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The True Legacy of Seattle’s Fired (Broad Academy) Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson

For the Record…

It looks like the Broad Foundation is actively trying to whitewash the history of their Superintendent Academy graduate, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, who was fired by the Seattle School Board earlier this month along with her handpicked CFO, Don Kennedy, for her failure to address a rampant case of fraud happening within the district’s central office.

The District Administration magazine web site has just published a defense of Goodloe-Johnson written by Tom Payzant (dutifully echoed by the Seattle Times’ Lynn Varner).  Though he fails to mention it, Payzant is directly connected to the Broad Foundation which trained Goodloe Johnson – in fact, Payzant is the “Superintendent in Residence at the Broad Superintendents Academy.” He also made a trip to Seattle in 2009 to oversee Goodloe-Johnson’s job performance review. (Why the Seattle school district itself couldn’t review its own employee, but instead  allowed this obvious biased assessment is baffling.)

Maybe the Broad Foundation is trying to salvage its investment. After all, it got one of  its trainees placed as school superintendent in Seattle, which does not have a faltering school system (Broad’s usual target), but is the backyard of fellow corporate ed reformer Bill Gates. Perhaps Broad thought Goodloe-Johnson would be part of  a one-two punch in a Broad-Gates conquest of Seattle’s public schools. Broad is apparently reluctant to erase Seattle from its national map of “Fellows.”

As parents over at the Seattle Schools Community Blog (“Revisionist History at Work”) are noting, Payzant’s command of the facts is deeply lacking. In fact, his little account of Goodloe-Johnson’s abbreviated Seattle tenure is full of lies.

One parent apparently asked him to provide the data to back up the outrageous claims he is making about Goodloe-Johnson’s alleged success rate in SPS. Because, those of us who are actually in Seattle have seen nothing but churn, cuts, hypocrisy and scandal from Payzant’s trainee, Goodloe-Johnson. Payzant claims his info came from the Broad Foundation itself (that closed-circuit again) which keeps track of how its superintendents perform. Isn’t it funny how none of us in Seattle with kids in the schools know about these great results Broad claims their superintendent had here?  What we do know, however, is how unreliable Broad Foundation staff data is.

Goodloe-Johnson herself has also been doing her part, from afar (she went to South Carolina before the scandal broke a month ago and has never returned), belatedly phoning in interviews, a late, tepid apology and her own spin on what went on in the Pottergate scandal.

She claims no guilt in the matter and unblinkingly claimed all $264,000 plus benefits of her severance package, knowing full well that meanwhile the district is cutting counselors and overcrowding schools because of a financial crisis here. “I have a contract,” she blandly told King-5 TV in an interview. This may be true, but she also had a responsibility to our district to deliver ethical and constructive leadership in exchange for that salary. And to stick around during one of the biggest crises the district has faced in years.

Like Payzant, Goodloe-Johnson also has an uncanny flair for fiction. One need only look to the “Seattle Speaks”education  forum from last month (which Goodloe-Johnson ducked out of at the last minute) to see that her expensive and disruptive “Strategic Plan” has been widely deemed a failure. Even former School Board President Michael DeBell admitted that the results were not there.

Though here at Seattle Ed 2010 we’ve compiled various laundry lists of Goodloe-Johnson’s dubious achievements in Seattle before, in light of Mr. Payzant’s misleading rewrite of our local history, and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson’s own hazy recollection of the facts, here’s one more list, for the record.

Highlights from Goodloe-Johnson’s Failed and Abbreviated tenure as Seattle’s School Superintendent

Damning state audit. On Goodloe-Johnson’s watch, the Seattle School District was cited with multiple violations by state auditors for gross mismanagement of district resources. The board was also cited for failure to manage the superintendent.

Goodloe-Johnson was also singled out by the state auditor for misusing the district credit card to throw a party for 100 people at a cost of $7,000. (At the same time she was laying off teachers and telling the parents and community the district had no money.)

She was also cited for an ethics violation, which leads to…

The MAP® test Boondoggle & Ethics Violation/Conflict of Interest. The cash-strapped district has spent as much $10 million on a questionable thrice-yearly test bought in a no-bid contract from a vendor on whose board (Northwest Evaluation Association) Goodloe-Johnson sat at the time of purchase, which she failed to publicly disclose. She was later cited for this infraction by the state auditor which called this a conflict of interest/ethics breach.  (See: Seattle School Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s ongoing conflicts of interest)

