Search results for: "Montclair, NJ superintendent"

Montclair, NJ, is a suburb of New York City that has long been known for its excellent public schools. In recent years, however, the town has been shaken by a fight over corporate reform. The battle intensified when the school board hired a Broadie as superintendent.

 

Here is the latest report from the front lines:

 

 

“How far will corporate ed-reformers go to silence those who speak against the corporate takeover of their schools?

 

“That is the question residents of Montclair, NJ are asking themselves after the Monday, March 14, 2016 Montclair Board of Education meeting, where they learned that their former BOE had been “[s]erving subpoenas on public schoolteachers in class. Reading them their Miranda rights on school grounds. Using taxpayers’ money to hire investigators to search school employees’ computers late at night.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/19/nyregion/montclair-still-feels-strife-from-a-school-test-posted-online-in-13.html?_r=0

 

 

“And compiling an “enemies list” of 27 parents, teachers, and principals names to be searched by the international security firm Kroll, Associates, including a dissenting Board of Education member, the President and Executive Board Members of the local education association, founding members of the grass roots, pro-public education group Montclair Cares About Schools, and parents who had attended MCAS issues forums or commented on social media. http://baristanet.com/2016/03/montclair-boe-more-allegations-questions-and-an-enemies-list-of-names-from-assessmentgate/

Emails Paint Picture of Covert Operations and Confusion Over Montclair Assessment Investigation

 

 

“These actions all took place under cover of an investigation about district assessments in 2013 locally referred to as “Assessmentgate.” This blog posted about Assessmentgate which was conducted while Superintendent Penny MacCormack, a graduate of the Eli Broad training program, was in charge of the Montclair schools. MacCormack was Superintendent from Nov. 1, 2012 until she abruptly resigned and left the district in the spring of 2015.

 

 

“The Assessmentgate investigation was started after district “quarterly assessments” were seen posted on a scavenger site called Gobookee. MacCormack and her reform controlled BOE maintained that the posting had to have been the result of an insider “leak,” and passed a Nov. 1, 2013 resolution authorizing the BOE to undertake an investigation casting a “wide net” to find the person(s) responsible.
https://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/08/montclair-public-schools-under-siege/
https://dianeravitch.net/2013/10/18/a-broadie-wreaks-havoc-in-montclair-new-jersey/

 

 

“Teacher Syreeta Carrington testified at the Monday March 14, 2016 at the Montclair Board of Education meeting, that she was
… the teacher who first alerted the district to the availability of the tests online, [and] read a letter for Casey La Rosa, [a Nationally Board Certified teacher] which described ongoing harassment by the attorney for the BOE during the investigation period, including La Rosa being read her Miranda Rights during a class break and repeated harassing emails and phone calls which resulted in her experiencing panic attacks. [La Rosa subsequently resigned from the district.]

Montclair BOE: More Allegations, Questions And An “Enemies” List of Names From Assessmentgate

 

 

“The community always maintained that there had been no leak. An internal IT review by Alan Benezra on October 26, 2013, the day after the district learned of the postings, reported that the assessments had not been posted with proper password protection and were probably scraped by the scavenger site.

 

“A Nov. 5 email posted online after the March 14th BOE meeting revealed that District Business Administrator Brian Fleischer concluded that :

 

 

“much like [BOE member] David Cummings indicated, the URLS for those assessments could have been found through a search, and the URLS for the assessments were not themselves password protected. ..It is therefore possible that no one ever hit ‘send’ or otherwise deliberately uploaded our URLs or PDFs to Gobookee, but rather that Gobookee itself found and ’stole’ the assessments through its own search engine.”

Emails Paint Picture of Covert Operations and Confusion Over Montclair Assessment Investigation

 

“In spite of this information, MacCormack and her reform dominated Board stretched out the harassing and intimating investigation while racking up bills for the district to pay.

 

 

“You can watch a tape of the Monday March 14, 2016 Montclair Board of Education Meeting where a long line of teachers and members of the public raise these troubling issues and ask their current sitting BOE to clarify what happened in their district, who was responsible, what the investigation cost, and the extent to which civil liberties and the runnings of their district were disrupted. Community members are also seeking assurances that this type of conduct has ended. http://vp.telvue.com/player?s=montclair.

 

“The underlying emails were posted at a local online news outlet and can be read here http://baristanet.com/2016/03/montclair-boe-more-allegations-questions-and-an-enemies-list-of-names-from-assessmentgate/ and here

Emails Paint Picture of Covert Operations and Confusion Over Montclair Assessment Investigation

 
“None of the public comments at the March 14th BOE meeting or emails can be found in the NYT report of the meeting. The New York Times article does, however, contain extensive quotes from Shelley Lombard, one of the former Montclair BOE members who favored the Assessmentgate investigation. The article does not identify Ms. Lombard as a current representative of Montclair Kids First, a reform organization, represented by Shavar Jeffries, who heads DFER.

 

“The community now knows what the activist parents and educators suspected — that the precious resources of time, money and leadership that should have been dedicated to students, classrooms, paraprofessionals, teachers and professional development were systematically and strategically diverted into spying, surveillance, lawyers, intimidation of educators and the criminalization of dissent — all in the name of the achievement gap! What a clever, and twisted, set of tactics by corporate reformers.

 

 

“Now that these emails have surfaced, will the current “good” Board of education collude and cover up, or will they acknowledge the history of financial and ethical abuse of power in order to help the town heal and move forward?

 

“Will the people of Montclair receive the answers they deserve?

 

 

“Stay tuned.”

Citizens of Néw Jersey believe that the elected board of Newark should select their own superintendent. Newark has not been allowed to direct its own schools for 20 years. The state has failed, it is time to return to democracy in Newark.

Newark Residents Should Select Their Next Superintendent

We believe that the people of Newark should be able to democratically govern their public schools.

Fortunately, Mark Biedron, President of NJ’s State Board of Education, seems to agree. Mr. Biedron recently told the Star Ledger that “the people of Newark having local control over the school district…is a good thing.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Biedron will have an opportunity to act on this belief when the State Board votes on whether Chris Cerf should become Newark’s next Superintendent.

If the State Board approves Mr. Cerf, it will be continuing a 20 year history of disenfranchisement for Newark’s nearly 300,000 residents, who have had no say in this decision.

If the Board rejects Mr. Cerf and instead approves a candidate selected by Newark’s popularly-elected Board of Education, it will be putting Mr. Biedron’s admirable philosophy into practice.

There is plenty of precedent for allowing Newark to select its own superintendent.

Newark, Jersey City, and Paterson are all state-controlled school districts. Yet Jersey City’s popularly-elected Board of Education selected its Superintendent, Marcia Lyles. Paterson’s Superintendent, Dr. Donnie Evans, was selected by a committee that included members of Paterson’s popularly-elected Board of Education, along with other community leaders. In contrast, Newark’s popularly-elected Board of Education has had no voice in selecting Mr. Cerf, who was nominated for this position by Governor Christie.

Approving Mr. Cerf is also difficult to justify because Mr. Cerf lacks the qualifications necessary to run New Jersey’s largest school district. Unlike Jersey City’s and Paterson’s leaders, Mr. Cerf has no prior experience as a superintendent.

Nor is there a record of success in related public-education positions on which to base Mr. Cerf’s nomination. In fact, Mr. Cerf’s tenure as New Jersey’s Commissioner of Education was marked by numerous poor decisions regarding Newark, including:

Appointing and continuing to support Newark’s prior Superintendent, Cami Anderson, whose policies and behaviors generated broad-based rejection and rebellion from Newark residents;

Improperly giving in to a demand from Ms. Anderson “to allow her to retain full control over 28 low-performing schools, which resulted in New Jersey failing to comply with federal requirements; and

Forcibly maintaining State control of Newark’s schools by dramatically lowering the district’s scores on the State’s monitoring system (QSAC) from the scores that Mr. Cerf had given the district less than a year earlier.

The people of Newark deserve the right to select their next Superintendent. They also deserve an experienced public education leader with a proven record of success. Mr. Cerf’s candidacy fails on all these counts.

We encourage Mr. Biedron and the other State Board of Education members to vote no on Mr. Cerf’s nomination and to allow Newark’s popularly-elected Board of Education to nominate the district’s next Superintendent.

Newark’s residents have been deprived of their right to democratically control their public schools for 20 years. It is long past time to correct this wrong!

