Archives for category: Administrators, superintendents

Bertis Downs is a native of Georgia and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education.

He writes:

This is the best electoral news in a long time– Georgia Democrat Valarie Wilson won the runoff for state school superintendent, and it wasn’t even close: http://bit.ly/Us7qNi I am proud to be one of her supporters.

And on the Republican side a longtime educator, Richard Woods, won in a squeaker– he had strong support from the Tea Party for his opposition to Common Core, which many on the right consider a federal intrusion into what should be local decisions.

Valarie Wilson’s decisive win on the Democratic side is significant for Georgia, and it fits into a developing narrative that Money (doesn’t always) Mean Power, at least in the intersection of politics and schools. It’s great to add Georgia to the list of places where big, out of state, corporate reformist money did not beat a genuine pro-schools candidate who will fight for strong and effective public schools for all– Seattle, Los Angeles, Bridgeport, Newark, Indiana, over and over this pattern is being repeated. Diane Ravitch’s blog and the Network for Public Education are key ways to get the good word out. I guess people like Bloomberg, Huizenga, Rhee, DeVos, Broad, et al have millions to spend (ahem “invest”), but all those $6,300 (+/-) check-writers from California and New York and elsewhere must be feeling a little ripped off this morning. Campaign disclosures, especially when analyzed and broken down on Diane’s blog, are a beautiful thing in a democracy! http://bit.ly/UoWuQC. And I guess, in a way, money does in fact talk– despite Valarie’s opponent’s decision to play down her involvement in the so-called choice movement, the extent of her out of state support, and the fear that she would indeed “dance with who brung her” if elected, likely helped propel Valarie, who raised virtually all her support here in Georgia.

And on the Republican side, and let’s be realistic– Rs generally beat Ds lately in GA– Richard Woods is a solid candidate who believes in public education and is not in deep with the corporate interests looking to privatize our schools. Either way, whatever the outcome in November, Georgia will not have someone really bad running our schools, and that is a relief. I am confident that Georgia’s next superintendent — whether Wilson or Woods — will address and improve the shortcomings of our schools while celebrating and replicating what works in advancing teaching and learning in our classrooms, supporting teachers and helping them improve, and restoring funding cuts that have reduced our school year and increased our class sizes. And if we are really lucky, the next Superintendent will courageously start the long walk back from the absurd amount of standardized testing being forced on our children and our schools, and back to sane and effective assessment and evaluations that help Georgia attract and retain quality teachers. As has been said, a teacher’s working conditions are our childrens’ learning conditions. I look forward to a superintendent who knows this. (And it would of course be really great if that Superintendent could serve under a Governor who shares their view of public schools– see, e.g. https://carterforgovernor.com/issues/)

The results in Georgia send a powerful message that what the people want, Republicans and Democrats alike, is pretty straightforward: good public schools where they are proud to send their children. And the selection of the fall candidates, Richard Woods and especially Valarie Wilson, is a clear rejection of the status quo of the false cures and nice-sounding quick fixes offered by the well-capitalized marketers of “school reform.”

Bertis Downs

Jon Lender of the Hartford Courant, who has broken story after story about sham practices in the state’s charter industry, describes the process of trying to verify the “doctorate” of Terrence Carter, the nominee for superintendent of the New London schools. The search firm hired by the school board seems to have conducted its research via Google.

Despite the damaging stories about his educational résumé, Carter is not abandoning his quest for the job:

“On Thursday, hours before the board of education’s evening meeting, the state Department of Education asked Carter to withdraw from consideration following a week of damaging disclosures. But Carter showed up at the meeting, met with the board in closed session, and emerged saying he’d done nothing wrong. “I’m not stepping down” he said, adding that he’s still “interested in the job.” He wouldn’t answer any questions about his past Ph.D. claims.”

Just when you think things can’t get worse in Connecticut, another “reform” scandal pops up.

Civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker writes here about the clear pattern of hiring unqualified people to run impoverished districts. Their way of operating: cut services, bring in Teach for America, install unproven programs.

She writes:

“It is becoming painfully clear that in Connecticut, the refrain that education reform is “all about the children,” is a sad joke. To Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his allies, children are merely collateral damage.

“Recently, there was the scandal involving Hartford’s Milner school, in which the children were used as pawns in a scheme to expand the charter empire of now-disgraced Jumoke/FUSE CEO Michael Sharpe. Pryor never bothered to discover that Sharpe is a former felon and falsified his academic credentials. Instead, while Milner was floundering under Sharpe, Pryor, a longtime Sharpe supporter, handed him two additional schools. The fate of public school children was clearly the last thing on Pryor’s mind. Currently, the FBI is investigating Pryor’s, Sharpe’s and Jumoke/FUSE’s connections.”

The latest drama is playing out in impoverished New London, where the state is pushing to hire a superintendent with a phony doctorate.

