Archives for category: Administrators, superintendents

Mike Klonsky has some thoughts about why Antwan Wilson, superintendent of schools in Oakland, left his $400,000 a year job to take Kaya Henderson’s job in the District of Columbia.

It can’t be for the money. He will probably earn about the same, maybe more.

Could be because he is a Broadie, and Broadie don’t set down roots in any community.

Must be for the visibility.

The people in D.C. credited him with raising test scores in Oakland, but he was only in Oakland for two years.

He will bring some Broadie ideas with him that folks in D.C. were not expecting, like trying “to dismantle special education.” Although, having weathered nine years of Rhee-Henderson policies of high-stakes testing and privatization, they must have some idea of what they will be getting. More of the same.

Nevada imported a woman named Jana Wilcox Lavin to run its “Achievement School District.” She is not an educator. She has a degree in marketing. The Nevada ASD is modeled on Tennessee’s failed ASD, which took over the state’s lowest performing schools and promised to vault them to the state’s top 25% in only five years and failed to do so (most are still in the bottom 5%). Lavin is employed by the United Way at the same time that she plans for the Nevada ASD. She ran charters in the Tennessee ASD and holds it up as a model. Is this what is called an “urban myth” or is it just a hoax? How many teachers and principals will be fired, how many charters will scoop up millions of dollars, and how many will succeed or fail? Place your bets, folks, it is Nevada.

Angie Sullivan, who teaches in a low-income school in Clark County (Las Vegas) writes:

The unfairness of the Achievement School District law became crystal clear during a discussion with Jana Wilcox Lavin.

The law requires a list which includes the under-performing schools in the bottom 5%.

It is apparent that Nevada’s under-performing schools are mainly charters and rural schools. 70% of the under-performing Nevada schools are charters and rural schools.

However the law ONLY allows a public school to be selected for charter take-over.

Severely underperforming charters are not allowed to be taken over by the Achievement School District.

This law is a direct attack on public schools while obviously ignoring the cancerous and tragic Nevada charters.

Also, rural schools which fill the under-performing list will most likely never be selected because there simply is zero appetite by charter schools to take over a rural school. This made me laugh inside to learn -having grown up in the rural communities of Lovelock, Winnemucca, and McDermitt. I would love to see an outsider go into those places and take over the school. I picture the community chasing the outsider out of town with a shotgun.

We also had a frank discussion about the alternative schools – 3 are on the list. These schools fill a specific need in our communities. Desert Oasis for instance is actually a school which serves a unique community of high school students and adult students. Teachers there teach could teach a 90 year old adult student in the same classroom as a 16 year old student. While the data looks terrible for this school, the school is likely to be the most effective we have at actually graduating students. Literally no other school serves the communities Desert Oasis takes on. The Desert Oasis teacher who attended the BEC meeting spoke about helping a student graduate who lied about his age to serve in the American Military during World War II.

For obvious reasons, Jana Wilcox Lavin will be looking into the possibility of the Nevada State School Board moving the Alternative Schools onto a different system because it is not appropriate to grade them as we currently do or include them on this list.

We had a frank discussion about the lists.

Apparently the multiple failure lists which caused 6,000 teachers to panic were produced by CCSD. I’m not exactly sure who or why this destruction and disruption occurs year after year. I would like to investigate this further and ask for the resignation of whomever takes on this task of scaring 140 school staffs – unnecessarily. Media needs to be aware of this scare tactic. Next year, when these lists are published, we all need to ask frankly if it is a “real” list or a scare tactic by the district. If it is not the “real” list – teachers need to stand against this harassment.

Frankly, CCSD blames the Nevada State School Board, I have asked during multiple interviews. Jana Wilcox Lavin stated the only list she has created is the under-performing 5% as required by legislators. And a Nevada State School Board member claims their hands are tied by the legislators.

Everyone blames someone else while public school teachers are bullied and threatened.

Bottom line: There is a list of 47 underperforming schools but the only schools seriously being considered are the 17 regular public schools in Vegas within the urban core. 30% of the schools are targeted. And it will most likely be Limited English Language students who will have their schools taken over.

Nothing will be done about the numerous charters which have extreme failing track records.

Nothing will be done about failing rural schools.

It will be brown children in Vegas with limited English who will be experimented on by the Achievement School District.

Jana Wilcox Lavin claimed the Achievement School District has been successful other places. I have read thousands of pages of University research which refute those claims. I regularly communicate with activist teachers all over the nation who refute those claims.

I follow this unfair and wasteful charter movement very closely – the success of charters nationwide has been very, very limited. The success of charters in Nevada is almost zero. As I have noted, Nevada charters are best at segregation by race, money, and religion.

This is the most blatantly unfair privatization legislation ever implemented. It targets ONLY public schools in urban Vegas and blatantly ignores all the other school failures in the state.

