Archives for category: Administrators, superintendents

In New Jersey, David M. Aderhold, the superintendent of schools of West Windsor-Plainsboro, called out Governor Christie’s “reforms” for the frauds they are. He says it is time to fight back. I add him to the honor roll for his independence and support for children and public education.

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/16/09/22/op-ed-what-the-public-doesn-t-know-can-hurt-our-students-our-schools/

He writes:

“The unspoken message is that the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey State Board of Education believe they can change educational outcomes by implementing a system of standardized tests, data points, and accountability measures. They believe that if you create “valid” and “reliable” assessment instruments, that all students will magically succeed. Through a blind allegiance to standardized assessments, the NJDOE and NJSBOE have failed to provide the support, programs, and professional development that would work to ensure that all students succeed….

“As a community of parents and educators, we must come together to rebuff the politicization of public education and insist that these changes are met with opposition and disapproval. We cannot remain on the sidelines as upheaval from the politics of education clouds what is best for our children. We must remain vigilant and centered on the essence of our work, which is to ensure the highest-quality educational experience for all students.”

T.C. Weber is the parent of children in the Metro Nashville public schools. He is a strong supporter of public schools and a strong opponent of privatization. He reported on the battle against charter schools on his blog “Dad Gone Wild,” which ended in a sharp electoral rebuke to the privatization groups like Stand for Children.

But now he turns his attention back to his children’s public schools, and he worries because their schools are underfunded. His children’s elementary school does not have a playground.

The Nashville public schools have a new leader, Dr. Shawn Joseph. Weber filed a FOIA request and learned that Dr. Joseph has added new top administrative posts and has raised the salaries for the top layer of administrators. His pick for his chief of staff was an administrator who has worked to promote charter schools in other states. The board room of the schools was remodeled. Each of the administrators gets an expensive staff car. What’s going on? Was the school board the victim of a clever trick? Is it turning its electoral victory into a real-world loss?

Weber writes:

We recently hired a brand new director of schools, Dr. Shawn Joseph, from Prince George’s County in Maryland, at a salary of $285k per year. A significant raise from the previous director’s salary. We all clapped ourselves on the back because he didn’t seem to be a reformer. But everything is not that simple. I recently put in a FOIA request for what has been spent since Dr. Joseph came to Nashville, and I found some pretty appalling things happening. Maybe the public and the school board have been too busy with other things to notice. But we ought to be asking questions, even if it’s unpleasant. Just because someone does some things that are okay, it doesn’t mean everything is okay.

Once Joseph began his tenure here, he proceeded to hire 4 “Chiefs,” 3 from out of state, at an annual salary of $185k each along with the use of a car. In order to attract a few other desirable hires, the pay schedule for Executive Officers was raised to $155k and there are 8 at that designation. If I’m reading the previous salary schedule correctly, EO’s should max out at $110k per year. To put things in context, the previous Number 2 person in the district, responsible for creating an academy model that has won national accolades, earned only $154k a year until he left the district in April. Just 5 months later and there are now 12 people making over that amount. Perhaps the district pay schedule was way out of line, but that is a significant difference, and if so, I’m not sure that it’s one that should be rectified in one year. Especially when teachers have been asked to be patient for so long.

After he reviews the new salary schedule for administrators and the fact that each of them gets a Chevy Tahoe (which cost about the same as a teacher’s salary for the year), he adds:

Much has been written about the outside money that tried to buy this year’s school board race. In fact, last week the Election Commission announced that there was enough evidence to warrant an investigation into Stand For Children and the candidates they supported in the election. Dr. Joseph’s response was to hire Jana Carlisle as the new Chief of Staff. She is from New York City and knows virtually nothing about Metro Schools. She worked to enact the charter school laws that were recently ruled unconstitutional in Washington by utilizing a flood of outside money – the very same tactics that were employed in Nashville. Despite voters and parents clearly saying they were against the policies that organizations like Stand for Children support, Dr. Joseph ignored those voices and offered Carlisle $185k per year, a car, and money to relocate from NYC to Nashville. Dr. Joseph argues that she is extremely smart. I’d argue that there are a lot of smart people in Nashville who don’t have ties to dark money.

Now I ask: what’s the difference between a charter school’s board of directors that ignores the community and a Director of Schools who does the same? We argue often about the manner that charter schools lock out the voices of those who they serve. How many times have we heard it argued that with an elected board, a parent who has concerns has a venue to voice those concerns? But if a community makes its opinion known and a school board director chooses to ignore it, what’s the difference? I don’t know that there is a bigger expression of a community’s voice than the results of an election. So if nobody’s listening to our voices, we’ve got a problem.

