John Thompson, historian and teacher in Oklahoma, has written a three-part series about the Broad Superintendents and its graduates. This is part 3.

He writes:

In 2007, when Broad Academy graduate, John Q. Porter, was hired as superintendent of the Oklahoma City Public School System, the conservative Oklahoman reported, “Several high-profile consultants have ‘audited’ Oklahoma City Public Schools operations in recent weeks.” The results of the audit were not released, but, back then, we couldn’t fully understand why the reporter put parentheses around the word, “audited.”

I went to a school board meeting with the hope of communicating with either one of the auditors, the late Arlene Ackerman, or the rookie superintendent’s Broad mentor, Eloise Brooks (who had worked for Ackerman in San Francisco and followed her to Philadelphia.) Ackerman, of course, is remembered for the controversial and secretive manner that her contract was bought out when she was forced to leave Philadelphia. The New York Times wrote of her exit, “Many attributed this to arrogance and an autocratic style; some called her Queen Arlene.”

It did not take a formal introduction to identify the Broad advisor. The top OKCPS central office staff gathered deferentially around Dr. Brooks were clearly intimidated. When I tried to introduce myself, she scowled, “Why do you in Oklahoma City not teach our black children to read?”

The administrators, who were all black, female, veteran educators, tried to defend me, attesting to my commitment to the black community, but that was just one of the first snap judgments the Broad advisor made, and she did not show any interest in communicating. She and Porter were convinced that even in our poor, underfunded district, raising expectations would be enough to create a great learning environment.

A few weeks later, I was one of the few whites in a black church, with Dr. Brooks sitting on the front row as John Q. Porter addressed the congregation. He said that she had visited the predominantly black Douglass Mid-High. He attacked teachers who supposedly wanted to kick black boys out of school. Porter introduced his new advisor from Broad who had intercepted black boys who were being sent to the office for disciplinary reasons and returned them to class, just telling the teachers to teach them. Porter exclaimed:

I can’t make teachers love our black boys! “But I can make you do your job. … If you can’t teach our black boys, you have to go!” Porter started a chant that culminated with “Do your job, or you have to go!”

Dr. Brooks led the applause.

I’ve recently been reviewing reporters’ descriptions of Broad superintendents in other cities who have been dismissed or forced to resign. The similarities between the press accounts and what I have experienced with Broad graduates is uncanny. For instance, when leaving Rockford, Ill., Superintendent LaVonne Sheffield “said she was hired as a ‘change agent’ for the district: now she feels the district is no longer ‘moving forward.’” It was reported that, “Sheffield has been criticized for her leadership style,” and that she was sued, in part, for the allegedly false charge that an educator, “distorts data and he believes minority students aren’t as bright, that they can’t learn, and that efforts to teach those children, quote, “those children,” and close the achievement gap are essentially a waste of time.

A similar account of the resignation of Dr. Deborah Sims (class of 2005) of the Antioch Unified School District (CA) quoted a teachers union president criticizing “her approach to leadership: her absolute lack of personal communications with employees and the board; her flawed decision-making from a totally top-down leadership style … that reflected in everything from bargaining to discipline to curriculum to morale.”

When Thandiwe Peebles (class of 2002) resigned from the Minneapolis public school system after 18 turbulent months, she “was criticized for an abrasive personality and use of district resources for personal business. An employee complained, “principals go to these meetings and they come back chilled. … The superintendent has publicly shamed professional staff.”

The late Maria Goodloe-Johnson (class of 2003) was fired after 3-1/2 years with Seattle Public Schools “after the state auditor’s office uncovered up to $1.8 million in losses or questionable spending in the district’s small-business contracting program.” The Seattle Times reported that “Goodloe-Johnson wasn’t directly implicated in the scandal, but an outside attorney hired by the board concluded she knew enough that she should have acted.”

Just as important was the vote of no confidence by district employees in the wake of “rancorous negotiations” including the now-discredited use of test scores in teacher evaluations. One of her opponents wrote, “Goodloe-Johnson developed a poisonous relationship with teachers, in no small part because of her repeated attempts to bypass state labor laws and her bad faith contract negotiation efforts.” Similar, when describing her defenders’ arguments, a reporter acknowledged the “superintendent’s obvious failings as a communicator.”

By the way, Goodloe-Johnson was praised for her relatively long tenure, and 3-1/2 years is supposedly the average for Broad superintendents, if not their high-profile ones. But the average Broadie last two years less than the average superintendent.

The True Legacy of Seattle’s Fired (Broad Academy) Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson

How long does a big-city superintendent last? Longer than you might think.

There are two intertwined issues that explain so many controversies, with the abrasiveness of Broadies being just the first. The second is the way that Broad embraces the punitive and the dismantling of programs, as well as school closures. As Parents Across America explains:

General Anthony Tata (class of 2009), has been embroiled in controversy for dismantling Wake County’s desegregation plan. John Covington (class of 2008), Superintendent of Kansas City Schools, has announced his intention to close half the schools districts in the city. Robert Bobb (class of 2005), the Emergency Financial Manager of the Detroit Public Schools, recently sent layoff notices to every one of the district’s 5,466 salaried employees, including all its teachers, and said that nearly a third of the district’s schools would be closed or turned over to private charter operators.

These cuts help explain why Randolph Ward (class of 2003), “aroused huge protests with his plans to close schools and hired a personal bodyguard. Similarly, Bobb had to be escorted out of a town hall meeting by six bodyguards.

I could go on and on, synthesizing on secondary sources to outline the flaws of other influential Broad graduates such as John White (class of 2010), Tom Boasberg (2009), Tom Brady (2004), Mike Miles (2011), and others. I could further review the ways Broad-trained administrators were involved in closing schools in Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Miami-Dade County, Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Seattle. But readers can find great analyses of each one by a variety of contributors such as Sharon Higgins, Susan Ohanian, Jim Horn and others to the Diane Ravitch Blog.

My contribution as a veteran inner city teacher, who has done his best to work with corporate reformers, is to help discern patterns. Sadly, whenever I’ve seen behaviors like those exhibited by so many Broad superintendents, I’ve then seen disastrous consequences inflicted on students. As our district’s veteran educators used to be told, when feces is dumped on teachers, it rolls downhill, into the kids’ classrooms.

And that brings me back to the audit of OKCPS schools that the Broad reformers kept secret. Even then, it was clear that the failure to use an objective performance auditor and to publically share the findings were terrible mistakes. Even then, we knew the problems with using standardized test scores as an accountability metric. We could not have known, however, that just about the only evidence of successes that Broad-led districts would ultimately produce would be based on bubble-in metrics. And we certainly could not have predicted that so many Broad graduates would engage in so many other questionable games with data and other so-called evidence.

What we sensed then, and what we know now, is that the combination of Broad’s obsession with micromanaging, based on horrible metrics, when combined with its disgusting culture and its graduates’ abuses of fellow human beings, was guaranteed to fail.