This law is not about helping Nevada kids. It is about public school privatization.

And a very wise BEC Meeting attendee stated: No one ever considers how many bodies will be damaged as we make these changes.

I am tired of being one of the bodies.

No one in power listens to the people directly affected. Teachers, Parents, and Students have zero voice.

Communities which do not want their neighborhood school to participate in this unfair take-over need to stand up for their schools – like West Prep and Tom Williams.



The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Indiana) endorsed State Superintendent Glenda Ritz for re-election.

I add my strong support for Ritz, who has shown courage, integrity, and vision on behalf of the children of Indiana, even as Governor Pence and his allies have kept up a relentless attack on public schools and on Ritz personally.

The editorial says:

“In a year [2012] that saw sweeping Republican victories in Indiana, more than 1.3 million Hoosiers chose Democrat Glenda Ritz for state superintendent. No clearer repudiation of the state’s direction in education policy – school choice, high-stakes testing, Common Core, punitive school letter grades – could be found than in the resounding 2012 defeat of Superintendent Tony Bennett, the face of so-called education reform.

“But newly elected Gov. Mike Pence, the GOP-controlled General Assembly and deep-pocketed reform supporters did not get the message. They immediately set to work to diminish Ritz’s authority – at one point establishing a shadow education agency to undermine her work. The state superintendent has spent much of the past four years battling their obstructive efforts, but she delivered on her pledge to challenge the direction Indiana’s public schools were being taken. Today, Ritz remains the best candidate to prevent development of a two-tier system: private schools allowed to choose their own students and public schools left with fewer resources to serve everyone else. She’s best positioned to finally move to a student-centered testing system and to serve as a check on a voucher program with few safeguards.

“Republican Jennifer McCormick, superintendent of Yorktown Community Schools, has a solid record of serving students and public schools. But her promise to put students before politics is diminished by the tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions she’s accepted from the very individuals and interest groups determined to steer money from public schools for private benefit….

“Ritz, a former school media specialist, defends her record, noting improvements in performance at nearly 200 schools targeted for assistance; supporting student success in career and technical education; an increased number of school safety specialists; continuing focus on family literacy; and a strategy to address a growing teacher shortage.

“The reason I speak about outreach so much is because that’s what my job is really about – serving kids in our schools, making sure they get what they need,” she said. “Where people say they have a perception I don’t work with somebody? I work with everybody. That’s the only way I can move things forward.”

“McCormick pledges to improve communication, which she argues is “very splintered, not real timely and not very manageable to try to find what you’re being told.”

“I would argue we don’t have a lot of real leadership at the (Department of Education) to give us the guidance that would be necessary for superintendents and principals and educators,” she said.

“It’s a valid complaint confirmed by other administrators, but it also ignores the full-court defense Ritz has been forced to employ. She would benefit in a second term from appointing an unofficial cabinet of advisers – retired administrators and teachers who can suggest ways to improve procedures for local school districts, particularly in improving the state’s testing program.

“As a district superintendent, McCormick might be better prepared for administrative duties, but she is not prepared for the inevitable political forces. As of Wednesday, she had accepted more than $195,000 – more than two-thirds of her total contributions – from school choice advocates. Some are the same donors who backed Bennett four years ago. The same legislators responsible for laws harmful to public education will return to the Statehouse in January.

“To ensure the votes they cast in 2012 continue to protect Indiana’s public schools and place students first, Hoosiers should choose Ritz once again.”

Dr. Michael Haynes, the bold and fearless leader of the Patchigue-Medford school district on Long Island in New York State, has called on his fellow superintendents to join him in fighting misguided and harmful “reforms.’

New York School Superintendents: What Side Are You On?

Michael Hynes

Patchogue-Medford School District

“The school reform debate is reaching a super crescendo. The latest wake-up call from the U.S. Department of Education highlights the fact that we are running out of time to the stop the imprudent attempts of reformers to make the case that public schools need to be fixed by them. By them… I mean both educators and businessmen and women who believe they know the answer(s).

“U.S. Secretary of Education’s John King’s latest unchildfriendly (that’s a new word) doubling down on the importance of standardized tests tells me he is unfit for this office. Secretary King is not only bad for students, he is terrible for teachers and principals as well. The man has zero business leading the nation’s public schools. To think the U.S. Department of Education will now look to hold teacher preparation programs (TPPs) accountable for how their teacher graduates perform as teachers merely based on their students’ success on standardized tests… it begs the question, when will the insanity end?

“There is no better time to finally draw a line in the sand and come together as the educational leaders of our school communities and say enough is enough. We are done with the scare tactics. We are done with the threats and we are done with the reformers holding our children and educators hostage.