Nashville, you have a problem.

New Jersey Commissioner of Education David Hespe will step down and be replaced, at least temporarily, by his deputy.

New Jersey is only of only five states and D.C. that still administers Pearson’s PARCC exams.

The El Camino Real Charter High School was a successful public high school; in 2011, it converted to charter status, and it is now a successful charter school.

But it has a big problem. Its principal and other top employees charged many thousands of dollars to the school’s credit card for expensive dinners, luxury hotels, and first-class air travel while moonlighting as a scout for a professional basketball team.

The school has been warned repeatedly, and now the school board is giving it one month to clean up the mess.

The case is one more example of tensions between the nation’s second-largest school system and its charter schools, which manage their own public funding and are free from some rules that govern traditional campuses. El Camino Real Charter High School was run by the district until 2011.

At last week’s meeting, board member Scott Schmerelson said El Camino as a charter remains “an excellent school.”

But it “is not a private school,” said Schmerelson, who represents the west San Fernando Valley area where the school is located. “It is a public school. They have to go by the same rules we do.”

The El Camino case could test the limits of that assertion. El Camino, for example, has declined to tell the district whether it has taken disciplinary action against Executive Director Dave Fehte, who has come under internal and external scrutiny. Such action could be considered a confidential personnel matter, to be kept even from L.A. Unified.

A report from the district’s charter school division accuses El Camino of demonstrating “an inability to determine how public funds are being used,” adding that “fatal flaws in judgment … call into serious question the organization’s ability to successfully implement the charter in accordance with applicable law and district requirements.”

According to L.A. Unified, a sampling of 425 credit card expenses from five El Camino employees, including Fehte, revealed that “countless expenses were incurred without adherence to any uniform procedure, and without verification of the necessary details.”

Apparently the charter school board thought that the school’s autonomy extended to its financial affairs. We will watch what happens.

Is it a public school or a publicly funded private school?

Steven Singer reports here that big money failed to block the new pro-public school superintendent Anthony Hamlet.

Elite reformers tried to stop his appointment but they failed. Even the corporate media pitched in to criticize him. But the elected board prevailed (the same board that ousted TFA) and Hamlet won a five-year contract.

John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, decided to check out what the supporters of the original Vergara decision were up to. They have appealed the reversal of the original decision. The original decision struck down California statutes that protect tenure and seniority. On appeal, that lower court decision was reversed by a unanimous court. Now the plaintiffs have filed an appeal, seeking to restore the original decision. Thompson wrote a direct letter to two distinguished legal scholars who filed amicus briefs, asking them to explain why they support a decision that was anti-tenure, anti-seniority, anti-teacher, and anti-union.

After reading the names of eminent scholars who signed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff of Vergara v California, I sent a “say it ain’t so” email to a couple of them. I appreciate the responses that I received, but I must admit that they reinforced my fears about the continuing corporate reform, anti-teacher public relations campaign. As Jal Mehta explains, teaching is treated like a “semi-profession.” It’s bad enough that school reformers seek to silence our hard-earned insights, as they move us around like chess pieces, in the hopes that they can someday-over-the-rainbow devise a system of rewards and punishments that will transform our schools. It is sadder still that eminent jurists would agree that the noneducators in the Billionaires Boys Club have virtually no burden of proving that their hunches about school improvement would cause more good than harm to poor children of color.

Two legal scholars replied that they aren’t anti-teacher, and their brief is limited to a specific aspect of California constitutional law. I wonder if they would follow the same logic and write an amicus brief in support of a narrow point in the Citizens United case. After all, Vergara is just one part of a corporate assault on unions, collective bargaining and traditional public education governance; Citizens United was a similar attack on traditional electoral politics. But here is the vexing problem: legal scholars would never come out in support for Citizens United without conducting a careful review of the facts as well as the legal logic of the case. I wonder how many Vergara supporters have even read the evidence presented by the plaintiffs at trial. Had they done so, I wonder if they would see the disconnect between the experts’ narrow research methodology, their broad expressions of personal opinions on the witness stand, and the real world.

