Archives for category: Administrators, superintendents

I am happy to give my personal endorsement to Dr. Jennifer (Jen) Mangrum, who is running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in North Carolina.

Jen has already been endorsed by the Network for Public Education, which concluded that she is far and away the most qualified candidate in the race.

Jen is a career educator who understands the importance of restoring the integrity of public education in what was once the premier state in the South.

She knows that the state’s General Assembly and its current superintendent have not supported public schools or their teachers.

The General Assembly has passed law after law intended to demoralize teachers and harm public schools.

In a  previous election, Jen had the courage to run against the most powerful politician in the state, the one who has led the effort to destroy public schools in the state.

She has proven that she has the knowledge, the experience, the spine and the spirit to run a spirited campaign and to fight for the children, teachers, and public schools of North Carolina.

She has been a classroom teacher and a teacher of teachers. She knows what is needed to lead the state’s school system.

Jen Mangrum understands the importance of attracting and retaining dedicated teachers, and she is committed to improving the public schools of North Carolina.

Her election would be a welcome change from years of toxic policy and state mis-leadership.

I have no doubt that Jen Mangrum would lead the change towards positive policies that is so desperately needed in North Carolina.

Please turn the tide in North Carolina against the politicians who have attacked public schools and their teachers and opened the schools up for profiteers and privatizers.

My many friends in the state support Jen Mangrum for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

I add my endorsement to that of North Carolina Teachers United, which has nearly 40,000 teacher-members.

Early voting starts February 13; the deadline to register to vote is February 7.

Please register and vote.

Please vote for Jen Mangrum.

 

 

NCTU Announces Recommended Candidate for North Carolina State Superintendent

Press Release: 

Mr. Bishay Elshoukarey, Director, Melissa Marie, Communications Manager, with Operation Managers Kristy Elshoukarey and Katherine Harter of  North Carolina Teachers United (NCTU) announced that Dr. Jen Mangrum has been selected as the recommended candidate for North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  A committee of educators, who are members of NCTU, convened and after carefully reviewing each of the questionnaires selected Dr. Mangrum from a field of seven candidates.

 

Dr. Jen Mangrum, an educator for more than 30 years is currently employed by UNC-G in the School of Education as Clinical Associate Professor in Education.  Since she has been at UNC-G, Jen co-founded the STEM Teacher Leader collaborative.  Prior to taking the position at UNC-G, she completed her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction and worked NC State University creating the Elementary Education program and department, where she led it for two years.

 

Both of Mangrum’s parents were educators and she followed in their footsteps.  For twelve years, she served as an elementary teacher in two different North Carolina school districts.  She then became a literacy facilitator where she modeled and coached effective literacy instruction.  During this time she began consulting with the National Paideia Center, which advocates that all learners practice the critical thinking, communication skills, and attitudes necessary to earn a living, be an active citizen, and pursue a meaningful life.

 

“Jen Mangrum is the leader we need as State Superintendent as she is an advocate for teachers, students, and families,” said Melissa Easley. 

 

“It is clear that Dr. Mangrum is totally qualified and the best candidate to be the State Superintendent.  She wants to change the current climate of respect for public education that is prevalent in the current leadership of both the NC Senate and NC House,” added Bishay Elshoukarey. 

 

Dr. Mangum indicated on her questionnaire that she is running to be the State Superintendent because she wants to reverse the current trend to dismantle public education.  She also said, “I want to make our state better for our children and future generations.”

 

The North Carolina Primary Election is March 3, 2020 with early voting beginning on February 13, 2020 and lasting until February 29, 2020.  Voter registration deadline is Friday, February 7, 2020. 

Jere Hochman was most recently the superintendent of the  Bedford Central School district in New York State (his third superintendency). He then became the education advisor to Governor Cuomo, where he seemed to have a calming effect on the governor. He went home to St. Louis and took a position within the school system. He writes here about what he sees as the success of what was once a very troubled school district, threatened from all sides because of low test scores. St. Louis, he writes, is back, even though its population is declining and under-enrolled schools must be closed. State takeovers seldom improve schools. In St. Louis, the story is different, perhaps because of the steadiness of local leadership, which did not try to destroy the school district. Public confidence is on the rebound. He explains why.

 

The Surprising Success of the St. Louis Public Schools

Jere Hochman

December 2019

Startling mismanagement,” “emergency managers,” “charters galore,” “Academic Distress Commissions,” privatization maneuvering, dismal student performance and graduation rates and other descriptors cited in Dr. Ravitch’s blogs have characterized state takeovers including those in Detroit, Houston, Providence, Youngstown and most recently, Rochester.  

In St. Louis, words like “trust,” “direction and focus,” “fiscally responsible and economical stable,” “confidence,” and “accredited” describe the outcomes following a state takeover.  

Last summer, Dr. Ravitch asked me “Why did St. Louis work?”

In 2007, the State of Missouri declared the St. Louis Public Schools “unaccredited.”  A news article summarizing the circumstances cited: “The district was graduating just 56 percent of the students it was supposed to. District leaders were staring down a budget hole more than $24 million deep that had been dug out of a $52 million surplus just five years before. The district would force out or say goodbye to six superintendents in five years. The district was meeting only five of 14 state accreditation standards.” (St. Louis Post Dispatch, January 11, 2017).