Rosie Grant, Piscataway, NJ
Parent and nonprofit leader

Michelle Fine, Montclair, NJ
Parent and professor

Judy DeHaven, Red Bank, NJ
Parent and writer

Valerie Trujillo, Jersey City, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Jacklyn Brown, Manalapan, NJ
Parent and educator

Julia Sass Rubin, Princeton, NJ
Parent and professor

Linda Reid, Paterson, NJ
Parent and nonprofit leader

Melissa Katz, South Brunswick, NJ
Future educator

Bobbie Theivakumaran, Metuchen, NJ
Parent and investment banker

Lisa Winter, Basking Ridge, NJ
Parent, technology manager and former Board of Education member

Marcella Simadiris, Montclair, NJ
Parent and educator

Michelle McFadden-DiNicola, Highland Park, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Bill Michaelson, Lawrence Township, NJ
Parent and computer scientist

Marie Hughes Corfield, Flemington, NJ
Parent and educator

Rita McClellan, Cherry Hill, NJ
Parent and administrator

Sarah Blaine, Montclair, NJ
Parent, attorney, and blogger

Susan Cauldwell, Spring Lake, NJ
Parent and nonprofit leader

Heidi Maria Brown, Pitman, NJ
Parent and educator

Julie Borst, Allendale, NJ
Parent and special education advocate

Susan Berkey, Howell, NJ
Parent and educator

Darcie Cimarusti, Highland Park, NJ
Parent and Board of Education member

Amnet Ramos, North Plainfield, NJ
Parent and educator

Elana Halberstadt, Montclair, NJ
Parent and writer/artist

Ani McHugh, Delran, NJ
Parent and educator

Jill DeMaio, Monroe, NJ
Parent

Tamar Wyschogrod, Morristown, NJ
Parent and journalist

Lauren Freedman, Maplewood, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Lisa Rodgers, South Brunswick, NJ
Parent and business owner

Laurie Orosz, Montclair, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Michael Kaminski, Mount Laurel, NJ
Parent and educator

Ronen Kauffman, Union City, NJ
Parent and educator

Frankie Adao, Newark, NJ
Parent and social media specialist

Kathleen Nolan, Princeton, NJ
Parent, researcher and lecturer

Sue Altman, Camden, NJ
Educator

Jennifer Cohan, Princeton, NJ
Parent and publicist

Daniel Anderson, Bloomfield, NJ
Parent and Board of Education member

Debbie Baer, Robbinsville, NJ
Parent and educator

Dan Masi, Roxbury Township, NJ
Parent and engineer

Susan Schutt, Ridgewood, NJ
Assistant principal and public education advocate

Karin Szotak, Madison NJ
Parent and business owner

Tiombe Gibson, Deptford, NJ
Parent and educator

Lisa Marcus Levine, Princeton, NJ
Parent and architect

Kristen Carr Jandoli, Haddon, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Jean Schutt McTavish, Ridgewood, NJ
Parent and high school principal

Virginia Manzari, West Windsor, NJ.
Parent and businesswoman

Stephanie LeGrand, Haddonfield, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Melanie McDermott, Highland Park, NJ
Parent and sustainability researcher

Nora Hyland, Asbury Park, NJ
Parent and professor

Beth O’Donnell-Fischer, Verona, NJ
Parent

Susie Welkovits, Highland Park, NJ
Parent and Borough Council President

Gregory M. Stankiewicz, Princeton, NJ
Parent and nonprofit leader

Margot Embree Fisher, Teaneck, NJ
Parent and former Board of Education member

Stephanie Petriello, Dumont, NJ
Parent, educator and business owner

Laura Begg, Bernards Township, NJ
Parent and public education advocate

Gary C. Frazier, Camden, NJ
Parent and community activist

Debbie Reyes, Florence Township, NJ
Parent

Christine McGoey, Montclair, NJ
Parent

Regan Kaiden, Collingswood, NJ
Parent and educator

Moneke Singleton-Ragsdale, Camden, NJ
Parent and administrator

Toby Sanders, Trenton, NJ
Parent, pastor and educator

Montclair, New Jersey, is a beautiful suburb, not far from New York City, which has long had a reputation for its good schools and its successful racial integration. But lately its schools and parents have been in turmoil. The town is split between supporters of public education and supporters of “reform” (aka privatization and testing). Recently the “reformers” have subpoenaed emails of those who support public schools, looking for a nefarious plot, for sources of funding, undue influence by teachers’ unions, or for any contacts with that notorious critic of corporate reform, Diane Ravitch. Apparently, their search turned up nothing. No national plot; no outside funding; no contact with me. Just local parents trying to fight off privatization and high-stakes testing. The corporate reformers filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for more than 1,000 emails written by Michelle Fine, who is a professor the City University of New York and a vocal critic of privatization and high-stakes testing.

 

Why Montclair? Montclair not only has parents devoted to their local public schools, it also is home to some of the most celebrated luminaries of the corporate reform movement. Voila! A clash of David and Goliath!

 

As Stan Karp explained in this article contrasting the two faces of “reform” in Newark and Montclair, Montclair adopted a mayor-appointed board to maintain its integration policy. But times changed, and in the current political context, the appointed board brought in a Broad-trained superintendent, whose actions deepened the divisions.

 

Karp wrote:

 

As the policy context for education reform has changed, the appointed board has become increasingly contentious.
It was against this backdrop that, in the summer of 2012, as Cami Anderson was hollowing out Newark, Montclair hired a new superintendent. Penny MacCormack was new to the state, had never been a superintendent, and wasn’t known to many in Montclair. But those who track state education politics knew she had been a district official in Connecticut who was recruited by Cerf to be an assistant commissioner in Christie’s DOE. The department had received several grants from the Eli Broad Foundation and was staffed with multiple Broad “fellows.” MacCormack, Cerf, and Anderson all have Broad ties.
MacCormack was at the N.J. Department of Education for less than a year when she suddenly resurfaced as the new Montclair superintendent without any public vetting, a clear sign the board knew this was a controversial hire.
Her welcome reception began with a video about the origins of the magnet system in the struggle to integrate the town’s schools. Some honored town elders who had played key roles were in the audience. MacCormack awkwardly attempted to connect her vision to the compelling town history framed in the video. Despite the town’s commitment to equity, she said, wide “achievement gaps” remained, and addressing those gaps would be her No. 1 priority.
MacCormack didn’t pledge to restore the equity supports that had been eroded in recent years or challenge Christie’s budget cuts. Instead, she announced that the Common Core standards and tests, and the state’s new teacher evaluation mandates, would “level the playing field” and “raise expectations for all.” “And,” she said, “I will be using the data to hold educators accountable and make sure we get results.”
After she finished, a latecomer took the floor and told the audience how lucky Montclair was to have MacCormack come to town. It was Jon Schnur, the architect of the Race to the Top. He also lives in Montclair. We later learned that Schnur was MacCormack’s “mentor” in a certification program she enrolled in after being hired without the required credentials to be superintendent.
In Montclair, there was no formal state takeover and no contested school board elections. Instead, the long reach of corporate education reform had used influence peddling, backdoor connections, and a compliant appointed school board to install one of their own at the head of one of the state’s model districts.

 

Over the next few months, MacCormack’s plans took shape, drawing on a familiar playbook. There was major shuffling at central office; experienced staff were replaced by well-paid imports. Half the district’s principals were moved or replaced.
The new superintendent created a multiyear strategic plan: a 20-page list of bulleted goals, strategies, and benchmarks. One stood out. MacCormack wanted to implement “districtwide Common Core-aligned quarterly assessments in reading, writing, mathematics, social studies, and science” from kindergarten through 12th grade.” The proposal quickly became a dividing line.

 

The school board backed McCormack’s plan for Common Core and more frequent testing; a large number of residents pushed back against the quarterly tests, forming a group called Montclair Cares About Schools (MCAS). The parents held public forums and collected signatures for petitions.

 

But then things took a bizarre turn:

 

A few days before the first quarterlies were to be given, things went completely off the rails. Emails began circulating that some of the tests had been found on an internet scavenger site, GoBookie, which robotically scoops up and sells documents without authorization.
The news traveled quickly. The board called an emergency meeting to initiate an investigation, not just into the source of the released tests, but also into “other incidents of conduct that may be contrary to the board’s best interest.”
The board began issuing subpoenas. It sought one board member’s private emails and phone records, and warned teachers not “to destroy any emails or documents related to the investigation.” It even went after anonymous critics on local social media sites, issuing subpoenas for their internet addresses so the critics could be questioned.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey stepped in and told the board their subpoenas were a gross violation of free speech rights. Still, the board pressed its investigation through months of turmoil and mounting legal fees. Finally, a state agency quietly confirmed that the tests had been posted online in error. The furor was fueled by a mistake, not an act of sabotage.
The episode dealt a serious blow to the board’s credibility. It also reflected the distorted priorities of corporate reform. As LynNell Hancock, journalism professor and grandmother of a 5th grader, wrote on Valerie Strauss’ education blog: “This is a Montclair I hardly recognize. It’s not the children, the quality of the schools or the town’s democratic values that have changed. It’s a paradigm shift in school leadership, a top-down technocratic approach that narrows its focus to “fixing” schools by employing business strategies—more testing, more administrators, limited interference by the public or the teacher union.”

 

As matters heated up, with charges and countercharges, Superintendent McCormack abruptly resigned to accept another job.

 

But the avengers of corporate reform did not give up in their battle for control.

 

Mark Naison wrote this week:

 

In Montclair NJ, a strong coalition of parents and educators has resisted, and pushed back corporate reform. This in the very town where so many of the national ed deformers live.

 

After a two year struggle, the Broad Academy Superintendent resigned, leaving behind an $11.5 million dollar deficit. Within a week, the mayor, the President of the Montclair Teachers Association and the Board of School Estimate resolved the budget crisis with little loss to staff positions. And by the end of the year, we enjoyed a 48% opt out rate on the PARCC, a new pro-public education interim Superintendent and Board of Education. Education may be back in the hands of educators.