The amicus brief says that five challenged statutes should be stricken because “they guarantee education ineffectiveness without regard to the educational rights of students.” “Guarantee” is a strong word. My view is that the striking of those statutes would virtually guarantee the acceleration of the exodus of teaching talent from inner city schools. And, that gets to the heart of the issue. The case is based on opinions versus opinions. I think it is fair to say that the beliefs of the noneducators behind Vergara are held by a minority of scholars, and that the preponderance of evidence is that the contested statutes are imperfect but basically beneficial to poor children of color. I wonder if the amicus signers are aware of the huge body of social science and education history that argue against the plaintiff’s claims. But, the amicus argues that it is the state law, not the hypotheses of corporate reformers, which must carry the burden of “strict scrutiny.”

I wonder if the amicus signers are aware that the Vergara trial was fundamentally a venue for market-driven reformers’ high-dollar, anti-union publicity campaign, which presents adorable images of students who they claim are victims of the due process rights of teachers. Expert witnesses, like the Gates Foundation’s Tom Kane, presented theoretical research (mostly dealing with average outcomes) that had little or no relevance to the policy questions at hand. Their regression studies were basically props, providing numbers (of dubious relevance) for beautiful multi-colored graphics. The plan is to take their well-funded dog and pony show across the nation. For them, it’s a win-win, political hardball strategy. If they lose at trial or on appeal, teacher-bashers, like the Vergara II campaign known as Campbell Brown’s The 74, can continue with their meme, that supposedly it is “bad teachers,” protected by bad unions that keep poor children of color down. If they win, two of the nation’s largest unions are crippled, meaning that the coalition which seeks to stand up to the One Percent is undermined.

Much of the problem is rooted in segregation. There’s a huge gulf between life in the Ivory Tower and the inner city. I wonder if the signers would support a corporate effort to strip college professors of tenure. Public school teachers don’t have the same free speech rights on the job as university professors, but we need the due process rights which allow us to speak up for our students during special education IEP meetings, in student disciplinary hearings, and in debates over policy. These legal scholars not only poo-poo the claim that public school teachers have First Amendment rights, but would strip us of our legislative victories that protect the clash of ideas in the urban classroom.

I suspect the amicus signers sent their kids to elite schools where nobody would try to silence teachers defending the rights of affluent students to receive a holistic education, not just bubble-in malpractice. I wonder if they are aware of the pro-testing litmus tests that the corporate reformers who push Vergara have helped impose, such as “exiting” teachers in SIG schools who don’t pledge fidelity to teach-to-the-test under the pretense that they are “culture-killers.” Do they understand that the challenged laws have helped California resist this destructive micromanaging? Don’t they realize that striking down those laws could virtually guarantee the victory of the test, sort, reward, and punish school of output-driven reformers?

I also wonder if the signers would question their assumption that they are on the side of justice if they read Tom Kane’s latest piece which, like so many other expressions of his opinions, actually argue against Vergara. Kane argues that the education problem “is state law, combined with teacher’s employment preferences.” The Court must disregard teachers’ employment preferences because, he says, it would be too expensive to recruit and retain teachers in high-need districts. Even a $20,000 bonus has been shown to be an inadequate incentive for moving top teachers to the inner city. So, the Court must undermine duly-enacted protections against forced transfers of teachers.

That raises the question of why Kane doesn’t insist that the best and the brightest, i.e. elite college professors, be forced to transfer to the urban classroom. After all, if they have the intellect (and the interpersonal skills?) to earn tenure at elite universities, those professors must surely have the talents that would lift children in the toughest schools out of poverty.

I kid Kane, but he’s awfully disconnected from reality. His arguments make it sound like a key purpose of Vergara is to justify his pet project, his persuading of Bill Gates and the federal government into coercing more than 40 states to adopt his dubious test-driven approach to teacher evaluations. When not campaigning for Vergara, Kane repeatedly protests his mandates for value-added evaluations weren’t a fiasco, and others should be blamed for their costly failures. Now, the economist says that the Court of Appeal incorrectly ruled: “Although the statutes may lead to the hiring and retention of more ineffective teachers than a hypothetical alternative system would, the statutes do not address the assignment of teachers.” But, Kane still ignores the costs of his alternative in terms of driving teaching talent out of the profession in response to taking away our hard-earned legal rights.

Kane then shows how he misunderstands the nature of public education when criticizing the Court’s “view of the crux of the case” by concluding. “Plaintiffs still could have demonstrated a facial equal protection violation, however, by showing that the challenged statutes, regardless of how they are implemented, inevitably cause poor and minority students to be provided with an education that is not ‘basically equivalent to’ their more affluent and/or white peers.”

