This is Part 4: Hijacked!
I want to reiterate at this juncture that what is happening in Seattle is a microcosm of what is happening around the country at this time.
When we first discovered the connection that our superintendent had with the Broad Foundation, many of us thought that this was a single episode of happenstance but as we began to dig deeper, it was discovered that this was happening around the country.
The other aspect that concerns me is that the quality of these Broad graduates is not that great. The Broad Foundation recruits people from other fields particularly in business and the military. There are no entrance requirements in terms of experience or interest. No test is taken. It seems to be basically first come first served. The one “quality” of these candidates is that their backgrounds, besides the retired generals, are “average” at best. They do not have stellar resumes. There is nothing that sets them apart from any other candidate. If you look at the background of our superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, she was a special-education teacher and later a principal in the St. Vrain Valley School District which is in Longmont, Colorado, and an assistant superintendent in Corpus Christie, Texas. She attended the Broad’s academy for superintendents in 2003 and was soon after superintendent of the Charleston public school district. For a perspective from parents and school board members in Charleston about Dr. Goodloe-Johnson’s tenure there, see Charleston.
Michelle Rhee, although not a Broad graduate, is the darling of the Broad Foundation and is on the Broad Foundation’s Board of Directors. Rhee has a total of three years experience teaching as a Teach for America recruit and then started her own foundation, The New Teacher Project. And then there is General Tata, a Broad graduate who was recently voted in as superintendent of the Wake County School District. See the side bar below for additional graduates and their less than stellar performances.
It is ironic that Eli Broad demands so much from teachers when his own recruits, with a few exceptions, wouldn’t even qualify to teach in a public school.
In 2007, Dr, Goodloe-Johnson became the superintendent for Seattle Public Schools. She hit the ground running that year. One of the items on her to-do list, the Superintendent’s Entry Plan, was to “Hold a (school) board retreat within the first week to discuss communication processes, policy governance goals and potential work with the Broad Foundation”.
In those early months, she also commissioned a study by the Broad Foundation on communications, basically how she could most effectively communicate her/ Broad message to the public in general. It is described in her Strategic Plan (page 38) that was published in June, 2008.
She then made friends, if she hadn’t already, with Don Nielson who hosted her, Patrick D’Amelio, Executive Director for the Alliance for Education (see Lines of Influence for that connection with Broad and Gates) and Kimberly Mitchell of the Gates Foundation who was the Senior Program Officer for the Gates’ Foundation’s “Education for Washington State” division, at a luncheon given by Harvard Business School Club of the Puget Sound. The topic for the day was The State of Public Education in Seattle: A dialogue with key leaders.
Don Neilson was also busy pushing the Broad/ed reform agenda in his editorial that was published in the Seattle PI in June, 2008 where he broached the subject of teacher certification which was the opening salvo for Teach for America, the “reward of excellence” to teachers and principals, later known as merit or performance pay, termination of teachers or principals by the superintendent, something that the superintendent brought up in 2010 but was not approved, a proposal that she be able to directly fire teachers or principals basically “at will”, control over what is taught in the schools by the superintendent now known as “curriculum alignment” and out-sourcing of services (privatization of services) such as food service, maintenance and Information Technology. There was, of course, also high praise for the Broad-trained superintendent who had not done much of anything at that point.
I would call Don Neilson the point man for Broad during this time. He had been steeped in the Broad way of thinking for several years by now and was strategically beginning to voice the agenda of the ed reformers.
Mr. Neilson was also on the Board of Trustees for the Seattle Foundation, an organization that received $1M last year from the Gates Foundation and whose president, Norman Rice, wrote an op-ed piece that same year during the teachers’ contract negotiations, siding with the superintendent on demanding the acceptance of merit pay and the devaluation of seniority. He was part of a chorus of voices representing Gates funded and Broad backed organizations in Seattle at that time.
In his op-ed, Mr. Rice states, “Research shows that outside of parents, an effective teacher is the most important factor in determining whether children will succeed in school. More than classroom size or curriculum, the teacher makes the biggest difference. It’s time we had teacher evaluation and compensation based on recognizing teachers as a critical factor in every child’s education”. A rather naïve and ill-informed viewpoint on the state of education but this has been the mantra of ed-reform spokespersons in Seattle.