Connecticut is one of the nation’s highest performing states. It didn’t get that way by turning children over to inexperienced, unqualified teachers and superintendents. The achievement gap is a direct result of the opportunity gap. It won’t be closed by experimenting on children but by reducing the poverty that creates obstacles for children.

Valarie Wilson won the runoff election to be the Democratic candidate for Georgia’s State Superintendent of Education.

The Republican primary was too close to call.

Valarie Wilson was endorsed by the Network for Public Education as a true friend of public schools. Her opponent, Alisha Thomas Morgan, was supported by the hedge fund group Democrats for Education Reform, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, and the pro-voucher American Federation for Children.

Tomorrow is an important run-off to select the Democratic candidate for state superintendent of Georgia.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Valarie Wilson, who has worked as a member and president of the local school board in Decatur and has served as president of the Georgia School Boards Association.

Fortunately one of the members of the board of directors of the Network is Bertis Downs, a native of Georgia. He wrote this column to explain why he will vote for Valarie Wilson tomorrow.

Bertis Downs, who cares deeply about the children of Georgia, writes:

“A few years ago, I decided to give up politics, since politicians often disappoint, and many politicians seem to have only one issue once they get elected—staying in office. So all the time and effort and money I used to give to political campaigns, I decided to devote to the single most important issue I care about—improving and effective public schools. If we don’t get that part right—educating our children—then what kind of society can we really expect in the future? Well, it did not take me long to realize that if you care about education—the teaching and learning that goes on in the classroom—then you’d better pay attention to politics. I began trying to connect the dots and to figure out the often massive disconnect between policies passed by politicians in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., and the ways our kids’ schools operate.”

“I discovered that what passes as “education reform” is often just a combination of policies that diminish and weaken public schools; boost heavily-marketed “alternatives” like charter schools and voucher programs; revolve around standardized testing with high stakes attached; and then misuse the results of those tests. These policies are taking their toll on morale among our best and most effective teachers, and the people pushing these policies rarely have a dog in the fight. It doesn’t really affect them personally—it’s just politics to them.

“I support groups and individuals, including politicians, who have the same goal I do: good schools for all kids. That sounds simple, but it’s tough to achieve. Schools are complex organisms and have a hard job, given the realities many of their students face when they leave the school grounds.

“Schools cannot be improved with smoke and mirrors and bumper-sticker solutions. “School choice” surely sounds good, and the word “charter” seems to have almost magical connotations to some people. But a good school—public, private or hybrid—shares a few things in common: great teachers who are dedicated to their calling of teaching, who are supported by and learn from each other, who teach in reasonably-sized classrooms and are in a school community that is sufficiently-resourced with adequate facilities and technology, with a rich and varied curriculum, including arts and physical education, and are part of an involved and engaged community of parents and others who support the mission of the school.

“While I recognize that we are not there yet, I think it is important to discern what level of government—local, state or national—is holding us back and making our public schools’ job more difficult every day.

“In my view, the test-driven reforms that started under President George W. Bush but have accelerated under President Barack Obama are most responsible for the current state of play. (Of all the issues, why do the Democrats and Republicans have to pick this one to agree on, and get it so wrong?)”

He concludes:

“As for the runoff for state school superintendent, I strongly support Valarie Wilson, a Decatur parent and former school board member who also has statewide experience as chairwoman of the Georgia School Boards Association. She brings an engaged parent’s perspective, believes in the mission of our public schools and supports the teachers and students who teach and learn there every day. She will work to protect and advance our schools, and she does not subscribe to the false cures and easy-sounding fixes offered by the reform crowd, who have placed their bets elsewhere.

“Wilson knows what it takes and will do everything within her power to make all Georgia schools effective for every child. She will be a fierce advocate for our teachers at a time when they need it the most. And she will do so as a parent, not as a politician taking the careerist’s view.

“I look forward to a time when our state leaders are as focused as our local teachers and administrators on the promise of public education: Each child prepared for life. Wilson would be a great start on that path, and depending on how the “top of the ticket” does in November, she just might have a chance to win the general election. “

Jon Pelto reports that New London, Connecticut, is about to award a lucrative contract as superintendent to a “reformer” who has called himself “Dr.” without having earned a doctorate. Pelto commends Hartford Courant reporter Jon Lender for digging up the story.

Pelto writes:

“For more than eight years, “Dr.” Terrence Carter, the incoming New London superintendent of schools and self-described education reform expert, bragged that he had a Ph.D.

“At one point, Carter’s bio materials claimed that he had a doctorate from Stanford University.

“In another article his doctorate came from a joint program between Stanford and Oxford.

“And more recently he claimed his doctorate was from Lesley University.

“But it was all a lie.

“Interestingly he also claimed that he was hand-picked to be an education reform leader by none-other than the Arne Duncan, President Obama’s anti-teacher, anti-public education, pro-Common Core Secretary of Education.

“In a breaking news story written by the Hartford Courant’s investigative reporter Jon Lender, we now learn that the incoming New London superintendent of schools is an expert —- an expert at falsifying his resume.