Teachers Overwhelmingly Vote “No Confidence” in Goodloe-Johnson. Perhaps buoyed by the anti-teacher fervor of her benefactors, Eli Broad and Bill Gates, Goodloe-Johnson developed a poisonous relationship with teachers, in no small part because of her repeated attempts to bypass state labor laws and her bad faith contract negotiation efforts. (She nearly scuttled the teacher contract negotiations last summer by suddenly springing an unacceptable “SERVE” proposal on the table.) As well as RIFing teachers on “Teacher Appreciation Week,” she pushed to allow novice college grads of the Teach for America, Inc. program to teach in the district’s Title 1 schools, further demoralizing the districts’ fully credentialed teachers. Then she imposed a policy in which the MAP test is now being misused to evaluate teachers.  All of this created a toxic environment in the district in which teachers felt disrespected. This resulted in a near-unanimous No Confidence vote in the superintendent from the teacher’s union and 12 schools (plus a community-wide petition) in the fall of 2010. Clearly this was an untenable situation. Goodloe-Johnson’s imperious treatment of the district’s teachers was part of her own undoing, and belies any comments she has ever made about how much she respects teachers or ever considered them her “colleagues.”

Capacity (Mis)management Plan & School Closures. In 2009 Goodloe-Johnson closed five schools to allegedly save $3.5 million a year only to announce seven months later the reopening of five schools at a cost of $48 million.

She seriously miscalculated enrollment needs and demographic trends in the district. Enrollment has increased in Seattle. The school closures and teacher layoffs have made no sense in light of these trends. The district is now riddled with overcrowding, while some schools remain stubbornly underenrolled. Clearly Goodloe-Johnson’s “Capacity Management Plan” was a failure.

Botched New Student Assignment Plan (NSAP). Thanks to the NSAP (for which the board gave her praise and another extension) and gerrymandered boundaries, the district’s arguably top, award-winning high school, Garfield High School is seriously overcrowded this school year, basically debilitating the school for the first weeks of the year as the district rushed to hire new teachers, with students waiting in hallways for class assignments.

Goodloe-Johnson proposed lowering the graduation requirement to a D average from a C. Much community protest put the kibosh on that plan.

On her watch, the district failed to apply for grants for the Native American student program, losing money.

A Tenure of Scandals

The brand new New School at South Shore that was built in record time for $69 million, had to be closed for half the school year owing to mysterious noxious fumes that made teachers and students ill. Some wondered if the building had been constructed too quickly and evacuated too slowly.

Pottergate. Employee Silas Potter ran a fraudulent operation from inside district headquarters that wasted at least $1.8 million of district funds. Goodloe-Johnson was apprised of problems with the operation as early as December 2008. Instead of addressing the issue outright, she allegedly advised her staffer Fred Stephens not to share the information with the school board. This apparent cover-up is what ultimately led to her firing earlier this month. A criminal investigation is underway.

Superintendent’s “Merit pay” bonus debacle. Under her leadership, the district met only 4 out of 17 performance goals, yet she was rewarded by the school board with a $5,280 “incentive pay” bonus, again over much public outcry. Even the superintendent’s supporter, the Seattle Times, opposed it (Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson: Tis not the season for a bonus.”) The superintendent was then shamed into saying she would donate her bonus to charity.

Arbitrary & Capricious. Goodloe-Johnson supported the adoption of the controversial and flawed high school math text book, Discovering Math series. A group of parents, teachers and UW Professor Cliff Mass appealed the decision and the judge ruled in their favor, calling the district’s decision “arbitrary and capricious.” The judge also found that the district failed to submit evidence — as much as  200 pages of public testimony and e-mails — opposing the textbook.

17 Percentgate. (Beware of Broad Residents bearing false data.) On Goodloe-Johnson’s watch, the Seattle School District also suffered another embarrassment and outrage, dubbed “17 Percentgate” in the blogosphere. School district employee Brad Bernatek (another embed from the Broad Foundation) concocted an inaccurately low number of 17 percent to represent how many Seattle high school grads are college ready. For about two years, this false number was used to shock and awe the community and organizations to believe our district was in crisis, and to support Goodloe-Johnson’s Strategic Plan for action. The true number, it was revealed by the Seattle Time’s Linda Shaw in a “Truth Needle” report, was actually 46 percent. Goodloe-Johnson and others knew the truth sooner but failed to reveal that in a timely manner. Another report was released last week that revised the number even further up to 63 percent.


“I don’t lose sleep.” – School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Seattle Times, June 2009.


Goodloe-Johnson disenfranchised parents. She was repeatedly cited for her poor communication skills – even the district acknowledged this in her annual reviews and her seeming icy indifference to the human consequences of her allegedly “data-based” policies and “reforms.” This sentiment was famously captured in her quote to a Seattle Times reporter when asked about whether closing schools and uprooting thousands of schoolkids was a difficult decision for her to make: “What you need to know about me is that I don’t lose sleep.”

This “let them eat cake” attitude eventually soured many parents against this superintendent. (Interestingly, the Broad Foundation still has this article posted on its site, so apparently this kind of autocratic tone-deaf management style is okay with them. If so, I predict more dots will disappear from their superintendent conquest map because this kind of leadership does not sit well with parents or teachers.)