Once again, Kane remains oblivious to the myriad of ways that his next argument undermines Vergara’s logic. Rather than articulate a facial equal protection violation, he asserts “the challenged statutes “inevitably cause” poor and minority students to be provided with a lower quality education” in two ways:

The negative impact can take two forms, depending on the district leadership’s response to the statutes: First, if the district leadership chooses not to intervene in the flow of teachers moving between its own schools and between districts.

The second way in which the negative effects can be felt, however, is when district leaders do take counter-measures.

Kane further complains that “often collectively bargained, school districts cannot simply force effective teachers to move to high-needs schools to take the place of their less effective colleagues.” It never occurs to the economist that the personalities, backgrounds, and people skills required to teach in the inner city may be very different than those of teachers in low-poverty schools.

Let’s think for a second what Kane is saying. The life of a policy-maker is hard. Problems are complex and intertwined. The preferences of employees can’t simply be ignored because they still would have the freedom to quit and move elsewhere. So, the Court should order lawmakers to accomplish that task. Legislators should then mandate the crafting of a whole new set of laws that impose Kane’s metrics that are inherently biased against inner city teachers in order to attract more talent to the inner city!?!?

Vergara supporters would recruit and retain smarter teachers by taking away our democratic rights and ending, not mending, seniority (which, real world, is our First Amendment.) They would stifle teachers’ ability to help create an evolving balance which, we believe, may be flawed but which still protects students. Kane, like the amicus signers, would set the ground rules so that the chance of victory in the battle for the best ways to help poor children of color doesn’t go to the side which presents the best case. They would insist that we educators, and our expert witnesses, have to face strict scrutiny, and basically prove that those corporate-funded reformers’ opinions are not just misguided but basically irrational.

I had a modest proposal for university professors who want to strip tenure from teachers in elementary and secondary schools: They should prove their sincerity by giving up their own tenure. When they do that, we can take them seriously. Until they do, they are just blowing smoke.

Pittsburgh has been the site of a remarkable revolt against corporate reform. After years of pressure from the usual crowd of data-driven reformers, the school board majority was captured by grassroots activists–parents and educators–who wanted a different approach to education, one that was grounded in sensible principles, not a love for disruption. One of the first actions of the new board was to sever its contract with Teach for America and seek ways to collaborate with and support experienced career teachers. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh superintendent retired, and the board hired a new superintendent, Anthony Hamlet. The board was convinced that he was not a Broadie and would not seek to restore corporate reform strategies of measure-and-punish to the schools.

But now the Empire Strikes Back, as teacher Steven Singer tells the story. The ousted reformers are hoping for a comeback, and the last thing they want is a superintendent who brings stability to the public schools. So they have mounted a full-bore attack on Hamlet, because one sentence in his resume was almost identical to a sentence in a Washington Post editorial. One sentence! The critics are in full cry, screaming “Plagiarism!”

As an author and a historian, I know plagiarism when I see it. I have seen whole paragraphs and pages lifted and reprinted in books, resumes, and papers. But one sentence? I don’t think so.

Steven Singer writes about the new superintendent:

He is set to takeover the district on July 1, but a well financed public smear campaign is trying to stop him before he even begins.

Big money interests oppose him. The public supports him.

Meanwhile the media helps fuel corporate attacks on the 47-year-old African American because of criticisms leveled by a Political Action Committee (PAC) formed to disband the duly-elected school board.

It’s ironic.

Corporate school reformers criticize Hamlet for allegedly plagiarizing a single statement in his resume. Meanwhile they have plagiarized their entire educational platform!

Mayoral or state takeover of the district? Check!

Close struggling schools? Check!

Open new charter schools to gobble up public tax dollars as profit? Check!

Hamlet’s strong points are his belief in restorative justice programs for students and his commitment to community schools. Not a peep about charters.

Singer writes:

Despite community support, several well-financed organizations oppose Hamlet and the board’s authentic reforms.

Foremost among them is Campaign for Quality Schools Pittsburgh, a new PAC formed recently to make city schools great again – by doing the same failed crap that didn’t work before.

Also on the side of corporate education reform are the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Heinz Endowments. Representatives for both organizations have offered to pay for a new superintendent search if the district gives Hamlet his walking papers – a measure that probably would mean paying him at least a years salary without having him on the job.

