improvement required” by the state, has had four principals in 18 months. Miles hired Alecia Cobb to run Dade last year. He removed her during the summer and replaced her with Michael Jones, an assistant principal at Skyline High School. And on Friday, Miles brought in Hogg Elementary School principal Margarita Garcia…..”

Bob Braun, veteran education reporter, says that Barringer High School is in chaos, due to poor planning by the district leadership, i.e., Cami Anderson.

 

The school, intended to hold 600 students, has been divided into two schools, each with 700 students.

 

The principal of one school was fired by Anderson, and the principal of the other quit before school started.

 

He writes:

 

“Barringer High School in Newark was in chaos today after scores of students and parents marched out of the North Ward school–the oldest high school in Newark–to protest teacherless classrooms, foodless lunch hours, and class sizes reaching into the sixties….Wilhelmina Holder, a parent leader who is head of the Secondary School Coalition, said Barringer has been in a state of “chaos” since school opened Sept. 4. Many students sent there under Anderson’s “One Newark” plan either have no schedules at all or temporary schedules that are changed every few days.”

 

 

 

 

Peter Greene sees signs that educators are fed up with the top-down mandates from non-educator Arne Duncan, fed up with the failed punitive policies of NCLB and Race to the Top. Now we know that Washington cares about one thing only: test scores, and now we know that the beneficiaries of Washington’s obsession are the testing companies. We have now had nearly 15 years of test-based incentives and sanctions and ample evidence that this approach has driven joy out of learning and failed to achieve anything that benefits students or society.

As the school year begins, let’s hope that there will be more states following Vermont’s lead by rejecting federal mandates and setting forth their own vision of what good education looks like. Let’s hope that there will be more teachers like those in Chicago and at Garfield High in Seattle who insist on doing what’s right for their students. Let’s hope that there will be more superintendents like those in Washington State who were compelled by NCLB to send home a letter saying “we are a failing school,” but added a cover letter saying that it was not true. Let’s hope that integrity, courage, and candor break out everywhere.

Dr. Nicholas Gledich, Superintendent of Colorado Springs School District 11 has proposed a three year moratorium on high stakes standardized testing. This takes courage in test-happy Colorado.

Dr. Gledich understands that high-stakes testing cheapens education, demoralizes teachers, and makes testing far more important than it should be. Tests should be used periodically to see how students are doing and if they need extra help. But today they have become the be-all and end-all of schooling. That’s not what the best private schools do. That’s not what public schools should do.

Thank you and congratulations, Dr. Gledich! Welcome to the honor roll!

The New London school board voted 6-0 to withdraw its offer of a contract for the superintendent job to Terrence Carter, a leader of the school turnaround organization AUSL in Chicago.

After the “Hartford Courant” published articles about discrepancies in the background of the man chosen to be the next superintendent of the New London schools, the school board asked a law firm to investigate the claims made about Terrence Carter. Carter was a high-level official at the Academy for Urban School Leadership in Chicago, which was in charge of most of the city’s “turnaround” schools. He was well-credentialed as a reformer.

A few days ago, the law firm of Shipman & Goodwin released the results of its investigation.

It confirmed the charges leveled by reporters Jon Lender and Kathleen Megan.

It was painful for me to read. I felt badly for Mr. Carter. How many others have inflated their credentials to move ahead? I don’t find his conduct acceptable. I just felt embarrassed for him.

Connecticut is a state with many wonderful teachers, administrators, and schools. The state consistently ranks second or third in the nation on NAEP.

The state has some districts with high poverty and low test scores. Governor Dannel Malloy decided to solve their problems by aligning himself with the privatization by charter crowd. He hired Stefan Pryor, a co-founder of a charter chain, as his state commissioner and trusted him to enlarge the charters’ market share.

Malloy directed funding to charter chains, and things seemed to go his way until one of his favorite charter chains got in trouble. First it was revealed in the Hartford Courant that Michael Sharpe, CEO of the FUSE Jumoke charter chain, had a criminal record. Then it came out that he did not have a doctorate, even though he called himself “Dr.” For some reason, people in Connecticut seemed more disturbed by the phony credential than by the long-ago felonies.