Finally, as a Seattle Public Schools parent whose children and community have been deeply – and negatively — affected by Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s policies and failed leadership, I find it offensive to read someone like Tom Payzant over at Harvard and Broad say what he thinks my children need.

Apparently he thinks Goodloe-Johnson’s endless churn, ed reform agenda and bad decisions were “right” for our children to “improve.” Well, I can cite hundreds of children who were doing better before Goodloe-Johnson came here and imposed her failed “Strategic Plan.” Kids who were not evicted from their schools, who did not have their schools split in half, who did not lose their teachers to unnecessary layoffs, who did not lose their counselors or librarians, who did not get barred from their school library three months of the year because of the costly and questionable MAP test, who were not subjected to standardized, high stakes tests four times a year, who had transportation to the school of their choice which allowed for greater diversity  in our schools, whose teachers did not live in fear of losing their jobs over a student test result.

Tom Payzant has no right to speak for the children of Seattle.

“Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was willing to make the tough decisions I think were right for Seattle’s children to improve,” wrote Payzant.

No, the community and finally the school board of Seattle was willing to make the right decision for Seattle’s children to can Goodloe-Johnson.

–Sue p.

Seattle School Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s ongoing conflicts of interest

12 comments on “The True Legacy of Seattle’s Fired (Broad Academy) Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson

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  3. Kathy
    March 31, 2011

    We are going through the same thing in Rockford, IL. Our superintendent, a Broad graduate, has stated that our city is the most racist she has ever seen. She has closed 6 schools and stated that even if we do get approved for the Early Childhood grant she won’t accept it because she’s afraid the state of IL won’t pay up. If she doesn’t accept the grant, then the district will not be able to get it again. She fired 564 certified nontenured staff and 29 tenured staff. The majority of the schools she closed were good schools. One of the elementary schools is the third highest scoring school in our district. She has also fired 50 some administrators at the building level. It’s crazy. I feel horrible for the children. They are heartbroken to be losing their schools, teachers, and friends.

  4. Sandi Engelman
    March 29, 2011

    Nice to hear from you again Dora. I enjoyed talking with you before. It is strange how “some” will just follow and not do their homework. But, I must add, when I interviewed G-J in Corpus Christi she would have won an academy award with her performance. But, I had never heard of The Broad at that time. After The Broad took more power than our elected board it was visibly apparent that we had made a serious mistake. But, now you guys are rid of her and with involved parent leaders like yourself, you can keep your board from making that mistake again. Wishing you great success in your search. You live in a beautiful environment and deserve excellance in education. It benefits your city. Our city is still reeling from the mess she caused but we also still have a Broad Fellow as our superintendent so we are still going down the wrong path.

  5. Sandi Engelman
    March 28, 2011

    I think Maria Goodloe Johnson told us everything we needed to know about her when she left Charleston for Seattle just weeks ahead of the release of the US scoring of schools. She said we were “the most racist town she has lived in”. When Goodloe-Johnson came to town there were billboards everywhere welcoming Dr. Goodloe and constant receptions welcoming her. I think the racist is the one calling the kettle black. But, her racism is unique. Her “racism” is anyone that disagreed with her was racist. It had nothing to do with ethnicity. Be thankful she is gone before she can do more damage to your funding and education of your students. Now, just hope the Broad Foundation can’t find anyone else to take her. I bet you had no idea when you hired her that her “real boss” was The Broad Foundation.

    • seattleducation2010
      March 28, 2011


      There were two board members at the time of Goodloe-Johnson’s interview who were adamant that they did not want to hire a Broad superintendent so I would say that Goodloe-Johnson being on the board of directors of the Broad Foundation didn’t make it to her resume.

      But, to this day I wonder why they didn’t at least do a Google search before hiring her.

      I do have a feeling that one of the members was very aware of her ties with Broad because of his relationship to Don Nielson who had established ties with Broad a few years before G-J’s arrival. I chronicle that in The Battle for Seattle.

      When G-J first got to Seattle, because we all try to be sooo politically correct in this town, no one wanted to say anything negative about her, being concerned that they might appear to be racist so everyone was walking on eggs until some of us start speaking out. Then it was all over. It just took a few voices to start the chorus.

      It is a relief that she is gone and most the Broadies that she hired during her tenure, all except one, are gone as well.

      Now is the time for us to repair the damage and move on. The one good thing that GJ did was bring us together as a community. Many parents, teachers and concerned members of the community from different neighborhoods. programs and schools have gotten to know each other and are organized.

      Sue and I decided to keep a record on this website of our former supe’s actions in Seattle as a Broad superintendent so that others hopefully will not make the same mistakes that our board did and NOT hire a superintendent that the Broad Foundation sends their way. But if they do, the community will know how to handle the situation. More to come on that.