This would also result in weakening the district’s ability to hire a new superintendent and increasing public mistrust of the electoral process. Such a move would pave the way for disbanding local control.

How generous of these philanthropies! I remember a time when giving meant providing the resources for organizations like public schools to fix themselves – not having the right to set public policy as a precondition for the donation. But in the age of Bill Gates and the philanthro-capitalists, this is what we’ve come to expect.

Even the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette has drunk the Kool-aid. In a June 10 editorial, the paper published the following statement:

“The (school) board’s failure at this essential task calls its leadership into question, and will renew calls for legislation to dissolve the elected school board and move to an appointed system.”
Finally, we have A+ Schools – an advocacy organization that at one time championed the same kinds of reforms school directors are trying to enact. However, after a $1 million grant from the Gates Foundation, the group has become a cheerleader for weakening teachers unions, privatization and standardized testing.

Against these special interests stands a public school board and a community at the crossroads. Will they give in to public pressure and big money? Or will they allow Hamlet to do the job he was hired for and attempt to improve an urban district suffering from crippling poverty and state disinvestment?

Since former Governor Bobby Jindal took control of the state education department in Louisiana, there have been numerous battles over access to public information.

The state superintendent appointed by Jindal, ex-TFA Broadie John White, has just made plain that public information is not public.

Mercedes Schneider reports that White has sued a citizen who made the mistake of seeking information from the state education department. Apparently John White doesn’t realize that he works for the public and is paid by the public.

As she says, this is a new low.

Mississippi lawmakers punished the state’s superintendents by defunding their association. This was in retaliation for the superintendents support for Initiative 42, a referendum calling upon the legislature to fund the schools adequately.

 

Mississippi has extreme poverty, and Schools that are underfunded. Imagine the nerve of those superintendents, sticking up for the children!

 

“The move creates an uncertain future for what has traditionally been Mississippi’s most powerful school lobbying group. The long-term power of the association was already in question after lawmakers voted this year to make all superintendents appointive. Traditionally, the elected members of the association, especially those in the state’s largest school districts, have wielded the most political power.

“Initiative 42 would have amended the state Constitution to require the state to provide “an adequate and efficient system of free public schools.” Supporters said it would have blocked lawmakers from being able to spend less than the amount required by Mississippi’s school funding formula, and would have allowed people to sue the state to seek additional money for schools.

“Gov. Phil Bryant and legislative leaders opposed the measure because it could have limited legislative power and transferred some power to judges. They warned that it could have led to budget cuts to other state agencies. Lawmakers placed an alternative measure on the ballot, which made it harder to pass the measure. Voters ultimately rejected any change by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin.”

Martha Bruckner is the President of the National Superintendents’ Roundtable, and she is also the superintendent of schools in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She noted that the presidential candidates were ignoring education but offering many campaign promises. She decided to write an educator’s platform for presidential candidates.

 

A Superintendent’s Presidential Campaign Platform
Inspired by the campaign promises of some of our 2016 Presidential candidates, Roundtable superintendent Martha Bruckner of Council Bluffs, Iowa, writes,

 

 

“Listening to some presidential candidates makes me wonder if school superintendents could do similar things. Just announce what you will do. No plan or work needed!”

 

 

In that spirit, here’s Martha’s campaign platform:
All children will be loved.
No families will live in poverty.
All children will start school on an equal basis, economically and socially, and will be ready (eager) to learn.
All children will read by third grade, and will love reading.
Every child will love middle school and will use those adolescent years to discover his or her best future self.
No students will ever purposefully bully others, and if a student unintentionally hurts another student, classmates will help minimize the hurt and inform the misguided bully.
All students will graduate from high school after a successful 3, 4, or 5 years…whatever is most appropriate for their learning needs and styles.
Student assessment will be fair, multi-faceted, timely, informative, and will help educators discover how to best help each individual child.
Funding for schools will be sufficient.
Every teacher and school leader will be caring, talented, successful, and appropriately rewarded.
Every child will be safe, healthy, engaged, supported, and challenged.

 

 

Jim Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents’ Roundtable responded to Martha’s platform:
Martha has our endorsement! Make America great again – Bruckner 2016!

 

The National Superintendents’ Roundtable is an association composed of experienced educators who rose through the ranks to become superintendents. They tend to represent small to mid-size districts. They are not Broadies. If your district is conducting a search for a new superintendent, contact James Harvey, National Superintendents’ Roundtable, harvey324@earthlink.net