John Thompson, historian and teacher in Oklahoma City, read Motoko Rich’s report in the New York Times on the travails of Antwan Wilson, the Broad-trained superintendent in Oakland, California, and thought of the negative reputation that these “Broadies” have acquired. What is a Broadie? It is someone, with or without an education background, who attended a series of weekend seminars sponsored by the Eli Broad Superintendents Academy. This “academy” has no accreditation. It focuses on management style, not education. The Broad Foundation picks people to learn its autocratic management style and places them in a district where Broad has influence and might even supplement the leader’s salary. Once placed, you may surround yourself with other Broadies to push decisions on unwilling teachers and principals who know more than you do about the local schools and students. The list of failed Broadies is long, including Mike Miles in Dallas, General Anthony Tata in Wake County, N.C., John Covington in Kansas City and Michigan’s Educational Achievement Authority.


Thompson was reminded of the Broadie who took charge of the Oklahoma City public schools and sowed racial antagonism and division when he read Rich’s article about Wilson and his problems.


He writes:


It would be easier to sympathize with Wilson’s feelings if Broad and the rest of the Billionaires Boys Club’s public relations teams didn’t have such a long and disgusting record of using racial taunts against those (regardless of our race) who disagree with them. More importantly, the Broadie’s pain is dwarfed by that of poor children of color who increasingly find themselves in “apartheid schools” after competition-driven reformers (illogically) try to use resegregation of schools as a method for undoing the damage done by Jim Crow.
As explained in my book, A Teacher’s Tale, I first encountered the Broad mentality in 2007 when Oklahoma City hired a Broad Academy graduate as superintendent. Hoping to get off to a good, collaborative start, I introduced myself to the mentor that the academy assigned to him. She was sitting with several of my old friends and civil rights allies, African-American women with decades of administrative experience that they also would have gladly shared with the rookie superintendent. The Broad Academy mentor wiped the smiles off our faces when her first words to me were, “Why don’t you in Oklahoma City teach our African-American boys to read?”
At first, I thought we could have better luck communicating with the new superintendent. He was a good enough sport to compete in my school’s “Buffalo Chip Throwing Championship.” (Dressed in a fine business suit, the superintendent finished second, behind me, but unlike the champion buffalo feces thrower, he wore a plastic glove.) The superintendent enjoyed talking with my students, but he never seemed comfortable listening to teenagers when they disagreed with his policies. In one such meeting, the superintendent explained that he wanted an aligned and paced curriculum where every class covered the same material at the same time, and where he could supervise classroom instruction by video, throughout the district, from his office. Afterwards, my students were blunt, saying that the superintendent had no idea of what he was rushing into….


Across the nation, Broad and other market-driven reformers are stepping up the use of mass school closures to defeat teachers, unions, and parents who oppose them. Even as the Billionaires Boys Club proclaims that their goal is a 21st century civil rights crusade, they impose a brutal policy where the highest-challenge students are crammed into the schools that were already the most segregated, under-resourced and low-performing. In other words, they sabotage the highest-challenge neighborhood schools in order to discredit educators in them who seek win-win school improvement policies.
The Broad Academy and their allies are thus willing to sacrifice the welfare of the most vulnerable children and to inflame racial tensions in order to defeat educators who disagree with them. Whether they do so in Oakland or Oklahoma City – in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Denver, Washington D.C. or New Orleans – they are playing with fire. Whether we are talking about race, poverty, or special education, we must recognize the complexity of these issues and the need for nuanced conversations. As long as corporate reformers continue to vilify educators, complicated and interconnected problems will get worse. If Broad-trained superintendents had the knowledge about education that is necessary to improve schools, they would also understand why inflaming racial tensions is so dangerous.