I was going back through some old e-mails preparing to write an article and came across correspondence that I had with some people in Charleston in early 2009. Several of us were trying to figure out at that time why our superintendent was making certain decisions about closing schools. The reasons given by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson were not logical and defied not only common knowledge but census statistics and reports provided and paid for by the Seattle Public School district.
During those few weeks of correspondence, we first heard about the Broad Foundation. That information took us to the Broad’s agenda of charter schools and back to Dr. Goodloe-Johnson who we discovered was a graduate of the Broad Academy of Superintendents and at the time on the Board of Directors of the Broad Foundation.
To follow are excerpts not only about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson but also about one of the two people who she brought with her from Charleston, Don Kennedy, our Chief Financial Officer.
These correspondences are from two parents and one former school board director.
The first communication that I received in January of 2009 was from a parent who had received my forwarded e-mail requesting information about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson:
“Wow! And it hasn’t even been 2 years yet. And I initially supported both MGJ and her replacement, Nancy McGinley, until I saw how focused each was on themselves and not on the people they purported to be most concerned about. To them students and teachers are widgets. School communities are political factions to be controlled and manipulated. Buildings are merely liquid assets on which to speculate or used to curry favor with developers and vendors.
—— forwarded your message regarding what’s happening here now that MGJ and company have moved on to better “pickings”. I don’t know what’s worse: to watch our schools be gutted as those in power flaunt it in public (MGJ) or watch our schools be gutted by her protégé as those in power do it behind everyone’s back. In the end it’s still a paper chase designed to grade and promote administrators while continuing to fail a majority of students (and teachers) at all levels. The ax just fell on 5 schools here with no plan yet to address the displacements.
Kennedy is something else. He can’t be trusted to explain his own budget proposals. Ask him a direct question and you will not usually get a direct answer. He appeared to be a team player that always did what he was told. He’s big on power point budget displays and liked to use overly simplified explanations for why every budget issue is someone else’s fault. No layman and probably few accountants could make heads or tails of his consolidated budget for 80 schools. To most board members it was a case of the Emperor’s new clothes. The majority of the board didn’t appear to know what to ask. Even the board’s lone member who was a CPA figured out a year after the fact that the administration including Kennedy as the CFO had failed to properly reduce the local school tax mileage rate following a regularly scheduled county-wide reassessment. Kennedy effectively arranged a 30% tax increase all the while claiming taxes were lower since the mileage rate had been decreased. He demonstrated on that one issue that he could be either incredibly deceptive or incredibly stupid.
MGJ was right about one thing. She said our school system was run like a plantation. She should know because she proved herself to be a pretty ruthless overseer. Her successor is following much the same course only MGJ’s “Plan for Excellence” has been renamed “Excellence is Our Standard” with the same goal: achieve “average” by 2010. So much for excellence and closing the achievement gap for thousands of individual students.
Parents here weren’t so blind not to see what was happening when MGJ and her CAO closed one failing school only to merge its’ students into another failing school without improving student instruction or the curriculum for any of the students involved. They took credit for reducing the total number of failing schools by two. One disappeared and the other “started over” as a “reconstituted” school. It would have to fail for 2 years in a row before being called a failing school again in the 3rd year. That’s exactly what happened. SPS and CCSD must be using the same play book.
That’s enough for now. If you want more, let me know.
Some of us read your SaveSeattleSchools blog and continue to draw valuable information from you. The situations are remarkably similar. I, for one, would want to compare what our two legislatures are doing to either fix or add to the problems.”
And then this e-mail from a school board member:
“I was a member of the Charleston County School Board during the time Goodloe-Johnson and Don Kennedy were here. I found Don to be a pleasant man, but he has an allegiance to G-J that is frightening. However, I think you could attribute that more to her than him. She is a very demanding person. She operates more out of intimidation that anything. I don’t think Mr. Kennedy has enough experience to be the CFO of a school district, but he does have significant knowledge about budgets – just not one for the school district.
If you allow “them” to continue, Seattle Schools will soon be bankrupt. That’s basically how they left Charleston. During their time here our budget went to up over 90 million in four years and we went from 5 failing schools to 27. G-J operates like a dictator, not someone willing to work with parents for the improvement of public education. And in reality, she has very little in the way of real experience.
I hear that you are closing/consolidating schools too. While there is a budget crunch in SC, we are the only district doing closing schools; so one can only believe it is Broad Foundation oriented. The schools slated for closure have been notified to us by Federal standards to need restructuring because of their continued failure. That is a nice way to change your scoring on state and federal report cards. Once they are closed, our district will automatically make a jump on the improvement end of the score; so it will make our (your) superintendent look better. Education will not have changed for the better, but how the district looks will.
I wish you luck in your school district; you will need it. G-J caused more dissension in this community than any leader in Charleston County. The lack of trust is still palpable because our citizens fear trusting the leaders who blindly supported G-J. She is a one woman wrecking crew. Cross her in a negative way and she will run over you. Demand results and she will leave.”
I asked one of the respondents why Dr. Goodloe-Johnson left Charleston, was it because she was fired or did she think that the grass was greener in Seattle? This is what she wrote:
“No, she finally had her super majority vote with that recent election so things were going her way. But, the state report cards were coming out soon and she had the preliminary ones that showed us finally going to a complete unsatisfactory rating and going from 17 failing schools to 27. I guess she wanted to leave on her own will rather than face this town after she had her scores revealed. Everyone was stunned when she decided to leave because she literally had everything her way, until the stats came out.
Listen, no one can conceive how she ran things. She got her automobile allowance increased, then bought a Mercedes. She had a cell phone the district paid for in her Mother’s name. She hired principals without going through the board and then said what do you want me to do fire them? After the first 8 or 9 times, it was inexcusable. She raised salaries without bringing it to the board for approval. But, when she didn’t get her way she would go to the Mayor. She paid for her flight to her wedding on the district credit card.”
Wow, déjà vu all over again.
And then from another parent:
“Goodloe Johnson was famous for making presentations to our board with statistics that no one could trace. She would give state scores but they didn’t match the actual state’s scores… G-J had a statistician here that we weren’t allow to question. She would come into a meeting and say here are the facts, believe them. That is when I lost confidence in Don Kennedy. If you asked him a question, he would look at her first to see if it was okay to speak.
My heart aches for you guys. You are good, engaged parents and probably feel left out on a windy corner with leadership. I didn’t realize until it was too late that G-J’s entire top staff that she hired had an affiliation to the Broad Institute. I also didn’t know that the “Headhunter” that brought her to us, is the same one that scouted her for Seattle. And, of course, he is affiliated with the Broad Foundation too.”
So there you have it, a little history of our superintendent and her crew in Charleston, South Carolina.
See any similarities?
And a final question. Why didn’t our school board members do at least a cursory amount of research on our present superintendent before hiring her?