Then came the case of “Dr.” Terrence Carter, who was in line to be the next superintendent in Néw London. It turned out that he didn’t have a doctorate either. Not to worry, he said, because he was receiving one from Lesley University in Massachusetts on August 25.

Jon Lender, the investigative reporter at the Hartford Courant who has broken all these stories, reported today that Lesley University did not award a doctorate on August 25 to Mr. Carter.

Stefan Pryor has announced he will not serve another term as Commissioner. Malloy has said he will pursue the same agenda. Let’s hope he chooses someone who believes in conducting background checks.

Lets also hope that he gives thought to getting a better agenda. Charters don’t solve the problems of poverty. They drain money from the public schools, pick the students they want, exclude those who are most difficult to educate, and boast of their success.

Governor Malloy, you have a state with many outstanding and experienced educational leaders. Choose one of them to strengthen public schools in every community in the state.

Highland Park, New Jersey, bought out its controversial superintendent Timothy Capone for $112,766 (less than a year’s salary), although he had another three years to go on his contract.

Jersey Jazzman had previously written about Capone and identified him as a “reformer” connected to Chris Cerf who was anti-union and focused solely on test scores. Among his first actions was to fire nine employees, who happened to include the president and vice-president of the local teachers’ union.

He managed to alienate parent groups as well, and school board meetings tended to be standing-room-only, raucous affairs.

The lesson here, it would seem, is that controversial “reforms” can succeed where there is mayoral control or districts controlled by the state. But in a typical district with an elected school board, superintendents must practice the arts of persuasion and collaboration with parents, teachers, and the community. Not easy, but that’s leadership.

State Senator John C. Sheehan was one of many people in Rhode Island who wondered what State Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist wrote in the dissertation she completed in June 2012. It was about creating a new teacher evaluation system for the state, and Gist would not allow anyone to read it.

Sheehan eventually got a copy of the embargoed dissertation, and he understood why she wanted to keep it under wraps. The theory she wrote about was leadership based on respect and collaboration, on trust and “buy-in,”but her practice was heavy-handed, confrontational, and top-down.

Sheehan recalled the mass firing of staff at Central Falls High School, then the mass firing of teachers in Providence.

Sheehan wrote:

“As soon as students underperformed on tests, teachers were blamed for the failure, resulting in unprecedented low morale. The Gist reaction was on national display when all of the teachers at Central Falls High School were fired. The individual merits of the teachers did not matter nor did it matter if students had applied themselves or were disadvantaged. Under Gist’s leadership philosophy (corporate reform), all teachers were held strictly accountable for low school test scores. Educators were again broadsided by the mass firing of all of the teachers in Providence, a year later. What hurt the commissioner’s credibility in Providence was her defense of wholesale firings, calling them a “good and just cause” [ignoring RIDE’s own case law which would have prohibited firing all teachers].”

“Good leaders lead by example. If Gist were to do so, she would hold herself to the same standard and consequence for performance failure as she does teachers. In the new evaluation, teachers must develop Student Learning Objectives to be used to demonstrate their students are continually making progress based on standardized tests or other measures of student performance. If teachers do not meet this standard, they can be deemed “ineffective”. If teachers do not improve after a year, they face termination as had teachers in Central Falls Ironically, the Department of Education, at Gist’s request, has set 33 targets for statewide student performance. The bulk of them are related to closing the achievement gap while a few involve graduation rates and how students do after high school. In 2012, the state reached just 1 out of those 33 targets. In other years, under Gist’s leadership, RIDE did not fair much better. Yet, the commissioner is not held to account for these dismal results.”

He added:

“Gist failed to get the level of “buy-in” necessary to create a fair evaluation system that would garner the support of a majority of teachers. That failure was not due to teachers’ fear of change or being held accountable, but to the Commissioner’s own poor leadership ability. Befittingly, 82% of public school teachers polled had a negative view of Gist’s job performance! All things considered, I can appreciate why she wanted to keep her dissertation out of the public eye as long as possible.”

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