 At that time, the school district governance was transferred from an elected board of education to a three-person Special Appointed Board (SAB).  The Mayor, the President of the Board of Alderman, and the Governor each appointed a Board member. Subsequently, and, perhaps their most noteworthy accomplishment, was the SAB’s hiring an outstandingsuperintendent who is still leading the district garnering confidence and results.  

Under the appointed board’s governance and the superintendent’s leadership, the district restored fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets, operational efficiency, and long-term financial stability.  The district achieved state accreditation in 2017.   Among the accomplishments during this period, the district:

Upgraded aging facilities, new science labs, playscapes, and more.
Passed a 75% community majority vote on a $155 Bond Issue and a ballot proposition to support early childhood, safety and security, equipment, character education, and curriculum advancements.
Minimized obstacles of student mobility and homelessness, partnered with dozens of community agency supports; reduced suspensions, and improved student attendance.
Implemented with teacher union support, a plan for first year teachers to be coached and evaluated by fellow full-time “consultant teachers.”
In 2018, the 4-year graduation rate was 78%.  Two and Four-year college entrance rates were on par with the State average.

And, while academic performance improvement afforded re-accreditation, all concur with optimism and determination, there is much work to be done.

 Throughout this intervention process, local control remained intact and stability in governance and district leadership provided growth, capacity, and sound foundation for the future.  Having attained accreditation, on July 1, 2019, governance transitioned from the SAB to an elected seven-person Saint Louis Public Schools Board of Education. 

It Worked.  Why?

When asked, “Why did St. Louis work?” my response was immediate: 1) A temporary appointed board governance model,2) the individuals serving on the three-person board, and 3) the superintendent all under a microscope.  

It worked because the governance model inherently required the board’s unflinching and self-disciplined attention to policy, protocols, and oversight.   The board scrutinized and directed the district’s operations for efficiency, productivity, and accountability. It worked because these board members left their egos at the door, adhered to the model’s roles and expectations, and did their homework.  

 They stayed the course through initial opposition and they stayed, literally.  They served the interests of the children and the district.  They did not jump on the sweeping educational reform bandwagon or allow infiltration of political interests.  Moreover, they cleared the way for their newly hired superintendent, Dr. Kelvin Adams, to lead, to genuinely lead, the school district.

From day one, Dr. Adams provided direction, focus, and disciplined operations.  He exemplified a relentless mission for every students’ success, equity, and accountability and he held all staff to the same standards and expectations.

 There were no promises of a splashy quick fix turnaround or “take no prisoners” authoritarian posturing. (witnessed by short-lived tenure of superintendents and boards in other districts).  Any concerns about a privatization movement, charter takeover, or special interest board seat takeover were alleviated.  Charter schools popped up, however approximately one-third eventually shuttered their doors.  And, today, Dr. Adams continues to serve with stick-to-itiveness, integrity, and sights set on high expectations for students and employees.

In every meeting, the appointed board stuck to protocols and their responsibilities.  Through the challenges, highly scrutinized decisions, and response to concerns, they supported and protected the superintendent to perform his responsibilities.  Were there problems, unsuccessful efforts, and criticism?  Of course.  They were matched, however, with research-based endeavors, “data driven” goals and accountability, confidence-building audits, and determination.

The governance model kept board members focused on what boards are supposed to do which in turn allowed the superintendent to do what superintendents are supposed to do. Which in turn provided clear direction and allowed district leaders and staff, principals, and teachers to do what they are supposed to do.  They did so well.

In addition to continuous academic improvement in the schools, the district worked with local corporate, and agency partners; religious institutions and faith-leaders; on-a-mission employees and the union; necessary watchdogs and critics and wary but caring parents; and innovative local philanthropists, an academically focused Foundation, and numerous support agencies. 

 Now, as the elected Board of Education resumes governance, the St. Louis Public Schools currently enrolls approximately 22,000 students, a decline from approximately 26,000 in 2009 (overall city population has decreased).  There are 17 charter school entities in the city, enrolling approximately 10,000 students..  

This past year, the “new” elected Board of Education immersed themselves in orientation, development, and preparation to resume governance.  Their preparation and determined effort could serve as a model for board orientation in any school district.  Now, they govern a district where there is confidence in the superintendent; academic, operational, and financial stability; a comprehensive Transformation Plan (3.0); and a solid foundation upon which continued academic growth is occurring.  

In a reform world, particularly in an urban district, stability and success are unusual.  Board stability with “constancy of purpose” is uncommon.  A long-term superintendent methodically leading academics and operations particularly is rare.  A superintendent leading deliberately, instilling confidence, and inspiring all around her or him is as rare. 

In all categories, St. Louis is an outlier upon which to build continued success. Whether it was the appointed board governance model and respective roles of the board and superintendent or it was the individuals who filled the positions, or a combination of both (no doubt the latter), it worked. 

(Disclosure:  I am an employee of the district with a unique lens.  After serving as a superintendent in three school districts for 19 years, I serve as a network superintendent in SLPS).

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Newly elected Democratic Governor Andy Beshear kept a campaign promise and threw out the Bevin-appointed state school board. The Bevin board still has unexpired terms and they plan to sue to hold on to their seats. Their state commissioner Wayne Lewis–no friend to public schools or teachers–made clear he will hang on to his position as long as possible.

Governor Beshear named a new board. The old one is heading for the courts.

Fred Klonsky has the story here. 

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.