 

But in this town where national reform luminaries live, they have not swallowed defeat gracefully.

 

With substantial funding, they formed Montclair Kids First and hired Shavar Jeffries, who ran for mayor in Newark and lost on a pro-charter platform, as their lawyer. Jeffries went to work bringing ethics charges against a progressive town councilman, relying upon the Open Records Act to extract emails of key progressive board members, principals and the President of the teachers union and FOILed more than 1000 of Michelle Fine’s emails over two years.

 

Watch out, hide the kids. MCAS and CUNY are coming after Montclair Schools!

 

MKF (and the MSW laundered emails on their blog) came looking for the union(s); external funding; a national game-plan; a proxy relationship to Diane Ravitch. They found no money or funding, just parents and a community organizing to save public schools from the tentacles of reforms. These are the tired tactics education reformers use: They live in a world of opposition files created for their critics. They throw money to fund their reforms; they throw money to silence their opponents. But when they find nothing, they resort to tactics like this—their latest propaganda piece, a movie version of private emails.
But propaganda can be a tricky thing. MSW posts are no more accurate now than they were before they had access to private emails, full of misattributions and ideas out of context. Expensive glossy MKF mailers bring on the tired reform narrative of failing schools only to be corrected by parents and school officials; and their recent propaganda film has popped up, like a jack in the box clown, above Michelle Fine’s many wonderful talks on race, justice, and privatization of education—an unintended counterpoint to their silly video. And if MCAS weren’t enough, they now claim CUNY is after Montclair Schools! Cue up the eerie music and dial up your paranoia. Enjoy the sounds and images of desperate reformers looking for your support.

 

Video
https://youtu.be/Q7uBr7TnCQM

 

 

 

Montclair, New Jersey, has long been proud of its fine public schools. But these days, not even good schools and good districts are exempt from the corporate reform steamroller. At present, a substantial part of the community is at war with the school board and the Broad-trained superintendent. A group of dissident parents, who happen to be among leading scholars of education —–including Ira Shor, Stan Karp, and Michelle Fine—wrote the following description of the turmoil in Montclair.

PREFACE FROM MONTCLAIR CARES ABOUT SCHOOLS:

Montclair, New Jersey is a progressive town with highly-regarded public schools noted nationally for successfully desegregating through a districtwide magnet system. Kids of all colors go to all schools; families of all colors, classes, and sexual preferences are welcome here.

But the town now has a renegade board of education issuing subpoenas to uncover names of critics posting anonymously on blogs and websites. And we have a schools superintendent, hired by the board in fall 2012, who lacks state certification but was trained by the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. The superintendent, Penny MacCormack, came to Montclair from the NJ State Department of Education run by Christopher Cerf, another Broad graduate. Liberal Montclair, which voted overwhelmingly against Republican Governor Chris Christie, now has a superintendent from his administration.

Our school board, appointed by the mayor, took a destructive turn a few years ago by embracing austerity, cutting effective programs and essential classroom aides, ending services needed by students, while piling up multimillion-dollar budget surpluses year after year. The board also tried closing two successful and integrated schools, a plan it abandoned only after sustained parent protests.

Things went from bad to worse after MacCormack’s hiring following a secretive search. In true corporate-reform fashion, the board and MacCormack have restricted comments by the public and the local teachers‘ union president at meetings. Community management not public dialogue is its stock in trade. MacCormack hurriedly declared that Montclair was woefully behind on adapting the Common Core standards; she pushed a new “Strategic Plan” with a new layer of quarterly skills tests in every grade. After some of these new district assessments somehow got onto the Internet in the fall, the board launched an investigation and issued its subpoenas – including to a fellow board member – the only one to publicly question the superintendent’s policies- and to Google and a local online news site in an attempt to find out the identities of a local blogger and online commenters critical of the district leadership.

The ACLU of New Jersey sued on behalf of the blogger and following public protests, including from the Town Council, the board has withdrawn the subpoenas seeking identities of online critics. But the board’s subpoena against its own board member is still live and demands him to turn over emails and phone records, in fact, virtually all records of everyone he talks to in the community. You can see the subpoena here.

Our group, Montclair Cares About Schools, came together last spring out of concern over the destructive direction in the schools. We speak at board and Town Council meetings, hold public forums and workshops, send letters to the editor of the town paper, and have an active and popular Facebook page.

In December, Montclair Cares About Schools presented to the board and residents a timeline of how we got to this sad point in our district. An edited and abridged version is below.
_____

Timeline of a Debacle: “Just Six Months Ago…”
(issued Dec. 16, 2013)

Just six months ago, Montclair Cares About Schools asked the board to please slow down their plan to impose a new layer of quarterly, district-wide tests. Had the board listened to MCAS instead of ignoring our suggestion, the costly and divisive events since last June 23 could have been avoided.

June 2013: MCAS posted a petition online asking the board to slow down implementation of the planned quarterly assessments. Within 48 hours, 370 parents and community members signed online and another 40 signed a hard copy. Since then, online signers have grown to 560. At the board meeting that night, Montclair High School students presented their own petition signed by about 578 students also asking to slow down implementation of the new assessments.

The board refused to respond to the pleas to slow down. Instead, it rushed ahead recklessly.

It rushed ahead even though the new quarterly assessments and related curricula changes mandated by Superintendent MacCormack would come in the same year as a complex and burdensome new teacher evaluation system imposed by the State.

July and August 2013: The district recruited more than 100 teachers to develop the new quarterly assessments for every K-12 class. The superintendent maintained the new tests were necessary to get students ready for the upcoming state PARCC exams scheduled to begin in 2015.

>The public was told that the district would generate open-ended assessments, attuned to the unique characteristics and concerns of our high-performing district.

>By summer’s end, despite great cost and rush, only the first-quarter tests and lessons were ready, not the whole-year curriculum. School started in September with teachers not having the yearlong curriculum ready for them to plan their lessons.

>Teachers also learned that the assessments would have to be graded on a Scantron-ready metric. Our school curricula were being dumbed down to make them computer-friendly for the new PARCC testing en route to all classrooms.

>Although supposedly every Montclair student would be subject to the new layer of assessments, Advanced Placement students were exempt, making these new Scantron tests directed at only certain students, in a district where fairness and equity matter.

>We also have no evidence that any accommodations were planned for students in special education taking the new tests.

September 2013: At the start of school, students throughout the district were given ‘surprise’ pre-assessment tests. Many were on material not yet taught. We have a copy of a memo telling teachers to make these assessments difficult so that teachers could demonstrate students’ improvement on the next round of tests and to NOT share the pre-assessments or how students performed on them with students or parents.

Based on these unannounced, unprepared, and unnecessary pre-assessments, students were pulled out of regular classes for math and English language arts support, often without any notification or explanation to parents. This disturbed parents, frustrated those children pulled out of classes, and in many cases altered the racial makeup of classes.

October 2013: On Friday, October 25, the district learned that at least 14 of the district’s 60 first-quarter assessments suddenly appeared on an unprotected website on the Internet. Teachers were supposed to administer these tests the following week.

Three things happened in the wake of the online publication of the assessments:

1. Suspicion about how the assessments got online landed immediately on people who were publicly critical of the assessments, the board and the superintendent.

2. As copies of the published assessments began circulating among parents, the cover was blown off the Superintendent’s and board’s claims that these assessments were creative and teacher-generated. Many were canned short-answer tests, a low standard for assessment. Some had been copied verbatim from model state exams and some were clearly developmentally inappropriate for their grades. So much for the high-quality, teacher-generated assessments promised to the public.

3. The true cost of the assessments became known: $490,000. A half-million dollars of our taxes wasted by the board to get us into this mess, with a huge legal bill to follow.

October 28 or 29: According to Baristanet, a local online news outlet, the District filed a police report about the unauthorized publication of the assessments around October 28. As we understand it, the police did not pursue this case because they judged that no crime had been committed.

November 1: The board held a hastily called meeting to vote to hire its own attorney for what it claimed would be an “independent” investigation into the online publication of the assessments.

The board attorney was quoted in news reports that he would “cast a wide net” and would be issuing subpoenas to “blogs and websites.” At that same meeting however, board Pres. Robin Kulwin told reporters that she believed the “leak” was internal.

Why, if the board president believed the leak was internal – that is, caused accidentally or deliberately by someone who works for the district – did the board authorize its attorney to cast a wide net with subpoenas directed at outside parties? This key contradiction has never been explained. Why a big dragnet for a local problem with no evidence of criminal behavior presented?

December 4: The ACLU of New Jersey sued the board to quash subpoenas that the ACLU said were defective and beyond the limited investigative authority of a local school board. The ACLU had previously approached the board asking it to withdraw the subpoena to its client. But unlike other school districts in New Jersey approached by the ACLU on similar matters, our board refused to stop hounding its critics.

December 5: A state judge acknowledged the merits of the ACLU’s claims by granting a temporary restraining order against the board to prevent it from issuing any more subpoenas or taking further action on the ones issued.

December 9: The Montclair Township Council voted to refuse a school board request to investigate a computer network server shared by the town and school district. The council resolution declared that the investigation “is contributing to divisiveness and strife among the people of Montclair,[and] is resulting in the diversion and expenditure of substantial funds.”

