Archives for category: Administrators, superintendents

Bill Radin writes in California-based “Capital & Main” about Eli Broad’s decision to spend $100 million to buy his leadership training program a place at the Yale School of Management.

As Radin notes, Broadies left some notable messes behind.

Broad’s philosophy is that educational problems are really management problems. Never having taught, he is projecting his life experience onto a sector with which he is totally unfamiliar, where the lives of children are at stake. Surely you would send a management consultant to design or fly airplanes or to perform surgeries. Broad has never understood that the business techniques he used to become rich have no application in the classroom or in schools.

Most of his graduates are notable for the mistakes they made by imposing bad ideas that they learned at the Broad Academy.

Radin writes:

Say goodbye to the Broad Academy. The Eli Broad-founded and funded superintendent’s program that since 2002 has trained “aspiring urban school system leaders” in the blunt art of disrupting communities, undermining school boards and alienating teachers through top-down district privatization techniques is pulling up its L.A. stakes and leaving California. Its destination? The Yale School of Management, which this week welcomedBA’s Broad Center umbrella org and the $100 million jackpot from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation that comes with it. The ivy-covered facelift will transform BA’s market-based ed reform fellowship — which Diane Ravitch notes has been unencumbered by either education academicians or scholars — into a now establishment-countenanced, one-year master’s degree in education management. Also on tap will be “advanced executive training” for laissez faire-leaning district superintendents and CFOs.

Broadies,” as graduates are known, have left their mark on Golden State public schools. Oakland Unified is still digging itself out of the mess left by three politically appointed grads that managed the district during its 2003-2009 state receivership. Ten years later, their legacy includes mass school closures, charter oversaturation, crippling debt and an even deeper fiscal crisis (exacerbated by profligate spending by Oakland’s Broad-trained ex-supe Antwan Wilson) that has put 24 more district schools on the chopping block and turned school board meetings into civic battlegrounds. Los Angeles is still traumatized by Broad alumnus John Deasy, remembered as the LAUSD supe who habitually testified against the district in lawsuits targeting its teachers and for masterminding the conflict of interest-tainted, $1.3 billion iPad procurement debacle that finally sent him packing.

What the Broadies do best is disruption. That is their talent.

Defeated Republican Governor Matt Bevin was a huge fan of charter schools. The legislature passed a charter law but never funded it. Bevin appointed a new state board of education, and they appointed Wayne Lewis as state commissioner. Lewis loves charters.

A few weeks ago, Bevin was defeated by Democrat Andy Beshear, who ran on a strong pro-public education program. He chose an educator as his Lieutenant Governor. He said he would pick a new state board on day one and a new state commissioner on day two. Beshear made clear that  public education was a major priority for his administration.

Beshear has said he and Lt. Gov.-elect Jacqueline Coleman, an educator, will have no higher priority than Kentucky’s public education system and its teachers. Teacher Allison Slone, founder of a popular Facebook page called Kentucky Teachers in the Know, said she and her colleagues “are ready to move on and up from the negativity, lack of trust, and partisan politics” that they experienced under Bevin.

Not so fast, said Wayne Lewis. Beshear can’t replace the board members until their terms expire in 2020 and 2022. And Lewis has no plans to leave until the board changes.

Stay tuned.

Mike Deshotels is a retired educator in Louisiana who blogs as “Louisiana Educator.”

In this post, he appraises State Superintendent John White’s record as state superintendent. 

He characterizes that record as “pitiful.”

John White, you may recall, is a “reformer,” that is, a specialist in Disruption. He is formerly TFA, a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Academy, and before coming to Louisiana, worked for Joel Klein in New York City, preparing public schools for takeover by charter schools. He supports charters, vouchers, and high-stakes testing.

Deshotels writes:

After over 7 years of John White as Louisiana’s education reformer, Louisiana ranks 47th on national reading and math tests, and 49th on the ACT.

John White’s propaganda mill had the unmitigated gall to put out this press release Tuesday claiming that Louisiana was “number one in the country in 8th grade math improvement” as measured by The Nations Report Card. This tiny bit of data selection is insignificant compared to overall achievement of our students in reading, math and college readiness. The press release neglected to mention that despite all this “improvement” Louisiana still ranks third to last compared to the 50 states in 8th grade math. There is also no mention that Louisiana ranks 47th out of the 50 states in overall performance on all the latest NAEP tests. No mention was made that the latest ACT tests now rank Louisiana second to last in the country in college readiness! Our ACT test score averages have been declining significantly for the last 3 years. White’s press release trying to portray total stagnation in student performance as “nation leading outcomes” is pathetic.