  6. David Engelman
    March 28, 2011

    My wife, Sandi, and I both served on the Charleston County School Board during Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s tenure.

    I served on the Charleston County School Board from 2004-2008. During an Executive Session, the former-Superintendent dismissed Winston Churchill as, “… nothing more than a drunk,” furthering the “conversation” by adding, “The World War II generation was racist.”

    Within our population, there exists a woefully uninformed and inexperienced top-tier. A mouthy, attitudinal lot, the vast majority of these people think they are exceedingly bright, progressively shaping an America based on entitlement – a reflection of their personal prejudices, misconceptions and ignorance.

    Less than 1 percent of Americans have served in the military. But many “Americans” who have no “skin in the game” feel perfectly justified in denigrating those who pay for their freedom. Our dying World War II veterans have told us, “This is not the country I fought for.” We should pay attention to them.

    As we are “forced” to embrace the Global Economy (Gates, Buffett and the Waltons), Americans might want to note that we have succeeded in utilizing less than 30 percent of the workforce and under-employing 20 percent of the rest. About 28 per cent of Americans earn college degrees and the on-time graduation rate (going from 9th grade to 12th grade in four years) in our public education system ranges from 33 to 71 percent across America.

    One-quarter of high school graduates trying to enlist in the military fail entrance exams; unable to answer basic reading, science and math questions. And three quarters of those aged 17 to 24 don’t qualify because they didn’t graduate high school, have a criminal record or are physically unfit. This is the legacy of the influence provided public education by the U.S. Department of Education, the Broad, Gates, and educators like Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson.

    I wonder if our Economists will continue to favor free trade when their jobs are out-sourced for about four bucks an hour, or what a Ph.D. earns in India?

    Free Trade and Wall Street do further the interests of global giants like Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Gillette. But Wall Street represents America’s elite – not Main Street. 89 percent of Fortune 500 companies are run by graduates of the 8 Ivy League Schools. It’s their world; we just live in it.

    No matter how fast or how much we communicate, exchange or secure information; information technology is administrative in nature – little more than what used to be the paperwork supporting endeavors that should be based on manufacturing. America needs to remember the importance of making things. A superpower that loses its’ manufacturing capability will not long be a superpower.

    It is unity – not diversity – upon which this country is built. That’s why we call it the United States of America. Support for Goodloe-Johnson speaks more to our ignorance as an electorate than it does to her arrogance. A house divided…

  7. HomeinRockfordIL
    March 27, 2011

    Reading this article is like reading what is happening to us right here in Rockford, Illinois with our very own Broad superintendent, LaVonne Sheffield. All one would need to do is change up a couple of character names and the story reads the same. Our superintendent is in the process of destroying our district. These Broad people are scary at best, harmful to children at worst.

  8. seattleducation2010
    March 26, 2011

    Many students in Seattle also lost Title 1 funds.

    First Goodloe-Johnson raised the threshold for Title 1 funding, why, I don’t know.

    Second, when she split up the APP program, a program for advanced learners, and moved them into Title 1 schools, those schools lost their funding.

    Third, when she closed two of the schools in the central area of Seattle, an area that is growing in terms of the school aged population, which were receiving Title 1 funds, those students, who were dispersed to various schools, lost the funding that they had at TT Minor and Meany.

    The woman was a walking nightmare for us. Her agenda was the Broad’s agenda and had nothing to do with what we needed in Seattle. The conflict of interest hurt our programs and now we are just getting back on track.

    I wouldn’t wish her or any other Broad superintendent on any school district.

  9. Anonymous
    March 26, 2011

    I worked under Goodloe Johnson in Charleston and she had unethical behavior there also. She covered up taking Title 1 funds from impoverished children. This unethical behavior got brushed under the carpet with all the politics that go along with the school district. What happened to being in education to help children.

  10. Frank Kight
    March 24, 2011

    As a retired teacher/counselor, I’m concerned about this “business approach” to public education. As most businesses fail and tax payers having to bail out big business, the question must be asked, “is this the ultimate outcome of public education?” Teaching is an art that demands creative development and relationship building. Can only hope that the perverbial pendulum will make its sensible return to “Scholars and Sense” and not “Dullards and Cents”.

  11. Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.
    March 23, 2011

    Let us not stop with MGJ. Here departure was excellent and certainly well deserved. The fact the spinning spineless Board gave MGJ and Kennedy $400,000 after permitting the public a 22 hour warning is emblematic of backroom deals.

    However that backroom deal is small potatoes in comparison with what Gov. Gregoire, SPI Randy Dorn, Rep. Sharon Tamiko Santos, etc. etc. are doing right now. PAY ATTENTION.

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