December 16 board meeting: We ask the board, how much money has been poured into this punitive and pointless investigation for which you have provided no evidence of criminal activity? Why are you targeting your critics?

We propose that evidence points to the following scenario:

• The assessments had been placed by the district placed on an unprotected site (as confirmed by the board’s own computer network coordinator).

• The assessments were found on GoBookee, a “spider” or scavenger site that retrieves documents from the Internet and then tries to sell them online. Considering this and other Montclair school documents are on this site, we think it likely that this is how the assessments got online.
• We believe no one “leaked” the assessments but that they were poorly secured on the web portals open to teachers. Given the rush and lack of care in this entire process of creating and mandating these new assessments, this is not surprising.

No crime was committed here, and we think the board knows it. The only offenses have been by the board by engaging in a witch hunt – an investigation of parents, educators and community members critical of the board. This investigation has violated freedom of speech rights, embarrassed this respected town, and most likely, as the ACLU asserts, broken laws.

The township council has spoken, parents have spoken, educators have spoken. Enough.
The superintendent and board leadership should take responsibility for any security breach, apologize to the community and cease this destructive investigation.

______

Epilogue: As 2014 begins, Montclair Cares About Schools continues its fight to expose and stop the damage to our good schools caused by this board’s and superintendent’s top-down, test-focused management and by its failure to tolerate public dialogue about our public schools. Our group endeavors to show alternatives. We hold public forums, workshops, living-room meetings for parents. We invite everyone interested in public education to visit our Facebook page.

********************

In addition to this joint statement, Ira Shor wrote the following letter to the editor of the Montclair Times to complain about the influence of the Broad Foundation in Montclair:

Dec. 29, 2013

Is Billionaire Eli Broad Running Our Schools?​

Why is the District refusing to release items regarding the Superintendent’s relation to the Broad Foundation? On October 31, 2013, I filed a request under NJ’s Open Public Records Act(OPRA) for documents regarding Supt. MacCormack’s financial disclosure that she received “more than $2000” in 2013 from the Broad Foundation. We need to know how much “more than $2000” Broad is paying her and for what services. Contrary to OPRA law, Mr. Fleischer, her COO, provided no requested documents and did not explain why he refused. OPRA requires district officers to meet legal requests in 7 business days or explain in writing why not. Mr. Fleischer had 35 days but provided no Broad items and explained nothing.

What is the Superintendent hiding? Who does she work for–Montclair’s families or billionaire Eli Broad and his campaign to standardize public schools? She attended the unaccredited Broad Academy whose “grads” follow Broad’s playbook, imposing one-size-fits-all curricula, endless bubble-tests, and high-priced consultants and testing technology. We have a right to know if she answers to Broad or to us.

The Superintendent and our Board have recklessly disrupted our good schools and squandered taxes on ridiculous subpoenas, while refusing to spend yet another huge surplus on things our kids need: smaller classes, foreign language, aides in all classes, librarians in all schools, instrumental music, and after-school mentoring for at-risk kids. Listen to our over-tested kids reporting fear and stress; listen to our under-supported teachers at monthly Board meetings; then, you’ll agree we should roll back the Broad agenda and its assessment train wreck. The refusal of my OPRA request joins other illegal refusals from Mr. Fleischer and the Supt.’s office. Stop hiding from those you should be serving. Open your books and files.

Ira Shor
302 North Mountain Avenue
Montclair, NJ 07043
973-337-6783

The Network for Public Education is fortunate to have Marla Kilfoyle as director of its Grassroots Education Network. Marla previously was national executive director of the Badass Teachers Association and a full-time teacher.

Would your group like to join the Grassroots Education Network? Contact Marla Kilfoyle at marlakilfoyle@networkforpubliceducation.org.

Here is her report on current activities:

 

Grassroots Education Network- July 2019 Newsletter

The NPE Grassroots Education Network is a network of over 130 grassroots organizations nationwide who have joined together to preserve, promote, improve, and strengthen our public schools. If you know of a group that would like to join this powerful network, please go here to sign up.

If you have any questions about the NPE Grassroots Education Network please contact Marla Kilfoyle, NPE Grassroots Education Network Liaison at marlakilfoyle@networkforpubliceducation.org

Notes from Marla

I have now been in my position as the NPE Grassroots Education Network liaison for six months. Each time I do this newsletter I become more inspired, and informed about what is happening across the nation to strengthen public education and to save it from privatizers! This month there were some great ideas for organizing and getting the message out. Many of the organizations in the NPE Grassroots Education Network marched in 4th of July parades with signs asking the community to support public education, they walked neighborhoods with pamphlets outlining the power of public education, and they held summer education summits to engage their communities. The organizing ideas in this newsletter are a great way to get the message out, have conversations with people about the promise of public education, as well as the attempt to privatize public education. Again, I am humbled by the amazing work being done for our children, our families, and our communities!

National Organizing

Defending the Early Years held their Early Childhood Summer Organizing Leadership Institute in the beginning of the month. Check out all their amazing pictures on their twitter hashtag #DEYInstitute2019. In the Public Interest presented at Netroots Nation in July. They covered the topic of privatization of public service. The Journey for Justice Alliance went to Washington D.C. on July 10th to speak with U.S. Representatives about the school funding crisis. Also check out the podcast On The Ground hosted by Jitu Brown. The podcast airs every Monday at 6 PM CST.

Fairtest publishes an amazing newsletter each week covering both the flaws of relying on standardized exams to make high-stakes educational decisions as well as successful campaigns to roll back testing misuse and overuse. Rethinking Schools editor and Zinn Education Project teacher leader, Adam Sanchez, presented the Poetry of Defiance lesson on celebrating the resistance of the enslaved at the 2nd annual Teaching Black History conference for K-12 educators. Rethinking Schools also launched their NEW Planning to Change the World social justice plan book. You can order it here. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and The Badass Teachers Association distributed their Educator Toolkit for Teacher and Student Privacy at the AFT TEACH Conference in Washington D.C. July 10-13th. Parents for Public Schools National has been selected to present at the Institute for Educational Leadership’s 2019 National Family and Community Engagement Conference in Reno, NV! Their session, ‘Re-Imagining Evaluation: How Parent-Led Evaluation is Getting to What Matters in Parent Leadership’, took place on Wednesday, July 10. They also published Brown v. Board of Education: A Divided Legacy? An Interview w/ former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Fred Banks, Jr. 

Parents Across America shared the response of Parent Power, Indianapolis Parents Across America affiliate, to the election of Teach for America alum and interim superintendent Alessia Johnson as Indianapolis Public School (IPS) superintendent. Congratulations to Breanna Hall who won the The Schott Foundation #PublicSchoolGrad scholarship. The Badass Teachers Association was in Houston July 2-8 to attend the National Education Association Representative Assembly. Check out all the great work the NEA BAT Caucus did for children, families, and communities! The Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education (USA) exists in a network with many other organizations in Canada and Mexico. Check out their network here. Ontario (Canada) Secondary School Teachers Federation President Harvey Bischof delivered the OSSTF affiliate report to the members of the Canadian Teachers Federation. The report focused on no cuts to education funding and the economic benefits of investing in education. Wear Red for Ed tracks the Red for Ed movement nationwide. Check out their open Facebook page for the latest on the Red for Ed movement. Find out what Save our Schools March is up to by following their open Facebook page. First Focus Campaign for Children continue to share the latest on the fight to end the detention of migrant children. The Network for Public Education continues to update their Asleep at the Wheel Report. See their state-by-state reports here (scroll to the bottom of the page) and make sure you check back for more additions.

NPE Grassroots Education Network – State Organizations Support Public Education

Please use this clearinghouse of information to inform people in the various states about the NPE Grassroots Education Network organizations. Please encourage people to join them and support their work! Call on family, friends, and colleagues to join the fight to save public education! This section is also a place to get great ideas on organizing and actions.

Alabama

SOS (Support Our Students) is asking Alabama residents to take a poll on a Constitutional Amendment to switch from the present elected state board of education to one appointed by the governor.

Arizona

Voices for Education Smart Talk Radio: Robin Hiller sat down with Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo. Listen as Superintendent Trujillo talks about his strategy for middle school reform — an important issue for TUSD. Arizonans for Charter School Accountability is dedicated to exposing the waste and corruption in Arizona’s largely unregulated charter school sector and increase public oversight of the industry. Save Our Schools Arizona had a successful fundraiser at the end of June. Party With A Purpose for SOSAZ had the community come out to support public education in Arizona and the work of Save our Schools Arizona. Arizona Educators United is a grassroots movement by people who are concerned about education in Arizona. AEU is not a union and is not aligned with any political party or candidate. Check out their informative video about their organization.

California

California Educators Rising are now California Educators United. Follow their coalition work in California here. Public Core is an organizationof West Contra Costa County parents, teachers, community members, and school staff who fight for public control and accountability in our schools. They believe that public schools, open to all, are essential to the health of a democratic society.