Getting back to 2008, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson accepted a position on the NWEA board of directors early on in her tenure. A position that was not widely announced at the time but proved to be a good move on the part of NWEA. It was announced a year later that the MAP test, the rights to be bought from NWEA for millions of dollars, would be implemented in the Seattle public school system. It was revealed after the vote by the school board to approve buying the rights to the MAP test, that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was on the NWEA Board of Directors. There was an outcry of conflict of interest by the community and she finally stepped down in 2010, albeit reluctantly. Last year the Washington State Auditor’s Office also found Dr. Goodloe-Johnson in violation of the Ethics Code and decreed that it was a conflict of interest for her to sit on the NWEA board.
In 2009 the superintendent closed schools and laid off teachers even though neither action was necessary and ended up being a costly move on her part. This is when many of us as parents and teachers became more actively involved with what was going on with our schools at the district level. The decisions made by the superintendent were not making sense in the context of our community and school populations. We didn’t understand it. Was she completely incompetent or was there something else at play? That’s when we began our research.
We discovered that in 2009, Tom Payzant, the Superintendent in Residence as part of The Broad Superintendents’ Academy, facilitated our superintendent’s evaluation that was to be done by the members of the school board. Needless to say, even though Dr. Goodloe-Johnson had achieved 20% of her goals for that year, she was still awarded “merit pay” or an “incentive bonus” by the board at the end of the year. This “merit pay” was an example, according to one of the board members, of what all teachers should receive if they also do well in their classrooms. This was one of the lamest reasons that I heard for why the board approved a year-end bonus for the superintendent even though we had a budget shortfall that year of $35M and she had fired teachers and closed schools based on that number. She was already making more money than the governor at $264,000 per year along with a car allowance of $700 per month and a $20,000 per year retirement fund investment. The Broad does ensure that their people are well taken care of when they are placed in various school districts. I believe that it also buys allegiance to Eli Broad and his edicts during their tenure.
More parents and teachers were beginning to make the connection between the Broad Foundation and what was happening in our school district and no one liked what they saw. There was an inherent conflict of interest between what Eli Broad envisioned for all schools everywhere and what our needs and strengths were as a community in Seattle. It was not a good fit of any sort and to this day has been a costly venture on both sides with no positive gains or outcome.
In the summer of 2009, several parents and teachers, including myself, met with one of our school board members and voiced our concerns regarding the superintendent being on the Broad Foundation’s Board of Directors. This school board director said that he didn’t think that there was a conflict of interest but we insisted that he and the other board members request a white paper from the superintendent stating her position on the Broad board and how that would not be a conflict of interest. The school board director finally conceded to requesting a white paper but it was never produced.
That same year, the NCTQ came to town hosted by the Alliance for Education. All you need to do is Google NCTQ to see that their arrival in towns and cities around the US is the first shot across the bow in terms of the introduction of ed reform to that school district or state. The NCTQ is about teacher evaluations and their reports become the basis for the introduction of evaluating teachers based on student performance also termed merit pay or performance pay. NCTQ receives money from Gates by way of TR3. That year NCTQ also received money from the Alliance for Education. NCTQ and TR3 refer to teachers as “Human Capitol”. That pretty much sums up how they, including Gates and Broad for that matter, view education and educators in general.
The report that they did put everything in motion in terms of beginning the attack on our local teachers union. The superintendent was to go into negotiations with the teachers the following year and the NCTQ report was the opening salvo.
To be continued.
The less than stellar Broad grads include:
A No-Confidence vote for Broad-trained superintendent Jean- Claude Brizard in Rochester, New York.
Dr. Matthew H. Malone, superintendent of Swampscott Public Schools received a vote of No-Confidence in 2008.
Broad-trained superintendent Deborah Sims received a vote of No-Confidence from the Antioch Teachers’ Union in 2008.
Dr. LaVonne Sheffield, Broad graduate superintendent in Rockfield, sound familiar Seattle? Also a letter from a parent to the superintendent regarding their principal. There’s even a Facebook page on this superintendent.
And my all time favorite, Robert Bobb, the Broad-trained CFO for the Detroit school system who was hired to fix the budget and will be leaving in June with a worse financial picture. He was too busy trying to play CAO rather than CFO.
Upcoming highlights: The 2010 audit, the community’s evaluation of our superintendents performance and the Community Values’ Statement scam.