Deshotels reviews the state’ low NAEP scores, then turns to the steadily falling ACT scores:

For ACT scores, there is no press release at all from the LDOE, probably because they have not yet found a way to spin three years in a row of declining ACT scores as some type of success. Average ACT scores in Louisiana was 19.6 in 2017, 19.2 in 2018, and 18.8 in 2019. This is a very significant drop in three years. Don’t just take my word for it that Louisiana is performing poorly in college readiness, just take a look at this article by Will Sentell in The Baton Rouge Advocate casually mentioning that Louisiana has now fallen to 49th in the nation on the ACT.

 

 

Troy Laraviere, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, writes in Crains Chicago Business that the Chicago Teachers Union is not demanding enough for the public schools.

He maintains that the Chicago schools are woefully understaffed as compared to other districts in Illinois.

He writes:

Chicago Public Schools is the most understaffed school district in Illinois. It is impossible to make a reasonable judgment about the current labor dispute between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union without considering that fact. Even though the key issue in this labor dispute is CPS’ refusal to meet the teachers’ demand for adequate staffing, it seems that no one has attempted to find out what school staffing actually looks like.

Consider the following:
•The Illinois State Board of Education tracks staffing numbers for 861 school districts in our state. Chicago is ranked 861st—dead last—in the ratio of students-to-staff.
•The 20 most adequately staffed school districts in Illinois have 100 staff members for every 500 students.
•The average Illinois school district has 50 staff for every 500 students. In Chicago, however, our district has just 29 staff for the same 500 students.

On average, each Chicago school has 71 fewer staff than the top Illinois schools, and 21 fewer staff than the average Illinois school. Think about that for a moment. We would need 21 more staff in every Chicago school just to reach average staffing levels.

Those 21 missing staff members are music and art teachers to nurture a fuller array of student talents; classroom assistants and tutors; librarians to teach students how to evaluate the legitimacy of an information source in this age of omnipresent false information; classroom teachers to reduce class size in kindergarten through third grade; counselors to help students plan for their future; social workers to help students learn skills to cope with adverse circumstances such as homelessness, mental trauma and abuse; bilingual teachers to support students who are learning English, and security personnel to keep students safe, just to name a few. Think about the curricular, behavioral and academic development that Chicago students are not getting because those 21 staff members are not there to serve them.

Well, you have to start somewhere. The facts in Chicago demonstrate that the previous mayors–Rahm Emanuel and Richard Daley (the mayors from 1989-2019)–woefully underfunded the public schools as they diverted huge sums of public funding to luxury developments. Thirty years of underfunding shortchanged the students.

The CTU has been the leading edge of the fight to restore adequate funding to the schools and the children. Troy LaRaviere demonstrates that the changes are a beginning and that much more must be done to provide funding that the children of Chicago and their public schools need and deserve.

The Providence Journal reports on the state’s slow motion takeover of the Providence schools. 

No superintendent has been appointed. Meanwhile the state has placed Frances Gallo in charge of Providence as Interim Superintendent. Previously Gallo was superintendent of the state’s lowest performing district, Central Falls.

Some candidates have already turned down the job.

 

Jan Resseger reviews Jeff Bryant’s article about the failure of the unaccredited Broad Academy and the meteoric rise of its graduates, whose primary qualification is their network. Being connected is more valuable, it turns out, than achieving results.

The most important thing to know about the Broad Academy is that its “graduates” are central to the Disruption Movement, that they specialize in closing schools, that they promote privatization, and that their big ventures (e.g., the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan) have collapsed in failure.

Jeff Bryant writes here about the billionaires who corrupted the school leadership pipeline. Chief among them, of course, is billionaire Eli Broad, who created an unaccredited training program as a fast track for urban superintendents.

Bryant has collected stories about how superintendents who passed through the Broad program hire other graduates of the program and do business with others who are part of their network. The ethical breaches are numerous. The self-dealing and the stench of corruption is powerful.

Bryant begins with the story of a phone call from Eli Broad to one of his graduates:

It’s rare when goings-on in Kansas City schools make national headlines, but in 2011 the New York Times reported on the sudden departure of the district’s superintendent John Covington, who resigned unexpectedly with only a 30-day notice. Covington, who had promised to “transform” the long-troubled district, “looked like a silver bullet” for all the district’s woes, according to the Los Angeles Times. He had, in a little more than two years, quickly set about remaking the district’s administrative staff, closing nearly half the schools, revamping curriculum, and firing teachers while hiring Teach for America recruits.