Colorado

Pueblo Education Coalition will be holding a forum on August 6th to discuss the Community Schools model. Find out how this concept can help communities collaboratively problem solve through the challenges they face in public education today. They encourage everyone and anyone to attend and please bring any questions! Child and translation services can be available if notified in advance.

Connecticut

More Than a Score member Jesse Turner wrote a powerful essay titled What If, Policymakers and Legislators Listened to Teachers? Re:public Ed work with Connecticut communities to inform residents about state, local and federal education policies that harm kids – mobilizing them to effect change. New London Parent Advocates are a group of parents and community members who care about their students’ success and want to improve their schools. They are focused on increasing parent involvement and creating positive change in the New London Public Schools.

Florida

Fund Education NOW held a rally in July to demand the Board of Education fund education. The rally was held outside the Board of Education building in Lakeland. Broward BATs twitter feed continues to update the work of State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. Corcoran was dubbed a “charter” champion by the National Alliance for Charter Schools. Opt Out Florida Network provide comprehensive opt out resources for the beginning of school. Pastors for Florida Children shared a powerful letter written to the Tampa Times regarding the fact that letter grades for schools are about income not children. The Florida Council of Churches has an active website that documents their concerns, advocacy, and activity. Florida BATs have an open Facebook page that you can follow to keep up with what is happening all over the state. Pinellas Parents Advocating for School Improvements is a parent-driven initiative that is not associated with any one school and is open to all parents. Pinellas Parents Advocating for School Improvements is parents coming together to offer support and solutions to the problems children face in Pinellas County.

Georgia

Public Education Matters Georgia has a website of great resources and a list of ways that citizens in Georgia can get engaged and connect. Moms and Dads Now Enduring Surrealistic Stupidity (MADNESS) Georgia seeks to build the parent led opt out movement, to defeat the Opportunity School District (OSD), and to build awareness and support for actual school improvement strategies like community schools and more broadly for the very real and meaningful benefits of an equitable and viable public education system that strives for good schools for all children.

Hawaii

Parents for Public Schools Hawaii published a powerful resource on their website – Envision Hawai‘i Schools: The Department of Education’s Ambitious “2030 Promise Plan.” Parents for Public Schools Hawaii is registering residents to join in strategic planning sessions and workshops. Go to this link for more information.

Illinois

Illinois Raise Your Hand joined Blocks Together 1 in July to learn more about best practices in planning for school facilities and programming with national expert on school facility use, Mary Filardo. Here are some resourcesfrom that event.

Indiana

Indiana Coalition for Public Schools – Monroe County participated in the 4th of July parade with signs that urged community members to support public education. A great idea for organizations to copy next year! Indiana Coalition for Public Education will be holding their annual meeting on August 24th. For more information go hereThe Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education published their most popular links on social media. A great idea for organizing and drawing interest from the public. Northwest Indiana Coalition for Public Education marched in the Hebron 4th of July parade with their signs and asked the community to support public education. They also hosted a Sip Red for Ed event to educate the public about supporting public education and sold amazing yard signs. This is a great organizing idea for the start of school!

Iowa

Iowans for Public Education is a grassroots movement to protect and support Iowa’s tradition of quality public schools. Check out their movements on their open Facebook page.

Kansas

Game On for Kansas Schools provides the big picture and resources on what citizens need to know about the fight for public education in Kansas. Visit their website for more information.

Kentucky

Gay Adelmann and Tiffany Dunn from Dear JCPS and Kentucky SOS gave powerful quotes about charter scams in the Lexington Herald and Leader. Kentucky SOS research director Ivonne Rovira had a powerful op ed in the Courier-Journal about teacher summer protests in Kentucky. Dear JCPSwas featured as one of the small groups in Kentucky pushing for change and moving the needle in this article published in the LEO Weekly! Congratulations Dear JCPS! Pastors for Kentucky Children shared a powerful prayer for a teacher on their Facebook page. Read it and share it out!

Maryland

The Baltimore Algebra Project is a youth led organization with the goal to ensure that all students have access to quality education. Keep up with their movements by visiting their website. They will host a school supply give-away on August 3rd. See information here.

Massachusetts

Citizens for Public Schools held a leafleting action in July to demand education be funded properly. Another great organizing idea! The New Bedford Coalition to Save our Schools Ricardo Rosa presented at the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) on Community Based Action in July.

Michigan

The Michigan Network for Equity in Education continues to expose the latest in the Benton Harbor state takeover plan. Save Michigan’s Public Schools is a grassroots network of concerned citizens. Their goal is to connect parents, students, educators and communities across Michigan and raise awareness of threats to public education. Michigan Parents for Schools also continues to expose the latest in the Benton Harbor state takeover crisis. Check out this detailed post about the issues that Benton Harbor community members must face.

Mississippi

Parents for Public Schools – Moss Point keep the Moss Point community up-to-date with all the latest events in their community. In July they shared such events as a Pre-K Color Day, 200 Man Stand, and a Uniform Closet. Parents For Public Schools of Greenwood and Leflore County were at the B.B. King Museum in late June with Nancy Loome, Executive Director of Parents’ Campaign, Jackson, MS. They shared their BLUEPRINT 2019 Top 3 priorities for local/state public schools and how they plan to make change happen. Parents For Public Schools of Philadelphia exists to EDUCATE parents, ENGAGE parents, and MOBILIZE parents in the Philadelphia Public School District. Make sure you give them a follow on Facebook. Parents For Public Schools of Starkville created a powerful pledge to the children and schools of their community. Check it out here.

Missouri

Keep up with the actions of the Missouri BATs on their twitterfeed. Columbia Parents for Public Schools promote real parent engagement with educators and the educational system in order to continually improve education and sustain and build public support for public schools. Columbia Parents for Public Schools works with other organizations and community groups, such as the Parent Teacher Associations, to promote, support and strengthen the Columbia Public Schools.

Nebraska

Stand for Schools has an excellent FAQ section on their website. If you know anyone in Nebraska who has a question about school choice, charters, vouchers, or tax credits in the state, send them here. Nebraska Loves Public Schools promoted a summer food program to keep kids healthy and engaged. They also launched an amazing short film, Ready to Work.

Nevada

Make sure to check out Educate Nevada NOW initiatives on their website.

New Jersey

Save our Schools NJ was one of the many organizations that signed onto the Healthy Schools NOW initiative. Make sure that you give The Newark Students Union a follow on Instagram. Keep up with all their actions and movements. Delran Education Association is gearing up for Back to School by sharing deals for students and teachers. Elizabeth Parents And Students Care is an educational advocacy group that provides a platform for stakeholders to address concerns, share ideas, and establish capacity to support needed change in Elizabeth, New Jersey. If you are a resident of Elizabeth join their closed Facebook group to connect. Montclair Cares About Schools alerted all Montclair parents about their chance to voice concerns about the new MHS schedule. Give Our Children Our Schools a follow on twitter to keep up with their movements and actions. South Orange-Maplewood Cares About Schools joined the NPE Grassroots Education Network in July. If you live in the South Orange-Maplewood section of New Jersey please ask to join their closed Facebook group and connect with organizers in your area.

New York

Class Size Matters Executive Director Leonie Haimson gave powerful comments on the NYC Citizen Budget Commission on alleviating school overcrowding. Class Size Matters was also featured in an article on class size in the Gotham Gazette. The Alliance for Quality Education presentedabout Just Schools and the development of a culturally responsive curriculum scorecard at the Free Minds, Free People Conference in July. NYSAPE, LI Opt Out, NYC Opt Out, Change the Stakes, and NY BATs issued a press release upon the resignation of their state education commissioner. FUSE (New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees) teachers are heading into a new school year very soon. Give their Presidents News and Views a read. ECE Policy Works’ Creating Citizens for the World video series examines the work of nine early educators and is a must view and share. MORE-UFT has many meetingscoming up this summer. They are holding a book read, UFT workshop, and contract training. Jackson Heights People for Public Schools is mobilizing the community to help migrant children and their families. Parents for Public Schools- Syracuse supported the Syracuse School District Summer Parent Book Club in July. Yet another great organizing idea to get parents out and start conversations about all the amazing things our public schools do. Public School Watchdogs is a group of NY parents who came together to oppose the DeVos appointment. Find out what they have been up to on their Facebook page. Croton Advocates for Public Education (CAPE) is a group of residents that wants restoration of funds that were promised to their schools, fair assessments, and enrichment opportunities for every student. Port Washington Advocates for Public Education is a community group dedicated to providing information on education issues that are relevant to the Port Washington community, including the negative impact of high-stakes standardized tests, the Common Core, student data sharing, decreased funding, and other education-related topics. If you live in the Port Washington community please join their closed group to connect and organize. North Country Alliance For Public Education is a dedicated group of parents and citizens who want to bring about positive change in their schools, particularly as it pertains to the over-abundance of high stakes testing and privatization that is taking over schools and harming their most precious resource, CHILDREN! If you live in the North Country of New York consider joiningtheir closed Facebook group to connect and organize.