“Make no mistake: this will trickle down to all 50 State Education Departments and impact our newest and brightest teachers. Sadly, it reinforces the reformers’ notion that standardized test scores are what’s most important because children and adults are merely widgets and numbers. The real numbers reformers care about is the $621 billion (with a b!) per year endeavor they stand to make.

“I challenge our school superintendents to publicly denounce this latest atrocity to our school system by Secretary King. We must stand together and declare enough is enough. Now is time to choose sides.

“Are you on the side of reformers who at every turn want to increase charter schools (at the public schools expense) and myopically over emphasize tests scores and weaken unions? Or are you on the side of public school advocates who fight for equity and opportunities for all students?

“New York Superintendents, let us collectively create a thunderclap response. The Council of School Superintendents should finally do something provocative and proactive by making a public service announcement asking King to step down. Tell our NY U.S. Senators we have a vote of no confidence for John King. That would be a first.

“Let me make this crystal clear to all school reformers out there…socio-economic status is the most relevant determinant of student success in school. The problem is you already know that.”

The Metro Nashville School Board was hurried into picking a new school director and doing it fast. The number of candidates were few, the search was hurried, and the choice of Dr. Shawn Joseph is turning into a major embarrassment. Dr. Joseph, it turns out, is embroiled in a major controversy in his previous district, but apparently no one had time to check that out.

Public school parent and blogger T.C. Weber tells the whole sordid story here.

Nashville just went through a bitter election contest in which voters made clear that they want good public schools, not privatization. The school board can’t afford to squander the public’s confidence by letting the new director run roughshod over the elected board. The board is in charge; Dr. Joseph works for them. They are his employer.

Nashville didn’t want a corporate reformer, but made the mistake of hiring an autocratic, power-hungry, tone-deaf bureaucrat.

If the elected board can’t straighten out this mess and revise Dr. Joseph’s contract to assure that he works for the board–the board does not work for him–then it’s time to cut their losses and terminate his contract. Don’t accept excuses for his wasteful spending, his ill-advised hires, his importing of the same aides involved in the scandal in Prince George’s County. If he won’t comply, say goodbye. It’s imperative to admit it when you have made a mistake. Cut your losses sooner rather than later.

Fire whatever search service you used. There are others who can identify superintendents who have served with honor and integrity. Take the time to do it right.

The superintendent of schools in Madison, Connecticut, is Tom Scarice. He is already on the honor roll of this blog because he speaks out for good education, not corporate reform.

In this interview, he is clear about what schools should do.

This is the opening of a wonderful interview:

CTViewpoints: Assuming for a moment that these scores are meaningful, (not everyone thinks so) shouldn’t we be outraged and alarmed that only about half our children are making the grade?

Scarice: Perhaps the biggest problem is that we’re having the wrong conversation, from our current presidential candidates right down through education advocates, bureaucrats, etc.

I believe that chasing test scores is not only fool’s gold, but it will clearly not prepare our kids for the world they will enter when they leave our K-12 schools. In fact, chasing test scores, especially invalid ones like the SBAC, prepares kids for a completely different era, one that vanished decades ago. Automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data will continue to transform the job market, leaving millions without utility, unless they are prepared to take on the jobs that machines cannot perform.

This reality, and the future problems our children will face, necessitates combining rich academic content with the development of deep analytical and critical thinking, and perhaps more importantly, boundless divergent and creative thinking. Students also need authentic experience in developing collective intelligence, learning from and working with others.

No one works alone. Perhaps most importantly, students need to apply their learning to novel situations. There is not one stitch of usefulness in the SBAC with regards to giving us this information — the most important information — on student performance in these essential capacities. In fact, the part of the SBAC intended to measure application of learning was removed. Yet the scores erroneously take center stage in assessing school quality.

There isn’t one piece of reputable research indicating that SBAC measures anything other than maybe family wealth. In fact, CT State Department of Education literature, referred to as the SBAC “Interpretive Guide,” states that, “characterizing a student’s achievement solely in terms of falling in one of four categories is an oversimplification.” Essentially, the “box score” of test scores that gets published every August lacks meaning and usefulness, but, most importantly, it lacks validity.

Yet, million dollar decisions are made based on those scores, and educators around the state sadly get wrapped around the “test score axle,” compelled to chase higher scores, trapped in a flawed system.

However, there is one thing that the SBAC “box scores” do provide, something that the public has an insatiable appetite for, and that is misleading rankings, sorting, charts, winners/losers, top ten lists, etc.

What we should be outraged and alarmed about is the fact that states are participating in this testing consortium, voluntarily and willingly, spending millions of dollars for meaningless tests, the results of which are purported to gauge student learning and – stunningly – misused to assess teacher competence and school quality, which this test, or any test, simply cannot do.

The misuse of test scores has stained a generation of public education by conflating our goals with our measures and distorting the teaching and learning of millions of children.

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.

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?