How to tell if your School District is infected by the Broad Virus


Chicago has just learned that it will inherit Rochester, New York’s controversial and unpopular school superintendent, Jean-Claude Brizard (Broad Superintendent’s Academy “Class of 2007”).

Those of us who have experienced the “leadership” of  L.A. billionaire Eli Broad’s corporate-trained superintendents send Chicago our condolences. We have been there, done that, with scars to show for it, and nothing in the way of real academic or positive gains for our schools and kids.

In fact, the Broad brand has been seriously tarnished lately, to the point where it really should be considered a liability rather than an asset. Here are just a few examples of Broad supts who have been ousted or left their districts in a cloud of controversy:  LaVonne Sheffield (Broad Superintendents Academy “Class of 2002” – resigned), Rockford, Ill.;  Maria Goodloe-Johnson (Broad “Class of 2003” – fired), Seattle, Wa.; Matthew H. Malone (Broad “Class of 2003” – resigned) former superintendent of Swampscott, MA; Deborah Sims (Broad “Class of 2005”- resigned), Antioch, CA.

Meanwhile,  Detroit can’t seem to shake its power-hungry Emergency Financial Manager Bob Bobb (Broad Academy “Class of 2005”) whose illegal control of the Detroit School District was stopped in court, but has been recently ratified by a law signed by extremist Republican Governor Rick Snyder.

And now Brizard of Rochester is going to bring his brand of Broad magic to Chicago.

What’s striking is the similarity of the reigns of terror and error of these Broad ‘graduates.’ Disturbingly so, in fact. Many of the above earned No Confidence votes from their district’s teachers, and from parents too. All meted out a top-down dictatorial approach. Most alienated parents. Many closed schools. A number had questionable audits on their watch. More than one had false or questionable data to support their reforms. All commanded large salaries with perqs, while at the same time slashing services for kids and closing schools in the name of financial scarcity. A number of them avoided informing the elected school board of their plans or actively withheld information from them, effectively bypassing democracy.

Scandal, controversy, animosity followed them all, inevitably out the door.

If this trend continues,  Brizard’s tenure in Chicago will likely be short-lived too. But he still could do some serious damage while he’s there. So, heads-up, Chicago.

To help our fellow school districts throughout the nation, here is a guide to diagnose whether your school district has come under the influence of the Broad Foundation (and what you can do about it).

How to tell if your School District is Infected by the Broad Virus

Schools in your district are suddenly closed.

Even top-performing schools, alternative and schools for the gifted, are inexplicably and suddenly targeted for closure or mergers.

Repetition of the phrases “the achievement gap” and “closing the achievement gap” in district documents and public statements.

Repeated use of the terms “excellence” and “best practices” and “data-driven decisions.” (Coupled with a noted absence of any of the above.)

The production of “data” that is false or cherry-picked, and then used to justify reforms.

Power is centralized.

Decision-making is top down.

Local autonomy of schools is taken away.

Principals are treated like pawns by the superintendent, relocated, rewarded and punished at will.

Culture of fear of reprisal develops in which teachers, principals, staff, even parents feel afraid to speak up against the policies of the district or the superintendent.

Ballooning of the central office at the same time superintendent  makes painful cuts to schools and classrooms.

Sudden increase in number of paid outside consultants.

Increase in the number of public schools turned into privately-run charters.

Weak math text adopted (most likely Everyday Math). Possibly weak language arts too, or Writer’s Workshop. District pushes to standard the curriculum.

Superintendent attempts to sidestep labor laws and union contracts.

Teachers are no longer referred to as people, educators, colleagues, staff, or even “human resources,” but as “human capital.”

A (self-anointed, politically connected) group called NCTQ comes to town a few months before your teachers’ contract is up for negotiation and writes a Mad Libs evaluation of your districts’ teachers (for about $14,000) that reaches the predetermined conclusion that teachers are lazy and need merit pay. [“The (NAME OF CITY) School District has too many (NEGATIVE ADJ) teachers. Therefore they need a new (POSITIVE ADJ.) data-based evaluation system tied to test scores…”]

The district leadership declares that the single most significant problem in the district is suddenly: teachers!

Teachers are no longer expected to be creative, passionate, inspired, but merely “effective.”

Superintendent lays off teachers for questionable reasons.

Excessive amounts of testing introduced and imposed on your kids.

Teach for America, Inc., novices are suddenly brought into the district, despite no shortage of fully qualified teachers.

The district hires a number of “Broad Residents” at about $90,000 apiece, also trained by the Broad Foundation, who are placed in strategically important positions like overseeing the test that is used to evaluate teachers or school report cards. They in turn provide — or fabricate — data that support the superintendent’s ed reform agenda (factual accuracy not required).