The story of Covington’s sudden departure caught the attention of coastal papers no doubt because it perpetuated a common media narrative about hard-charging school leaders becoming victims of school districts’ supposed resistance to change and the notoriously short tenures of superintendents.

Although there may be some truth to that narrative, the main reason Covington left Kansas City was not because he was pushed out by job stress or an obstinate resistance. He left because a rich man offered him a job.

Following the reporting by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times about Covington’s unexpected resignation, news emerged from the Kansas City Star that days after he resigned, he took a position as the first chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, a new state agency that, according to Michigan Radio, sought “radical” leadership to oversee low-performing schools in Detroit.

But at the time of Covington’s departure, it seemed no outlet could have described the exact circumstances under which he was lured away. That would come out years later in the Kansas City Star where reporter Joe Robertson described a conversation with Covington in which he admitted that squabbles with board members “had nothing to do” with his departure. What caused Covington’s exit, Robertson reported, was “a phone call from Spain.”

That call, Covington told Robertson, was what led to Covington’s departure from Kansas City—because it brought a message from billionaire philanthropist and major charter school booster Eli Broad. “John,” Broad reportedly said, “I need you to go to Detroit.”

It wasn’t the first time Covington, who was a 2008 graduate of a prestigious training academy funded through Broad’s foundation (the Broad Center), had come into contact with the billionaire’s name and clout. Broad was also the most significant private funder of the new Michigan program he summoned Covington to oversee, providing more than $6 million in funding from 2011 to 2013, according to the Detroit Free Press.

But Covington’s story is more than a single instance of a school leader doing a billionaire’s bidding. It sheds light on how decades of a school reform movement, financed by Broad and other philanthropists and embraced by politicians and policymakers of all political stripes, have shaped school leadership nationwide.

Charter advocates and funders—such as Broad, Bill Gates, some members of the Walton Family Foundation, John Chubb, and others who fought strongly for schools to adopt the management practices of private businesses—helped put into place a school leadership network whose members are very accomplished in advancing their own careers and the interests of private businesses while they rankle school boards, parents, and teachers.

Covington’s tenure at the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan was a disaster, and the EAA itself was a disaster that has been closed down.

Bryant compares the Broad superintendents to a cartel.

The actions of these leaders are often disruptive to communities, as school board members chafe at having their work undermined, teachers feel increasingly removed from decision making, and local citizens grow anxious at seeing their taxpayer dollars increasingly redirected out of schools and classrooms and into businesses whose products and services are of questionable value.

In fact, Broad superintendents have a very poor track record. They excel at disruption and alienating parents and teachers by their autocratic style. Despite their boasts, they don’t know how to improve education. They are not even skilled at management.

What they do best is advance themselves and make lucrative connections with related businesses owned by Broadie cronies.

Amy Frogge was a two-term elected member of the Metro Nashville school board. She is a lawyer and a parent activist. She posted this fascinating account on her Facebook page.

Amy Frogge is one of the heroes of the Resistance who is featured in my forthcoming book Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance Against Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools (January 21, 2020).

She writes:
Nashville just got taken for a ride. Here’s how it happened:

Back in 2007, Superintendent Joseph Wise and his Chief of Staff, David Sundstrom, were fired from their jobs in Florida for “serious misconduct.” Wise is a graduate of LA billionaire Eli Broad’s “superintendents academy,” which trains business leaders as superintendents with the purpose of privatizing schools (closing existing schools and opening more charter schools). 

After losing their jobs, Wise and Sundstrom founded Atlantic Research Partners (ARP) and began making millions from Chicago schools. ARP then acquired parts of SUPES Academy, a superintendent training company, and merged with the recruiting firm, Jim Huge and Associates. SUPES Academy, however, was shut down after Chicago superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett pled guilty to federal corruption charges for steering no-bid contracts to SUPES Academy, her former firm, in exchange for financial kickbacks. Baltimore superintendent Dallas Dance was also involved in this scandal. 

Wise and Sundstrom also had their hands in other pots. They created a new entity called Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI), which charged education vendors to arrange meetings with school superintendents and simultaneously paid the same superintendents to “test out” the vendor products.

Now the story shifts to Nashville: In 2016, the Nashville Public Education Foundation pushed the school board to hire Jim Huge and Associates to perform our search for a new superintendent. The search brought us three “Broadies” (superintendents trained by or affiliated with the Broad academy), a Teach for America alum with no advanced degree and no degree in education whatsoever, and Shawn Joseph, who was planning to attend the Broad Superintendents Academy at the time he was hired. 