“And just watch how the Malloy administration, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, and Special Master Steven Adamowski try to explain this embarrassment.

“After reading the Courant article, one thing is clear.

“The New London Board of Education is scheduled to vote on “Dr.” Terrence Carter’s lucrative contract on Monday night.

“Before that meeting, Malloy and Pryor need to make sure that Carter withdraws his name from consideration.

“And if Malloy and Pryor fail to do that, then the New London Board needs to reject Carter and re-open the search.”

This comes from the website of the Network for Public Education:

Fight for public ed. in GA to be decided in July 22 run-off. Support Valarie Wilson for GA State Superintendent.

On July 22, the run-off for Georgia State School Superintendent will be decided. Valarie Wilson, NPE’s endorsed candidate and the past-president of the Georgia School Boards Association, was the top vote-getter in the May primary. She is a staunch advocate for local control and she stands opposed to the privatization of the education system. As we have seen in campaigns throughout the country, backers of privatization and a test-driven vision of education have contributed to Valarie’s opponent – a backer of corporate reforms like virtual schools and the proliferation of charters.

Bertis Downs, a member of the NPE Board of Directors and an attorney in Athens, GA explained the importance of the Georgia race and why Valarie is the right choice for State School Superintendent.

“Along with her experience at the state level, Valarie has demonstrated the resolve, skills and acumen required for a nuanced role like State School Superintendent,” said Downs. “But Valarie’s main distinction is that she knows what must be done to deliver on the promise of public education, what each student needs to succeed.”

The Network for Public Education is pleased to support Valarie Wilson and we ask you to please consider contributing to her campaign. Let your friends and colleagues in Georgia know that Valarie Wilson is the right choice for State School Superintendent and be sure to get out the vote on July 22nd.

For more information about Valarie Wilson and her campaign for the future of public education in Georgia, check out http://valforeducation.com.

Governor Mike Pence didn’t like the results of the election in 2012 when voters chose Glenda Ritz as State Superintendent of Education. For the past two years, he has whittled away the authority and funding of her office and transferred it to other agencies. He even created a new agency to assume control of education policy, turning her office into an empty shell. He mat think he is clever but in fact he is acting like a tinhorn dictator, defying the will of the voters.

In this editorial, Karen Francisco of the Fort Wayne Journal Fazette explains Pence’s shabby and shameful machinations.

She writes:

“When voters elected Glenda Ritz nearly two years ago, they made it clear they didn’t like the direction of Indiana schools under Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

“Today, an appointed State Board of Education is set to undo the results of the 2012 election. Two resolutions that would strip most of Ritz’s authority are on the board’s meeting agenda. Working in concert with a new education bureaucracy created by Gov. Mike Pence, the 10 members – all appointed by Pence or Gov. Mitch Daniels – are preparing to reduce the superintendent to a figurehead and wrest control of key functions of her office.

“Aside from painting Ritz as weak and ineffective in advance of the next election, the proposals hand unprecedented control of Indiana schools to the governor’s office without any consideration by voters.

“Even the GOP-controlled General Assembly seems to have been duped into laying the groundwork for the takeover.

“A measure was quietly passed in 2013 to establish the new Center for Education and Career Innovation, with money transferred from the Department of Education. Not even the chairman of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee was aware of the financial sleight of hand. CECI’s staff now works full time to undermine Ritz.

“The State Board of Education includes professionals who seem to have the best interests of students at heart. They should recognize the resolutions crafted by the governor’s education staff are counter to the very democratic principles taught in our schools….

“Hoosiers should be angered by efforts to subvert the democratic process. Voters don’t elect supermajorities. They choose individual representatives and statewide officials entrusted to respect the will of the voters.

“Supermajority status does not confer the right to nullify an election, and we believe that members of the State Board of Education and the Republican legislators themselves do not support that course.

“The board members can demonstrate it by rejecting the resolutions and focusing instead on their responsibilities toward students. It’s the course Indiana voters chose.”

Governor Pence seems determined to strip Ritz of any authority. By doing so, he shames himself, defies the voters, and presents to the nation an example of anti-democratic behavior.

John Huppenthal called a press conference to apologize for his outrageous comments on the Intermet, posted anonymously. He said he would not resign as he faces re-election. He broke down and cried.

“”I’m here to renounce those blog comments,” Huppenthal told reporters. “They’re not what is in my mind, they don’t reflect the love that is in my heart.”

A sample of the comments that don’t reflect what is in his mind or heart:

“”No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish tv stations, no spanish newspapers. This is America, speak English,” he wrote, according to the Arizona Republic.”

Janet Barresi, state superintendent in Oklahoma, was defeated in the Republican primary by Joy Hofmeister, a former teacher and state school board member. Barresi was a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change (which dropped from seven to six with Barresi’s defeat). . She supported Jeb’s A-F grading system for schools, which Hofmeister opposed. Like Jeb, Barresi supported Common Core until Oklahoma dropped (h/t to Mercedes Schneider for the correction); Joy Hofmeister does not.

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