Strange data appears that seems to contradict what you know (gut level) to be true about your own district.

There is a strange sense of sabotage going on.

Dolores Umbridge — Broad Academy Class of ????

You start to feel you are trapped in the nightmarish Book Five of the Harry Potter series and the evilly vindictive Dolores Umbridge is running your school district. (Seek centaurs and Forbidden Forest immediately!)

Superintendent behaves as if s/he is beyond reproach.

Superintendent reads Blackberry (Goodloe-Johnson, also see comments ) or sends texts (Brizard, see comments) while parents and teachers are giving public testimony at school board meetings, blatantly ignoring public input.

A rash of Astroturf groups appear claiming to represent “the community” or “parents” and all advocate for the exact same corporate ed reforms that your superintendent supports — merit pay, standardized testing, charter schools, alternative credentialing for teachers. Of course, none of these are genuine grassroots community organizations.

Or, existing groups suddenly become fervidly in favor of teacher-bashing, merit pay or charter schools. Don’t be surprised to find that these groups may have received grant money from the corporate ed reform foundations like Gates or Broad.

The superintendent receives the highest salary ever paid to a superintendent in your town’s history (plus benefits and car allowance) – possibly more than your mayor or governor — and the community is told “that is the national, competitive rate for a city of this size.”

Your school board starts to show signs of Stockholm Syndrome. They vote in lockstep with the superintendent. Apparently lobotomized by periodic “school board retreat/Broad training” sessions headed by someone from Broad, your school board stops listening to parents and starts to treat them as the enemy. (If you still have a school board, that is — Broad ideally prefers no pesky democratically elected representatives to get in the way of their supts and agendas.)

Superintendent bypasses school board entirely and keeps them out of the loop on significant or all issues.

School board candidates receive unprecedented amounts of campaign money from business interests.

Annual superintendent evaluation is overseen by a fellow named Tom Payzant.

Stand for Children appears in town and claims to be grassroots. (It is actually based in Portland, Ore., and is funded by the Gates Foundation.) It may invite superintendent to be keynote speaker at a political fundraising event. It will likely lobby your state government for corporate ed reform laws.

Grants appear from the Broad and Gates foundations in support of the superintendent, and her/his “Strategic Plan.”

The Gates Foundation gives your district grants for technical things related to STEM and/or teacher “effectiveness” or studies on charter schools.

Local newspaper fails to report on much of this.

Local newspaper never mentions the words “Broad Foundation.”

Broad and Gates Foundations give money to local public radio stations which in turn become strangely silent about the presence and influence of the Broad and Gates Foundation in your school district.

 THE CURE for Broad Virus:



Sharing information.

Vote your school board out of office.

Vote your mayor out of office if s/he is complicit.

Boycott or opt out of tests.

Go national.

Follow the money.

Question the data – especially if it’s produced by someone affiliated with the Broad or Gates Foundations or their favored consultants (McKinsey, Strategies 360, NCTQ, or their own strategically placed Broad Residents).

Alert the media again and again (they will ignore you at first).

Protest, stage rallies, circulate petitions.

Connect and daylight the dots.

— Sue Peters

For more information on the Broad Foundation, see: A Parent Guide to the Broad Foundation’s training programs and education policies by Parents Across America.

(this post was updated from the original version, to add more information, 4/19/11 – sp.)

60 thoughts on “How to tell if your School District is infected by the Broad Virus

  1. Five years after this post was written, we’re still seeing many symptoms of the virus in SPS.

    “Even top-performing schools, alternative and schools for the gifted, are inexplicably and suddenly targeted for closure or mergers.

    Repetition of the phrases “the achievement gap” and “closing the achievement gap” in district documents and public statements.

    Repeated use of the terms “excellence” and “best practices” and “data-driven decisions.” (Coupled with a noted absence of any of the above.)”

    Ugh, those buzzwords. The last C&I meeting I was at was rife with them. I wish I’d kept a tally. I heard “students” once or twice, and the word “teacher” wasn’t uttered a single time. In a Curriculum and Instruction meeting.

  2. Reblogged this on Windsor Wonders and commented:
    Are CT’s schools infected by this virus too?
    Quite disturbing are the uses of the phrases in this article which have been used at our Windsor BoE meetings.
    Have you inquired about how & where the superintendent in your school district has come from & how they were hired?

      1. Dr Craig Cooke is the superintendent of Windsor Public Schools, he ended up getting hired after they gave him the position temporarily (he was asst supt) when the previous supt Dr Villar left to go into a more lucrative position that is paid to promote common core.