North Carolina

Public Schools First NC and Great Schools in Wake will be holding a conference, Impact of Privatizing Public Schools: A Crisis in the Making, on October 12th. For details and registration go here. Parents for Public Schools of Pitt County supported United Way of Pitt County in their kick off on July 22nd. North Carolina Families for School Testing Reforminvited co-signers to a letter supporting the delay of IStation and continuing to use mClass for the 2019-20 School year. In the News and Observer, Suzanne Miller, organizer of N.C. Families For School Testing Reform, saidthat “the group appreciates the legislature’s efforts to reduce testing. But she said that any legislative efforts short of a full repeal of the Read To Achieve legislation will have minimal impact on the testing of the state’s youngest students.” North Carolina Families for School Testing Reform also held a press conference on Friday, July 19th to address the use of Istation in Kindergarten to Third Grade. Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods held a Neighborhood Network event on July 25th. We will update this in our next newsletter.

Ohio

Ohio BATs, Public Education Partners (PEP) and It Takes A Village To Tackle HB70 conducted a week of action to stop state takeovers. Ohio BATs also took part in a march for migrant children and families at the NEA RA in Houston this month. Public Education Partners (PEP) continues to expose the damage that ECOT has done to the state. PEP was one of many grassroots groups in Ohio that facilitated action plans from June into July to get the school takeover law repealed. Their efforts resulted in a 1-year moratorium on new takeovers, so they will be back next year to fight this awful policy. Northwest Ohio Friends of Public Education provides up-to-date information on what is happening in their region of the state. Take a look at their open Facebook page for the latest news. Parents For Public Schools of Greater Cincinnati believes that parents need to be strong advocates and partners in their child’s education. What they believe is based on research that is concise, consistent and strong: Parent involvement positively impacts student achievement. Where there is parent involvement, kids do better and their schools do better. If you live in the Greater Cincinnati area please join them in working to be a voice for children in public schools.

Oklahoma

Pastors for Oklahoma Kids has up-to-date information on the EPIC Charter Schools fraud investigation. Go to their open Facebook page for all the updates. Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee held their Summer Advocacy Summit on July 27th. We are excited to report the results in our next newsletter! Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education & Oklahomans for Public Education focused last month on childhood trauma and its impact on education.  

Oregon

The Community Alliance for Public Education (CAPE) latest “Democracy and Education” column in the Eugene Weekly was written by CAPE member, Deanna Belcher. The column is a mother’s honest look at the power of the dominant “competition and standardized test” narrative on her own daughter. Oregon Save our Schools published a powerful essay by co-founder Steve Buel called Input Versus Output. Give it a read and share! Finally, if you know anyone who lives in Oregon make sure you tell them to join up with Oregon BATs on Facebook.

Pennsylvania

The Keystone State Education Coalition continues to produce informative weekly newsletters about all that is going on in PA education. The Pittsburgh Task Force on the Right to Education is alerting the Pittsburgh community that provisions at the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation are changing due to funding. Susan Spicka, President of Education Voters PA was a guest on Smart Talk WITF in July. She chatted about cyber charter schools. Pennsylvania School Board Association is gearing up for their Leadership Conference in October. To learn more go here.

Rhode Island

Providence Student Union members, and recent Providence schools graduates, Aleita Cook and Ahmed Sesay held back laughs as The Daily Show correspondent Jaboukie Young-White wheeled into their interview on a hoverboard. Aleita and Ahmed made their case for guaranteeing education as a constitutional right. Parents Across Rhode Islandcontinues to inform the state about what is happening in a variety of communities on education, organizing, and events.

South Carolina

The Quality Education Project shares events and actions around public education in South Carolina. Head over to their Facebook page to see the latest events, actions, and news in South Carolina education.

Tennessee

Make sure that you follow the The Momma Bears on Facebook. They update their feed weekly with the latest in the fight for public education in Tennessee. Pastors for Tennessee Children co-founder Brad Fiscus has decided to run for the House in Tennessee.

Texas

Pastors for Texas Children presented about the power of  public education to doctoral students at Dallas Baptist University about the power of public education. Pastors for Texas Children and 36 organizations dedicated to supporting Texas children and families wrote to state leaders to express “deep concern over the reported treatment of parents and children held in immigration detention facilities on Texas soil.” CFSID Community Leadership Committee updates their open Facebook page about what is happening in and around Houston. If you have a friend or family in the area invite them to follow them on Facebook. The Coalition for Public Schools Texas is a large coalition that represents over 3 million Texans statewide. Take a look at their coalition and encourage anyone you know in Texas to connect with a coalition partner in their area. Texas Kids Can’t Wait updated their community on the 2019 Texas Legislative Session and what happened with pre-K policy and funding at the state Capitol. RootEd joined the network this month. We are so happy to have them. To read about their work check out their website and social media platforms.Parents For Public Schools of Houston co-sponsored a health and wellness fair, job market, and backpack giveaway on July 27th. Another great organizing idea that this network provides. Community Voices For Public Education updates the Houston community, daily, on what is happening in public education and events concerning the Houston Independent School District.

Virginia

Virginia Educators United and Virginia BATs have active open Facebook pages with updates daily on what is happening in Virginia. Give them follow if you live, or teach, in Virginia and get connected. Support Our Schools-Shenandoah County started in Augusta County, but it represents a community coming together to show that education is important! Join this coalition if you live in the Shenandoah area and if you think that educating children should be a top priority of federal, state and local lawmakers.

Washington State

In July the WA BATs met with their state Superintendent of Public Instruction. Washington Paramount Duty provides detailed resources on how the state falls short of funding for education.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Education Network continues to press lawmakers and Gov. Evers to fund education. “Heather DuBois Bourenane of the Wisconsin Public Education Network, which led an 11th-hour march to Madison last month in hopes of securing more funding for schools, acknowledged those improvements. But she called it a status quo budget that leaves schools below their 2009 state funding levels after inflation.” Also the network will be holding their 5th Annual Summer Summit on August 5th. To sign up and for more information go here. Schools and Communities United use their social media platform to inform the community about events such as Head Start enrollment and community cooling spots to beat the heat. Parents for Public Schools Milwaukee shared the amazing achievements of MPS graduates in July. Check it out! #MPSProud

NPE Grassroots Education Network – Resources and Graphics

Here is a link to our resources page. It will help you navigate resources covering a variety of topics. This is a live document and will be updated so check back for new resources.

Here is a link to our graphics page. It will provide powerful visuals for you to share on social media. This is a live document and will be updated so check back for new graphics.

 

 

Michele Boyd, a parent in Virginia, sent this message. Both Tom Perriello and Ralph Northam describe themselves as progressives. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren endorsed Periello. However, Boyd writes, Perriello –who was DFER’s “Reformer of the Month in 2010–continues to receive money from corporate reformers. She reports that he received $25,000 from Palo Alto-based The Emerson Collective, which was created by corporate reform billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs (supporter of charters and on the national board of TFA). The Emerson Collective employs Arne Duncan.

VOTE FOR Dr. RALPH NORTHAM. DEMONSTRATE TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY THAT THEY CANT SELL OUT PUBLIC EDUCATION..

She writes:

Why Has a Corporate Education Reform Group Affiliated with Former U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, Donated $25,000 to Tom Perriello’s Campaign?

by Michele Boyd, a parent to two children and a public education activist

​For those of us who care deeply about K-12 public education – whether we are students, parents, educators, or concerned citizens – the stakes are high in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. In the current anti-Trump environment, the odds are in our favor that who we nominate on June 13th will become the next Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is therefore paramount that we choose wisely. The 1,253,482 children who are currently enrolled in Virginia’s K-12 public schools and slightly over 100,000 teachers who teach them are depending on us to get it right.

​The media narrative that has emerged in this race is Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello are both progressives and the policy differences between them are insignificant, including K-12 education. On the surface, this appears to be true. (Read here for Northam’s education platform and here for Perriello’s.)

There’s more to this story, however. The candidates differ significantly in one aspect that, in my opinion, overrides everything else: Tom Perriello has deep ties to the corporate education reform movement and Ralph Northam does not.

​As a busy mom who works full-time, I was hoping that The Washington Post or other media outlets would scoop this story. It’s telling that Mr. Perriello chose not to disclose these ties at an education roundtable that myself and 15-20 others attended on January 31st in Manassas. With two children in public schools who have endured a learning environment of high-stakes testing that creates stress and anxiety, I cannot remain silent. Democratic primary voters deserve to know the facts before casting ballots on Tuesday.

There are many unanswered questions about Mr. Perriello’s past and current affiliations to the corporate education reformers – a select group largely financed by millionaires and billionaires – but the most pressing one is this: Why has an education reform group, the Emerson Collective, located in Palo Alto, California, donated $25,000 to Mr. Perriello’s campaign? What interests could this Silicon Valley Limited Liability Company (LLC) have in Virginia’s public schools?

I’ll start by saying this much, when Mr. Perriello boasts that he has the support of Obama Administration officials, we should believe him. As it turns out, former U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) Secretary, Arne Duncan, is Managing Partner at the Emerson Collective.

Former Secretary Duncan’s seven years of service from 2008-2015 can best be described as contentious. He once apologized for saying that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” viewing the disaster as an opportunity to usher in a market-based approach, which led to the firings of 7,500 unionized teachers (who sued for wrongful termination) and the establishment of America’s first all-charter district. Oddly, when he left USDOE and returned to Chicago, a public school system where he was once superintendent, he enrolled his children in private school. He later joined the Emerson Collective in March 2016, to work on issues regarding unemployed youth and education.

