Archives for category: Administrators, superintendents

What is happening in Indiana right now is an outrage. The Republican party holds every statewide office but one: State Superintendent of Education.


That post was won by Democrat Glenda Ritz in 2012, when she defeated Tony Bennett, the avid promoter of charters, vouchers, and Common Core, even though Bennett outspent her by a margin of 5-1. It was a stunning upset. Ritz got more votes than Governor Mike Pence or anyone else on the ticket. Tony Bennett, chair of Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change” was quickly hired as Florida Commissioner of Education but almost as quickly resigned when the story broke that he had adjusted school grades to protect the charter school of a big campaign donor.


From the day of Glenda Ritz’s election a little more than two years ago, Governor Pence has employed every political strategy to strip her office of any authority for education. He created a competing agency that reports directly to him. He appoints every member of the State Education Board, which the State Superintendent chairs. Now in his pettiness, he and his allies in the Legislature are moving bills to remove her as chair of the State Board and allow the Board to elect its own chair which obviously won’t be Ritz. If Pence and pals have their way, Ritz will have a title with no authority whatever.


Dave Bangert, a columnist for the Lafayette Journal and Courier, wrote a scathing article about this sordid situation. Most shocking is the statement by David Long, the president of the Indiana State Senate, in a radio interview. In defense of the party’s willful effort to strip Ritz of her duties, he said, “In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, OK?” The implication was that she was “just a librarian,” unqualified for the position to which the voters elected her.


You have to wonder whether he was so condescending because he has no respect for librarians or because he has no respect for women.


Whatever it is, he certainly has no respect for the voters. Ritz was elected by a large margin. As Bangert writes, an attack on Ritz is an attack on the voters.


Frankly, I would like to see her run against Mike Pence in two years and do to him what she did to Tony Bennett. Go, Glenda!

Joshua Starr, superintendent of schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, may not get a new contract from his board. The reasons are unclear. The Washington Post wrote about Starr’s possible ouster yesterday.

Starr won national attention by his outspoken opposition to evaluating teachers by test scores; Montgomery County has a successful teacher evaluation system called Peer Assistance and Review.

Starr called for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes standardized testing.

At present, a majority of the board is not willing to renew his contract.

Pennsylvania Governor-Elect Tom Wolf has selected Lancaster Superintendent Pedro Rivera as the next state commissioner of education. Rivera is a veteran educator who previously worked in the Philadelphia public schools.

“Mr. Rivera has been superintendent of the School District of Lancaster since 2008.

“In September, Mr. Rivera was honored at the White House as one of 10 Hispanic leaders in education.

“A Philadelphia native, Mr. Rivera worked for 13 years in the Philadelphia public schools, as a principal, assistant principal, classroom teacher and human resources director.”

Bob Braun posts on his blog a letter written by Mayor Ras Baraka to Superintendent Cami Anderson demanding her resignation.

Anderson, a former TFA executive, was appointed as superintendent of Newark by Governor Chris Christie. She acts without regard to community opinion and even refuses to attend public meetings of the powerless elected school board.

Among today’s reformers, democratic governance is considered an obstacle to their plans. They strongly prefer mayoral control, state control, or any form of governance that bypasses democratic (elected) governance.

What are the odds that Anderson or Christie will care what the Mayor says or wants?

Governor Mike Pence has been trying to take down State Superintendent of Education Glenda Ritz ever since they were both elected to office in 2012. Pence is a Republican, Ritz is a Democrat. In the election, Ritz won with a bipartisan coalition and beat incumbent Tony Bennett, whose campaign outspent Ritz’s by 10-1. Ritz won more votes than Pence in the general election. Under Tony Bennett, Indiana education policy favored for-profit charter schools, vouchers, high-stakes testing, and attacks on the teaching profession (he was chair of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change and adopted all of Bush’s favored policies). After he resigned, he was immediately hired to be State Superintendent in Florida, but then quickly resigned when AP reporter Tom LoBianco revealed that Bennett had altered the A-F grading system to protect the charter school of one of his major campaign donors.


Glenda Ritz’s victory would prove to be a thorn under Governor Pence’s saddle. Pence appoints the members of the State Board, which Ritz chairs. Over the past two years, Pence created a new state agency to deal with education and workforce issues, to reduce Ritz’s authority. The sniping has continued, because Pence won’t be content until Ritz has no authority at all.


Now members of the State Senate have introduced bills to allow the State Board of Education to elect its own chair, a position that under current law belongs to the elected State Superintendent.