Jim Huge lied to the school board, telling us that the only highly qualified and experienced candidate, an African American female named Carol Johnson (who had served as superintendent of three major school systems, including Memphis and Boston), had withdrawn her name from the search. This was not true. Ultimately, the board hired Shawn Joseph.

When he arrived in Nashville, Joseph brought his friend, Dallas Dance, with him as an advisor- only about six months before Dance was sentenced to federal prison in connection with kick-backs for no-bid contracts in the SUPES Academy scandal. Joseph also brought in former Knoxville superintendent Jim McIntyre, another “Broadie” who had been ousted from his position in Knoxville amidst great acrimony, to serve as an advisor. Joseph began following a formula seen in other districts: He prohibited staff members from speaking to board members and immediately began discussion about closing schools. Like Byrd-Bennett and Dance, Joseph also began giving large, no-bid contracts to vendors and friends, some of which were never utilized. Some of the contracts were connected with ERDI, and Joseph’s Chief Academic Officer, Monique Felder, failed to disclose that she had been paid by ERDI (just like Dallas Dance, who committed perjury for failing to disclose part-time consulting work that benefitted him financially).

You can read the rest of the story- and much more- in the attached article. But the long and short of it is that the very same people who rigged our search to bring Shawn Joseph to Nashville are also the same people who stood to benefit from no-bid contracts with MNPS. These folks were also connected with illegal activities in other states. 

In the end, Nashville suffered. “Among [the] negative outcomes are increased community acrimony, wasted education funds, and career debacles for what could perhaps have been promising school leaders.

In the case of Joseph and Nashville, controversies with his leadership decisions strongly divided the city’s black community, and taxpayers were stuck with a $261,250 bill for buying out the rest of his contract. As a result of the fallout, Joseph lost his state teaching license, and he vowed never to work in the state again.”

 

 

Investigative journalist Jeff Bryant has published a bombshell article about entrepreneurs who operate superintendent searches, then call on their Superintendents to buy professional development, technology, training, and other services. The conflicts of interest and self-dealing are shocking. Districts lose millions of dollars and buy services they don’t need, while the search service continues to pay them.

Most of us are familiar with the case of Barbara Byrd-Bennett, former Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, who is currently serving a jail sentence for taking kickbacks.  But the web of corruption has involved many superintendents and school districts.

Bryant writes:

In July 2013, the education world was rocked when a breaking story by Chicago independent journalist Sarah Karp reported that district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett had pushed through a no-bid $20 million contract to provide professional development to administrators with a private, for-profit company called SUPES Academy, which she had worked for a year before the deal transpired. Byrd-Bennett was also listed as a senior associate for PROACT Search, a superintendent search firm run by the same individuals who led SUPES.

By 2015, federal investigators looked into the deal and found reason to charge Byrd-Bennett for accepting bribes and kickbacks from the company that ran SUPES and PROACT. A year-and-a-half later, the story made national headlines when Byrd-Bennett was convicted and sentenced to prison for those charges. But anyone who thought this story was an anomaly would be mistaken. Similar conflicts of interest among private superintendent search firms, their associated consulting companies, and their handpicked school leaders have plagued multiple school districts across the country.

In an extensive examination, Our Schools has discovered an intricate web of businesses that reap lucrative school contracts funded by public tax dollars. These businesses are often able to place their handpicked candidates in school leadership positions who then help make the purchasing decision for the same businesses’ other products and services, which often include professional development, strategic planning, computer-based services, or data analytics. The deals are often brokered in secrecy or presented to local school boards in ways that make insider schemes appear legitimate.

As in the Byrd-Bennett scandal, school officials who get caught in this web risk public humiliation, criminal investigation, and potential jail time, while the businesses that perpetuate this hidden arrangement continue to flourish and grow.

The results of these scandals are often disastrous. School policies and personnel are steered toward products that reward private companies rather than toward research-proven methods for supporting student learning and teacher performance. School governance becomes geared to the interests of well-connected individuals rather than the desires of teachers and voters. And when insider schemes become public, whole communities are thrown into chaos, sometimes for years, resulting in wasted education dollars and increased disillusionment with school systems and local governance.

Bryant lays out the evidence of collusion, corruption, and conflicts of interest. He reviews districts in Illinois, Maryland, and elsewhere. The evidence is devastating.

Nashville was victimized by entrepreneurs who manipulated the district and the process.