      2. Thank you for the information. We like to keep track of the Broadies.

        One interesting tidbit is that the supe of Atlanta where the cheating scandal occurred was Broad supe Beverly Hall. It was because if her that teachers went to jail. You won’t see that on the Broad website.

        Unfortunately she died before getting her day in court.

        I wrote a post about her. Just google this blog and her name.


  3. Surprised there is no mention of the worst Broad grad of all, John “Sleazy” Deasy, booted out of Santa Monica, CA, and a district in Rhode Island, but now creating terrible havoc in the nation’s second-largest school district, Los Angeles. He calls himself “Dr. Deasy”, but the doctorate is fake, and his mentor Robert Felner whom he bought it from (not with his own money, but that of the Santa Monica-Malibu school district) is now in federal prison for embezzlement.

  4. Jordan-Elbridge School District in central New York is a classic example of this. Very enlightening and also extremely frightening. It is so out of control, run by power hungry, ego driven superintendent and his BOE minions.

  5. We are infected big time – Sharon L. Contreras, as arrogant as they come, and as cold as a dead fish. We are demoralized and demonized. At one meeting, when a principal complained that she no longer had any control over who could be on her staff, Contreras replied: “How do you think I feel? I got stuck with all of you.” How to motivate people. And the community thinks she craps gold. It’s horrendous, and I despair. When I started teaching in Syracuse it was a wonderful district. Now, she has removed all supports for students, destroyed the ESL program, has already closed one, and about to close another school (in 2 years), destroyed a well functioning inclusion program for Special Education students, etc. and sold a bill of goods to the ignorant Board of Education.

  6. The problem I have is that we need to acknowledge that our current public school system (or lack of system) could be better. Why shouldn’t we look for ‘best practices’ and standards to improve expectations, feedback and professional development? Say those words and people have a knee-jerk reaction akin to “that corporate-speak will kill all independent thought and creativity”. It’s just not true. Creativity can thrive in a well-designed environment.
    I currently have one child who has been in private school for 12 years and a younger child who was in private for 5 years and public for 5 years. I can tell you that the average quality of teachers in the private schools was better than those my younger child had in public schools. My younger child did have a few (three) teachers who were excellent and one who was superb. But the private school teachers were by and large pretty good and more than a few were superb. My younger child does have many classes that are just as small as the private schools, so class size isn’t the magic bullet. However, the expectations for the private teachers are high and teachers know their performance will be followed and they will be held accountable. My older child’s school conducts detailed student evaluations for each teacher at the end of each school year or class. Both my kids know who the good teachers are, and it’s not based on who is easy or popular. The kids know and their input is valuable and should be a piece of the equation. My problem with articles like this is that they anything that says ‘reform’ without acknowledging the need to change and adapt. Our US schools are losing ground and the reform discussions need to be had, not rejected out-of-hand. I don’t have the answers, but articles like this don’t encourage thoughtful debate and conversation.

    1. Well actually, these articles are encouraging debate, aren’t they?

      My daughter also went to a private school through 7th grade in Laguna Beach, CA and then we moved to Mercer Island because I needed to be in the Puget Sound area. I selected a public school based on high state test scores and what a mistake that was. The teachers taught to the test and not much more. My daughter lost her love of math and the sciences during that time. Fortunately a friend of mine suggested a public school in Seattle.

      My daughter went to the school for a visit and loved it immediately. It is an alternative progressive school with small class sizes and talented teachers who are overworked and under-resourced yet supportive of the students and always coming up with ideas that inspire the students.

      Thanks to those teachers, particularly her science teacher, my daughter has decided to go into the environmental sciences.


  7. Another Douglas County, Colorado parent here. I had no idea this ‘war on education’ was so widespread. It’s so sad. I think the angry parents movement is very strong here and we will prevail.

  8. Infected with the Broad virus in Douglas County, Colorado! So sad! Thanks for an excellent article….especially the cure. I am happy to say that I think we are on the right track, but this isn’t easy.

    1. I mentioned General Tata in another post, with a list of other Broad grads at the end of the post.

      As soon as I saw this guy mentioned as a big fan of Sarah Palin’s I thought this guy was one big fat zero. I never understood Broad’s predilection for retired military in his unaccredited Broad Supe Academy unless he thought they would bring law and order to the unruly masses, read minority students.

  9. Don’t forget about Elizabeth Fagen. She left Tucson in shambles and is currently working with our reform-minded Board to destroy Douglas County School District just south of Denver, Colorado. These people are ruthless, relentless, and have lots of questionable (Gates Foundation, Daniels Fund, etc.) funding behind them.