What are the lessons for the rest of us?


One, Governor Pence and the members of the State Senate want to nullify the clear wishes of the public who overwhelmingly voted for Glenda Ritz. Pence and his allies apparently don’t believe in democracy.


Two, Superintendent Glenda Ritz is a brave woman with a strong stomach, who has stood up to this constant assault on her and her office with great dignity.



Joseph Ricciotti, a retired educator, asks the question posed in the title: Why are Democrats in Connecticut acting like Republicans?


He cites the advice of two veteran Connecticut teachers who expressed the hope that Governor Dannel Malloy would replace outgoing Commissioner Stefan Pryor with an educator. Imagine! An educator as state commissioner of education!


He writes:


It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist for Gov. Malloy and President Obama to know that the Democrats across the nation lost in the mid-term elections because they governed like Republicans.

What will it take for Malloy and Obama to understand that teachers are among the Democrats largest constituency and cannot be taken for granted. In simple terms, teachers and parents are disgusted with the privatization movement with its focus on high-stakes testing and teacher evaluations tied to the tests.

It is a well known fact that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has earned the dubious distinction from many teachers and parents as a misguided, non-educator secretary with his agenda of testing, punitive accountability and, most of all, Common Core.

In essence, these principles are Republican principles and Democrats cannot win elections by acting like Republicans. If, for example, Jeb Bush were to be president, Common Core would undoubtedly be his highest priority.

Commissioner Pryor, another non-educator, also shares this vilification in Connecticut as both Pryor and Duncan should be replaced with educators that meet the criteria suggested by the award winning teachers from Ridgefield.

The Connecticut Department of Education under Pryor is now an agency without credibility, driven by special interests, charter school advocates and ideologies that are not based in reality. Pryor and other corporate reformers have discounted the real factors that hold children back: poverty, fear and instability.

Sadly, it is their belief that “bad teachers” are responsible for troubled schools and that the student SBAC tests aligned with Common Core will somehow expose “bad teachers” by partly basing teacher evaluations on student test scores. In essence, these beliefs are systematically destroying confidence in public education and, as a result, Commissioner Pryor has lost the confidence of teachers and parents.

It is time for new leadership and a new direction for public education in Connecticut.



Rumors are swirling about whether Deborah Gist will be reappointed as Commissioner of Education in Rhode Island. RI public radio prematurely announced that her contract would not be renewed but the state board said that no decision had been made. Gist is one of the few remaining members of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. She has been an advocate for high-stakes testing and charter schools. She received national attention (and acclaim by Duncan and President Obama) for supporting the mass firing of the staff at Central Falls High School (some of whom were rehired).

Politico reports:

“THE ACCIDENTAL STATE SUPERINTENDENT: Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist is known as a change agent, an education reformer who ushered in a new era of teacher evaluations, lifted the state cap on charter schools and created a statewide funding formula based on school district capacity and student need. But her turbulent time in office might be coming to an end. Her contract expires this June and the state board hasn’t indicated whether they’ll renew it. Gist says she has more work to do, such as implementing the state’s five-year education plan and expanding access to early childhood education. But she’s mum on her career plans. “I’ve never been someone who takes a job and thinks how that’s going to propel me to the next thing,” Gist said. In fact, she never even meant to leave her job teaching students in the classroom. I have the story, part of POLITICO’s Women Rule: Getting There series:”

The article is no longer behind a paywall. It is here.

Ever since Governor Mike Pence was elected in 2012, he has steadily chipped away at the power of Glenda Ritz, the state commissioner of education who was also elected in 2012 but on the Democratic line. In this solid red state, Ritz got more votes than Pence.

Ritz is an experienced educator, and she has worked to improve public schools and the teaching profession, whereas the Governor and Legislature prefer to gut both of them.

Pence created an alternate education agency to take away Ritz’s authority. Now he has a plan to finally crush her office altogether.

According to the Indiana Economic Digest, citing an editorial in the Tribune-Star:

“Power wins.

“Unless some virtuous political maverick at the top levels of Indiana government appears this winter, the dynasty running Hoosier government will finally complete its two-year-long crusade to wither its last obstacle to full dominance. Gov. Mike Pence announced the check-mate move Thursday as he laid out his goals for the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

“The governor wants legislators to give the Indiana State Board of Education members the power to pick their own chairperson. Under existing Indiana law, the state superintendent of public instruction automatically serves as the board’s chairperson. In other words, the voters decide who chairs the Board of Education. In 2012, they emphatically chose Glenda Ritz, a school-teacher Democrat, as their state superintendent over Republican school-reform star Tony Bennett. The defeat galled Republicans. They never accepted the people’s choice.