One of the first school districts to become entangled in the conglomeration of firms Wise and Sundstrom assembled was Nashville, which in 2016 chose Jim Huge and Associates to help with hiring a new superintendent. The following year the board hired Shawn Joseph, whom Huge had recommended.

Shortly after Joseph arrived in Nashville, according to local News Channel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams, he began pushing the district to give $1.8 million in no-bid contracts to Performance Matters, a Utah-based technology company that sells “software solutions” to school districts.

Williams found Joseph had spoken at the company’s conference and he had touted the company’s software products in promotional materials while he was employed in his previous job in Maryland. Williams also unearthed emails showing Joseph began contract talks with Performance Matters two weeks before he formally took office in Nashville. What also struck Williams as odd was that despite the considerable cost of the contract, district employees were not required to use the software.

In addition to pushing Performance Matters, Williams reported, Joseph gave an “inside track” to Discovery Education, a textbook and digital curriculum provider and another company he and his team had ties to from their work in Maryland. With Joseph’s backing, Discovery Education received an $11.4 million contract to provide a new science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) program even though a smaller company came in with a bid that was a fraction of what Discovery proposed.

By June 2018, Nashville school board member Amy Frogge was questioning Joseph about possible connections these vendors might have to ERDI. A district audit would confirm that ERDI’s affiliated companies—including Performance Matters, Discovery Education, and six other companies—had signed contracts totaling more than $17 million with the district since Joseph had been hired.

Frogge also came to realize that all these enterprises were connected to the firm who had been instrumental in hiring Joseph—Jim Huge and Associates.

“The search that brought Shawn Joseph to Nashville was clearly manipulated,” Frogge told Our Schools in an email, “and the school board was kept in the dark about Joseph’s previous tenure in Maryland and his relationships with vendor companies.”

Frogge said some of the manipulation occurred when the search firm told school board members that disputes among current board members—over charter schools, school finances, and other issues—indicated the district was “‘too dysfunctional’ to hire top-level superintendents and therefore needed to hire a less experienced candidate.”

But previous investigations of school leadership search firms conducted by Our Schools have found companies like these frequently forego background checks of prospective candidates they recommend, promote favored candidates regardless of their experience or track record, and push board members to keep the entire search process, including the final candidates, confidential from public scrutiny.

“Too often, national search firms are also driven by money-making motives and/or connections with those seeking profit,” Frogge contended. That conflict of interest is a concern not only in Nashville but also in other districts where school leaders with deep ties to education vendors and consultants have resulted in huge scandals that traumatized communities and cost taxpayers millions…

Frogge noted school boards have alternatives to using private search firms that promote tainted candidates willing to feed the search firms’ side businesses.

“School board members need to become better informed and more savvy about profit motives and organizations that seek to influence their selection,” she wrote. “School boards can instead opt to hire a local school boards association (for example, the Tennessee School Boards Association) or a local recruiter with a reputation for personal integrity to conduct a search. They can also choose to hire from within.”

The public schools of Providence have been taken over by the state because of very low test scores. The interim superintendent Frances Gallo is the same person who threatened to fire the entire staff of Central Falls High School in 2010 because of its very low scores. Central Falls was taken over by the state. It still has the lowest scores in the state.

From the Boston Globe, which is behind a pay wall:

After a tough summer, the interim superintendent of Providence schools wanted to do something uplifting for students returning to class in a system labeled as one of the most troubled in the country.

She searched through Amazon and selected a motivational book, ordering thousands of copies at a cost of $187,000. The plan was to have all middle and high school students read it this month.

But after teachers and school board members complained that “Shoot Your Shot: A Sport-Inspired Guide To Living Your Best Life” was filled with religious overtones, Frances Gallo asked educators to pause their use of the book in class…

Gallo, who retired from running Central Falls schools in 2015, was named Providence’s interim superintendent shortly before Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green announced the state would take control of the struggling district.

The state’s intervention comes after a report from researchers at Johns Hopkins University found the school system is plagued by widespread dysfunction, poor test scores, and abysmal building conditions. One member of the research team cried after visiting a school. Others called Providence the worst district they had ever encountered…

Gallo said the purchase of the books is a relatively small expenditure inside of a school budget that is approaching $400 million, but the district has been forced to put off technology upgrades and cut partnerships with nonprofit partners in recent years due to a lack of funding.

Read the full story:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/rhode-island/2019/09/11/providence-schools-spent-inspirational-books-now-has-plans-use-them/cAarWBtBAv8DiqMI1sK3VJ/story.html?s_campaign=breakingnews:newsletter