  10. Thank you for this. We’re struggling with this issue here in Huntsville as well, now. Our Broad Academy 10 month grad started in July with a three year contract. In 90 days he’s already accomplished about 85% of your list. Mostly with the full support of the community since “he’s only been here for 90 days.”
    I’ll be linking to your post in my future blogs.

  11. Shared this with my colleagues in Cleveland; we have been hit, too! Great article! I know I will be using that “things to do” part!

  12. The exact same things are happening in Delaware. Business is taking over the state’s school system. Rodel, Broad, have infiltrated and infected the whole system. This must be a national endeavor led by big business and the politicians. How did Obama ever get sucked into this?

    1. This push towards the privatization of our schools began in Chicago when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. See Arne Duncan and the Chicago Success Story: Myth or Reality?.

      Unfortunately, even though his policies did not work, Obama was sold on the idea that Duncan had the answer, the silver bullet, to solving what was perceived as an achievement gap. It didn’t hurt that they were basketball buddies when both lived in Chicago.

      Eli Broad, along with big money developers in Chicago, became acquainted with Mr. Duncan while he was CEO in Chicago and Broad has an on-going working relationship with Duncan to the point that the “Broad Prize” remains in the offices of the Department of Education.

      Unfortunately, even though Obama’s remarks are sometimes in direct conflict with what Duncan is doing, no one seems to be able to reach Obama or convince him that what he believes and what Broad, et al are doing are diametrically opposed.

      There will be a Save Our Schools Rally in DC in July that many people, including myself, are planning to attend. This could be a way to sent the message to Obama that what he envisioned for children in this country is far different than what Duncan and others are doing.


  13. The national media has been slow to grab the story of Broad and Gates restructuring public education out of existence. I see things like this: and know that there are folks out there paying attention but unfortunately some of the stuff is buried in publications that few people read.

    Public education must improve but the corporatists agenda ain’t the way to do it.

    Thanks Dora and Sue!

    I read these comments with a heavy heart knowing that the Broad/Gates agenda is being foisted on our children.

  14. This is Baltimore’s experience, also. Our isn’t a Broad but a Harvard Superintendents’ Program creature.

  15. janis you CAN’T give up!! our schools, children & teachers need us to help/support them. i’m in rockford, il & it’s been HELL the past 2 yrs under our ‘broad’ supt. but thru a ‘grassroots’ effort, we finally got ours 2 leave — thank God!! unfortunately we’ve got a lot of work, cleaning up to do as a result of her terror. at least we are on the recovery side of the broad bull**** of leading schools. my warning to any school dist. in the nation — pay close attention to where your leadership was trained & if they have any thing to do w/ broad or gates………..RUN!!

  16. Janis…don’t give up! We have to stay resilient. Read my privious post and recruit some retired teachers to take up the fight. We will gladly talk to them about our journey. Let me know if you’re interested and I can send you my phone number and email address. We have all got to stick together.

  17. We are infected!!
    Send vaccine fast to:
    Montgomery County, Maryland

    And it is really bad here, we were a “Broad finalist” this year.

    The list is exactly correct. Attempts to close high performing school, programs gone, graduation rate dropping yet #1 in graduation rate is what is announced, superintendent makes $500,000 with benefits, school based positions are being cut right now as budget is INCREASED, spending on consultants is a secret but we are told it would take 22 hours to count them all…

    We are about to get a new Superintendent in a process that has been entirely SECRET. Even the Closed Session Board meetings aren’t disclosed. Yes, we have an Open Meetings Act but that is no longer the law in this county.

    It may be too late for us…

  18. I could so relate to this article…thanks for printing it. I will be sharing it with many. Our broad supt. is leaving April 30th (Rockford, IL…Lavonne Sheffield), after less than two years. It has been a hellish time and she has done many of the things you have documented here. A few of us retired teachers took up the challenge over a year ago to do what we could to get rid of her. She couldn’t hurt us. We FOIA’d everything, we held rallies, we held Diane Ravitch book studies, we brought someone in from New Orleans who dealt with her there, we were on the radio talk shows often, we had articles published in our once-a-week paper because our daily paper wouldn’t print our things, we attended all board meetings, we usually spoke at board meetings, we educated parents on what was really going on and got lots of involvement, we worked hard to elect new board members…and we were successful…next week we will seat 3 new board members! That was the catalyst for her departure. She’s leaving, but we still have work to do on people she brought in with her. We will be years picking up the pieces of her regime. But…we will survive…public education is too important to let these fools tell us what to do!

  19. Detroit has been infected by the “ebola” form of the Broad virus….with a stamp of approval from the Sec. of Education. Bob Bobb leaving in June but I will bet that another Broadie is being groomed for the position as we speak.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s