“So, with every tool possible, they’ve relentlessly circumvented Ritz, usurping the authority attached to her job. Republican legislators suddenly embraced an idea tossed around for decades — making the superintendent a governor-appointed position, rather than an elected one. With the GOP holding super majorities in the state Senate and House, the only thing preventing it from following through with that tactic was its blatantly obvious political motivation.

“Pence’s proposal injects a new twist. Instead of ousting Ritz, the change drains a huge amount of her remaining power. The other 10 members of the Board of Education — all appointed by Republican governors — would select their chairperson to set the agenda for education policy in Indiana. Ritz would be reduced to just another member, because the others would certainly not choose her.

“Disappointingly, the Republican leaders of the Legislature endorsed Pence’s plan last week. House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long expressed their frustration with the embarrassing dysfunction between the governor’s board and Ritz, calling it a “sideshow” and framing Pence’s proposal as a solution. Ritz is not the problem. The problem is the power party’s refusal to tolerate a rejection of their ballyhooed education reforms by the same voters who simultaneously approved of the Republicans’ efforts in other aspects of governing.”

In an earlier post, I expressed the concern of parents in Seattle that the selection of a permanent superintendent was moving too quickly. Some parents, always suspicious that Bill Gates is trying to buy their schools, feared that he was involved in the rushed process. I regret that I cast aspersion on Dr. Larry Nyland, the interim superintendent who is under consideration for the post of permanent superintendent. I have it on excellent authority that he is an experienced educator of impeccable integrity. If the board slows down, listens to parents, and engages the public in this important decision, it will build trust and good will.

Here is a statement from Seattle parent leaders. They do not oppose Dr. Nyland. They want public engagement, which is a precondition for building trust.

Dear Seattle School Board Directors,

As strong advocates for family engagement, we are concerned about the timing and rushed nature to appoint Dr. Nyland permanently through 2017.
Our council board feels that a search for a Superintendent could provide other qualified candidates, however we also believe that providing consistent leadership and stability for staff and families also has value for our district at this time. When asked to provide support for a contract extension for Dr. Nyland as interim Superintendent, we agreed. Dr. Nyland’s commitment to stewardship and accountability of SPS resources, closing the opportunity gap, providing better customer service, and responding to parent concerns is encouraging. However, when appointing a permanent Superintendent these criteria and commitments should be fully assessed through a formal process.

SCPTSA did not realize the School Board would be voting on this action so quickly without providing time for families to engage. The specifics of the contract extension, specifically to make this a permanent appointment, and the process for hiring the Superintendent, were unknown even to us. Families have been led to believe that there would be a full and transparent search process for the appointment of a new Superintendent. Five days’ notice over a holiday weekend is simply not enough time.

The School Board should move at a more deliberate pace. This rushed action will likely perpetuate distrust of the School Board and the District. Rushed decisions continue to force parents to react instead of being able to engage effectively in their children’s education.

We ask the School Board to delay this vote to explain the decision process to parents and school communities and allow sufficient time for response. It is vital the School Board takes the proper time to confirm the right person is being hired as the permanent Superintendent of our schools.


Seattle Council PTSA Board
Katherine Schomer, President
Cassandra Johnston, Vice President
Dianne Casper, Secretary
Jenny Young, Treasurer
Eden Mack, Advocacy/Legislative chair
Julie van Arcken, Central Area Director
Cecilia McCormick, Special Education Director
Annabel Quintero, South West Area Director

CC: PTA Board Leadership for all 82 PTA Local Units in Seattle

Superintendents in the Lower Hudson Valley area spoke critically of the state evaluation system for teachers and principals, called the Annual Professional Performance Review, in a meeting with the editorial board of the Journal-News. .

The evaluation system does not accurately identify teachers as effective or ineffective, and the State Education Department has been unwilling to listen to professionals in the field. The implementation has been as flawed as the implementation of Common Core. Both are tied to testing, and both derive from Race to the Top. The state received $700 million in Race to the Top funding but is likely to spend multiples of that amount to carry out its mandates. Since no part of Race to the Top was based on research, it is unlikely to produce good results. What it has produced is disruption, demoralization, outrage, and a vibrant anti-testing and anti-Common Core movement, led by parents.


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