What is the Emerson Collective? Founded by billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs (wife of Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs), the Emerson Collective makes investments and grants in education and other areas. The New York Times described it as one of several “top tier technology investors” in AltSchool, a network of small private schools that “use a proprietary learning management system that tracks students’ activities and helps teachers personalize their learning.” Ms. Powell Jobs is also a board member of several education reform organizations, including Teach for America and the NewSchools Venture Fund. You can learn more about the Emerson Collective, its $100 million high school redesign contest, and Ms. Powell Jobs in this October 2016 New York Magazine article.

In choosing the Emerson Collective, Mr. Duncan joined one of his former top aides at USDOE, Ms. Russlyn Ali. Mr. Duncan worked together with Ms. Ali at USDOE on the $4.35 billion Race to the Top (RTTT), which offered stimulus money to states as an incentive to adopt the Common Core standards and assessments, expand charter schools, and use test scores to evaluate teachers – all ideas promoted by the corporate education reformers. Here is a video of Mr. Perriello sharing his thoughts on RTTT in March 2012 as President and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Thankfully, in 2011 Virginia withdrew its RTTT application and became one of only five states to not adopt the Common Core, avoiding the acrimony and backlash experienced in many other states. We were also fortunate to preserve the integrity of our system of traditional public schools and limit the growth of charters. Given that at least two studies from 2009 and 2010 found that charter schools performed no better and often worse than traditional public schools, this was a wise decision. By maintaining our independence, our state sent a bipartisan message to Mr. Duncan and the privitizers that Virginia’s public schools were not for sale.

There is reason to believe that Mr. Perriello and Mr. Duncan are personal friends and political allies. Mr. Perriello once described Mr. Duncan as a “visionary”, urging President Obama to “find the Arne Duncan of economic development” for Treasury Secretary. Press accounts show that Mr. Perriello hosted Mr. Duncan in Charlottesville for his “A Call to Teach” speech at the Curry School of Education at UVa on October 14, 2009. Mr. Perriello also paid a visit to former Secretary Duncan’s office with constituents to discuss education issues, including merit pay incentive programs. In 2010, Mr. Perriello secured a grant from USDOE’s Public Charter Schools Program to establish a rural charter school in the Fifth District. A few years later, the project was cancelled and the school never opened. Press reports also describe them as campaigning together in Mr. Perriello’s bid for reelection in 2010.

How did Mr. Perriello and Mr. Duncan become allies? Most likely it was through the political arm of a PAC formed by Wall Street hedge fund managers in 2005 called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). DFER seeks to change federal, state, and local education policy to fit its agenda of choice, competition, and accountability through “supporting reform-minded candidates for public office.” DFER co-founder Whitney Tilson is quoted as saying that “hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”

DFER lobbied President Obama upon his election in 2008 to select its top choice for Secretary of Education, Mr. Duncan. DFER also donated to Mr. Perriello’s 2008 and 2010 campaigns, in addition to holding fundraisers for him both online (see page 7) and in private residences. Mr. Perriello co-sponsored charter school legislation with another DFER-affiliated politician, Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO). In June 2010, Mr. Perriello was recognized by Whitney Tilson as DFER’s “Ed Reformer of the Month,” and featured in an online fundraiser for those who couldn’t attend a “reception in his honor” later that month.

DFER’s embrace of “accountability” and “choice” often aligned with that of conservatives, including many rightwing ideologues. Mercedes Schneider, an educator, author, and blogger has documented DFER’s receipt of $80,000 in donations in 2010 and 2014 from a group founded by Betsy DeVos, the American Federation for Children, and $65,000 in those same years from a nonprofit that Mrs. DeVos chaired, the Alliance for School Choice. The education historian, Diane Ravitch, argued recently in The New Republic that Democratic politicians who supported the corporate education agenda “paved the way for DeVos and her plans to privatize the school system.”

On April 14th, myself and a friend attended a town hall meeting in Montclair to clarify Mr. Perriello’s current position on charter schools, standardized testing, and DFER. Mr. Perriello recognized that some reformers wanted to destroy public education. Mr. Perriello’s interest, however, was that he was willing to try anything to improve public schools. He explained that since the evidence has led him to conclude that charter schools don’t work, he no longer supports them. He also expressed support for Governor Terri McAuliffe’s veto of legislation which would have shifted charter school decision-making authority from local school boards to Richmond. This is good news. If Mr. Perriello should win the Governorship, we will hold him to his word.

Mr. Perriello’s vigorous support for “data-driven education” was more troubling, as well as his explanation of his past DFER ties. He distanced himself from the group, claiming that he wasn’t a “member.” He also stated that he hasn’t received any campaign donations from DFER in his current race, but that he “couldn’t know if anybody who is affiliated with them” has donated. (See here for the video starting at 32:46.)

This is interesting. At the time of the town hall, Mr. Perriello’s first quarter campaign disclosure report had been filed. My friend and I were unaware at the time, and in all fairness maybe he was, too, but Mr. Perriello’s former Congressional colleague and DFER, Mr. Jared Polis, with whom he worked on charter school legislation, donated $3,500 to his campaign. A quick check of DFER’s website indicates that Mr. Polis remains a “featured” DFER. I find it doubtful that Mr. Perriello wouldn’t remember his former colleague and friend.

Although at town halls and in debates, Mr. Perriello has disavowed certain aspects of his past record on public education, in particular his support for charter schools, there remains cause for concern. In addition to the worrisome donations from the Emerson Collective and Mr. Polis, his campaign disclosure reports reveal that he has also received donations from other individuals associated with corporate education reform. One example is venture capitalist Nicolas Hanauer, who donated $1 million to a 2012 Washington State referendum to allow charter schools and $15,000 to Mr. Perriello. It’s reported that Mr. Hanauer is well-known in Washington State political circles as having a combative personality, especially when confronting the teachers union. I recognize that Mr. Perriello and Mr. Hanauer may be aligned on other issues besides education, but until I hear otherwise, I’m worried.

I believe that Mr. Perriello owes an explanation to the public about the donations he has received from entities or individuals who have ties to corporate education reform. Students, parents, educators, and concerned citizens deserve no less. Virginia is one of the few states remaining whose public education system hasn’t been corrupted by the privatization movement and it’s important that we keep it this way. This issue will be on the ballot in November with Betsy DeVos’s surrogate, Ed Gillespie, and as Democrats it’s imperative that we make sure our candidate has clean hands.

Ralph Northam has a public education record that demonstrates his allegiance lies with children, parents, and educators – not with corporate education reformers whether they are from Silicon Valley, Colorado, or Washington State. Dr. Northam has promised to follow in the footsteps of Governor McAuliffe who has vetoed all charter school legislation, made important strides in SOL reform by reducing the number of tests from 34 to 29, and recently signed into law a bipartisan bill which sets policy to raise Virginia’s teacher salaries at or above the national level. Much more remains to be done and I believe that Dr. Northam is up to the job.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet Dr. Northam three times, including once at an education town hall, and I was impressed with his knowledge of the issues, compassion, and unique understanding as a pediatric neurologist of children and how they learn best. Having a wife who is a K-5 science teacher only enhances his credentials.

Dr. Northam has also received the endorsement of the Virginia Education Association, representing more than 50,000 teachers. I feel it’s important as Democrats that we return to our roots and stand up for our educators, giving them the respect and support they deserve. Dr. Northam has pledged to give them a seat at the table.

The questions we need to ask ourselves before Tuesday’s primary is who do we trust more with the awesome responsibility of leading our public schools and looking out for the best interests of our children? Which candidate will appoint individuals who represent Virginian values as Secretary of Education and the nine members of the Board of Education? Who can we count on to ensure that K-12 education spending – which is more than one-third of the general fund – supports priorities that will have the most impact? I have my answer and he is Dr. Ralph Northam.



One of the ways that reformsters put down the Opt Out movement is to assert that it consists only of privileged white suburban mothers, thus echoing Arne Duncan’s dismissive reaction.

Belinda Edmondson lives in the suburbs but she is not white. She sees through the reformsters’ hollow efforts to claim the support of African-American parents.

She writes;

“The reformers should have notified the large multiracial group of opting-out students who crowded into Montclair school auditoriums during PARCC testing that opting-out is a whites-only privilege. They should have informed the protesting black and brown students who took over the Newark schools superintendent’s office that they are the wrong color. They should take aside those outspoken black parents at the Newark Board of Education meetings and minority anti-reform groups like the New York City Coalition for Educational Justice, and let them know: these are not the actions of black people. Stay in your lane, already.

“Yes, it’s true that majority-black-and-brown districts in NJ are less likely than well-off districts to have students who oppose PARCC and other reforms. Camden, a high-poverty, majority-black city, is an example. There the state has hijacked the school system and children of color are being forced into charter schools. Groups like Save Camden Schools are fighting back, but it looks like a losing battle. Silly me, I thought that was due to class, and social capital: you know, the fact that educated, well-connected families of any color are more likely to be able to challenge the reform mandates and not be punished for it precisely because of their intimate knowledge of how the system works. The more educated professionals in a town, the better able its residents are to challenge the corporate raiding of their schools. Negative repercussions are far less likely: if their kids don’t take the PARCC, so what? Professionals who know the system know their kids will still graduate from high school, still get into college. Not so with poor families in poor districts. Reforms are presented to them as the gateway to a good education and the social mobility that comes with it. Even if those families don’t buy the reform mantra, what choice do they have? Poor families don’t control their own schools.”

