Editor’s note: As Seattle Public Schools starts to narrow the field of potential superintendents it’s important to learn from past mistakes. Example two: Broad Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. -Carolyn Leith
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 apologyand 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.
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 theSeattle 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.