Edmondson observes the passion that millionaires and billionaires bring to the cause of “saving” black and brow children. She has difficulty crediting their sincerity.

She notes:

” Reformers constantly raise the specter of the achievement gap as justification for pushing more standardized testing. They argue that black and brown kids are the chief beneficiaries of all these reforms. Precisely how our kids benefit is unclear when their school curriculum is narrowed to focus on test prep, their test scores are used to tell them they’re ignorant, and their teachers are under threat of being fired. But the reformers have done their homework and know what’s best. Of course none of this has anything to do with the fact that there’s lots of money to be made in reforming the schools. Or that the pesky teacher’s union is getting in the way of profits.”

Parents and educators often ask, “What can we do to stop high-stakes testing and other fraudulent “reforms?” There is a clear answer: Organize. Resist. Band with others to let your school board and elected officials know that you will not collaborate with policies that are harmful to children and to public schools. Tell them you will not feed your child to the Machine that tests, ranks, and grades children for no purpose other than grading the teacher and generating data.

As a reader wrote yesterday, Néw Jersey is doing just that.

She writes:

“New Jersey is waking up and organizing against high stakes testing and other harmful policies of so-called ed reform.

“As reported by Save Our Schools NJ on its facebook page, at least 40 towns’ School Boards have recently passed humane opt-out/refusal policies, including:

“Bloomfield, Delran, Millburn, Montville, North Brunswick, Princeton, Robbinsville, Bernards Township, Black Horse Pike Regional, Bordentown Regional, Bueana Regional, Byram Township, Clinton Township, Delsea Regional High School District, East Hanover Township, East Windsor Regional, Elmwood Park, Evesham Township, Gloucester Township, Gloucester County Institute of Technology, Gloucester Coutny Special Services Schools, Little Egg Harbor, Livingston, Mahwah Township, Montville, Morris, Morris Hills Regional, Neptune Township, Pemeberton Township, Randolph, Somerset Hills, Southern Regional, Stafford Township, Sewdesboro, Township of Ocean, Union Township, Wall Townshhip, Washington Borough, Washington Township (Bergen), Woodbridge Township.

“Montclair NJ’s BOE is slated to vote on a humane opt policy Monday night, 1/26/15.

“(Parents should ask their districts about these directly, since districts may keep policies quiet so as not to inform parents as is reported here http://www.nj.com/education/2015/01/what_happens_if_nj_students_dont_take_the_parcc.html )

“Since Montclair Cares About Schools organized, a total of 14 towns have spontaneously organized their own “Cares About Schools” groups, including Highland Park, South Brunswick, RIdgewood, North Arlington, Florham Park, Nutley, East WIndsor, Verona, Manalapan-Englishtown, Dunellen, Howell, Millburn, Montville. Many of these groups are on facebook.

“Showings of ‘Standardized,’ the movie, and Take the PARCC events where community members can take sample PARCC tests and judge the tests for themselves, are popping up all over NJ. Some are sponsored by Cares About Groups, some by numerous other groups with their own names and styles, like Township of Union Park Advocacy Group.

“Statewide groups like Save Our Schools NJ and United Opt Out NJ have seen tremendous growth.

“Additional statewide sources like Speak up NJ http://www.speakupnj.org post addresses and contacts to write legislators and important links.

“Groups like PULSE and the Newark Students Union have been organizing in Newark, NJ to protest the mismanagement and lack of accountability of the state appointed superintendent Cami Anderson, and their concerns are being echoed by Mayor Ras Baraka and legislators who oversee public schools.

“And organizations in Patterson and Camden are raising their voices.

“I am sure there are countless groups organizing in NJ, not mentioned here.

“Name them. Share information.

“Find a group. Join it. Or Start one of your own.

“Speak out, be brave, refuse the tests, refuse to vote for anyone who advocates for policies harmful to public education and children. Organize.

“Organize. Organize.

“Keep going. And never, never give up.”

This is a column that will raise the rafters, curl your hair, or make you shake with rage. It should.

Bob Braun, who started his own blog after writing for New Jersey’s largest newspaper, “The Star-Ledger,” for 50 years, is furious. This week, when schools start in New Jersey, the children of Newark will get on buses and be distributed to schools across the district. This is Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” plan, and Braun is fearful that children will be lost or harmed. He calls on the ministers (this was published on Saturday) to pray for the safety of the children.

Cami Anderson wants Newark to look like New Orleans, so she must break up any attachments to neighborhood schools, destroy the idea that the school has anything to do with the community. So the children must be dispersed, far from home.

This is Braun’s message to the ministers, to Governor Christie, to Cami Anderson, and to Tom Moran, the chief editorial writer of “The Star-Ledger,” who thinks Cami walks on water. Braun writes:

“While I am not a religious person, I will take a lesson from one of the readings scheduled for services tomorrow, at least in Catholic churches, the denomination in which I was raised. The first reading comes from Jeremiah 20:7-9:

“Whenever I speak, I must cry out…outrage is my message.”

“So where is the outrage in the face of the mistreatment of thousands of Newark children who will be transported all over the city in a transportation plan that won’t be implemented until the first day it will be used? No feasibility tests. No dry runs. No studies to determine whether it will work. Every first day of school in every community is chaotic under the best of circumstances–imagine what it will be like Thursday.

“Where is the outrage? For The Star-Ledger, I wrote about education for nearly 30 years. When some suburban school superintendent tried to alter the district lines of one school to adjust for enrollment changes, the community would rise in anger and often block the plan. In Newark, massive changes and disruptions are about to occur–and, yes, there has been anger and there has been outrage, but no one is listening. No one outside the city cares….

“Let us hope nothing happens to the children of Newark. But also pray for justice if harm does befall even just one of these precious young people. Justice for people like Gov. Chris Christie, who knows how to buy friends, even among clergy, but who does not know how to feel for the city’s children. Justice for people like Cami Anderson who, by my measure of thinking, somehow managed to lose her soul in her strivings for personal ambition. For David Hespe, the education commissioner who, like Pontius Pilate, washed his hands of the problem….

“We know what is about to happen is only happening because the residents of the city are poor, powerless and possess a skin color darker than that of Christie, Hespe, and Anderson. We know this would never happen in a predominantly white suburb.

“I am sorry to have to say this to the people of Newark: To many of your brothers and sisters in New Jersey, you–and your children–simply don’t count very much. They blame you for taxes. They blame you for school failure.

“Christie has all but said that the education of Newark children is not a moral obligation or a civic challenge. Rather he believes it is an expense that he would rather not have the rest of the state pay. He would be just as happy to see everyone in Newark disappear and just leave the gleaming towers owned by his friends standing.

“The “One Newark” plan is a slow means of doing just that. The poor and the needy will be isolated and driven from the city. A chain of privately operated charter schools will be made available for the eventual gentrification of the city. The powerful will allow a small percentage of people of color to attain success but there will be no effort to save the rest from poverty. Their children will be warehoused.”

Here are his words for the chief editorial writer of the state’s largest newspaper:

“I know of at least one colleague who is so blinded in his worship of Cami Anderson that he cannot see she is inept and arrogant and consistently unable to make wise choices. I don’t know why he believes that but, God forgive me, I do resent that he believes I will have contributed to the travesty when “One Newark” fails.

“This colleague, a columnist and chief editorial writer for The Star-Ledger (a newspaper I served for nearly 50 years and deeply loved), contends those who oppose what he admits is an “untested” plan “don’t seem to give a damn about the children.”

“Who would want their own children subjected to an “untested” plan? Why is it okay for Newark children to be used as guinea pigs, but not Montclair or Scotch Plains children? How can someone be so unforgivably blind and indifferent to others? How can a major metropolitan daily print such offensive rot? Where are the editors who exercise reasonable restraint on this man’s hero worship?

“How can a sentient being write such incredibly stupid words? I guess I have to hold with Friedrich Schiller that “Against stupidity, even the gods are invictorious.” Those opponents are parents. If he–or Star-Ledger reporters–would bother to look into what’s happening, they would see the opposition is run, not by unions, not by politicians, but by moms and dads, by people who care about their children.

“Yes, Mr. Editorial Writer, black mothers and fathers proud are about their kids, worried about them, wanting the best for them, working in ways you could never understand to help them. Just because they don’t live in the suburbs where you live, just because they don’t look like you, just because they can’t live on one job but need two or three to survive, doesn’t mean they d0n’t love their children. Please, you and your newspaper are abandoning the city and you haven’t cared about it for decades anyway (I know, I was there)–so why don’t you just shut up?

“Please, just shut up.”

Bob Braun is New Jersey’s Jeremiah. Outrage is his message. He will not be silent in the face of injustice. He will not curry favor with the powerful. He is angry. And, unlike those who are playing games with the lives of the children of Newark, his conscience is clear.