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At tonight’s Seattle School Board meeting, the board directors and the superintendent are scheduled to make their annual disclosure of affiliations with other organizations.
Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson lists her board positions on the Alliance for Education, the Council of Great City Schools and United Way. We probably have local parent activist and blogger Charlie Mas to thank for her disclosure of those first two – apparently she hasn’t disclosed them in the past.
Last year, Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson was criticized for failing to acknowledge her association with a vendor which won a no-bid contract with the Seattle School District. (Goodloe-Johnson failed to disclose that she was on the board of directors of the Northwest Evaluation Association which sold SPS the controversial Measures of Academic Progress® –MAP® — test product.) This caught the ire of the local community and caught the eye of the state auditor which declared this an “ethics violation and conflict of interest” (See Sidebar I below). Goodloe-Johnson finally resigned from the NWEA board this past fall after the audit came out, but not before the district had spent upwards of $4.3 million implementing, administering and paying for the subscription for the MAP® product.
About that same time, Goodloe-Johnson quietly left another board which many of us also felt impugned her objectivity — that of the Broad Foundation. Goodloe-Johnson is a “graduate” of Broad’s “Superintendent’s Academy” and remains the poster-woman on their site. In 2009, during a time of growing criticism of the superintendent in the wake of a contentious school closures vote, Broad gave the Seattle School District a $1.25 million grant to implement their trainee’s “Strategic Plan,” and has placed at least two “Broad Residents” on staff at SPS to help with the agenda (although one just left under a shadow of controversy). In March 2009, according to a Broad press release, Goodloe-Johnson joined Broad’s Board of Directors.
So why did she leave?
One of our local parent activists called Broad directly and asked. Was she moved out? Did she go of her own volition? This parent was told that the Broad board is a rotating roster that lasts only two years for each member and that Goodloe-Johnson’s term was up. Yet Goodloe-Johnson left six months early.
Also, recently resigned D.C. School Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Teach for America, Inc. CEO Wendy Kopp and her hub KIPP charter CEO Richard Barth have all been on the Broad board for as long as Goodloe-Johnson and they have not been dropped yet.
Could it be that the real reason is that Goodloe-Johnson has been forced to recognize her conflicts of interest are catching up with her and tarnishing her objectivity and credibility?
And/or was she looking ahead to more possible conflicts on the horizon? Timing can be everything, after all.
The Teach for America coincidence?
At the beginning of October 2010, shortly after she left Broad’s board, without any public discussion and seemingly out of the blue, Goodloe-Johnson quietly slipped onto the Seattle School Board agenda a motion to bring short-term, uncredentialed Teach for America, Inc. recruits to teach in Seattle.
Who asked for this? We parents? No. The hundreds of job-seeking qualified teachers already in SPS and eager to work during a recession? Not likely. (A few weeks before, local State Representative Reuven Carlyle suddenly wrote on his blog his support for TFA. But when I asked him why, he never responded.)
Well, what a coincidence, TFA, Inc. is the enterprise owned by Goodloe-Johnson’s former fellow Broad board member Wendy Kopp, who is married to another Broad board member, KIPP charter enterprise’s Richard Barth. KIPP tends to hire TFAers in its charters, so the Kopp-Barth business plan keeps business in the family. In other words, two of Goodloe-Johnson’s recent associates on the Broad board stood to gain from having Seattle bring TFA, Inc. to town. Goodloe-Johnson’s push for her associates’ business interests while in the employ of the Seattle School District would have looked very suspicious.
In fact, it still does.
Here’s the problem for Goodloe-Johnson: stepping down from Broad’s board doesn’t change any of this. She remains a “Broad Academy” graduate with Broad connections and by many measures, is pushing the Broad agenda for school reform on Seattle’s public schools. This is yet another conflict of interest for Goodloe-Johnson.
What’s more, one of the first and largest investors in Teach for America, Inc. is the Broad Foundation itself. In its Annual Report for 2010, in which it reviews its 10 years of “venture philanthropy” in the public education arena (or market, to use Broadthink), Broad blatantly states its intention is to make the multimillion-dollar TFA, Inc. an integral part of education in America — to “institutionalize” it. (What message does this send to dedicated, professional teachers?)
From the Broad Foundation 2010 annual report (p.53): “By 2009, the foundation’s investment in Teach For America exceeds $41 million.”
“Leadership In an effort to help institutionalize Teach For America as a force for sustainable change in the nation’s public school systems, The Broad Foundation endows it with a $25 million gift, its largest grant to the organization.” (p.24)
So bringing Teach for America, Inc. to the Seattle market is just another item on the Broad agenda checklist. No need for the superintendent to consult with the people of the school community about this plan – she apparently is not answering to us; she is answering to Eli.
Run school districts like businesses, impose top-down decision-making, import cheap and malleable non-union TFA recruits instead of credentialed teachers, bring in charter school franchises, merit pay, high-stakes testing – these are all part of the Broad agenda.
In fact, to varying degrees, these past three years, Goodloe-Johnson has attempted almost all of these. But these ideas are not coming from those of us who make up the community of parents and teachers who are in the schools. Which leads back to the initial question many of us have had for a long time and a growing chorus is now asking: Whose agenda is Maria Goodloe-Johnson pushing?
It certainly isn’t that of the parents.
Here’s the final and most troubling aspect of these conflicts of interest: Eli Broad’s objective is to privatize public education. Check out his site. He gives millions of dollars to school districts to establish privately run charter schools (See Sidebar II, below). Goodloe-Johnson is affiliated with Broad. If she is doing their bidding, she has no incentive to make our schools strong and successful and desirable. Because that would take away the demand for other “interventions” and “solutions” like charters, or short-term college grads who teach for two years then move on (TFA).
As a Broad-indoctrinated superintendent, Goodloe-Johnson arguably has no motivation to strengthen the existing public schools of Seattle. In fact, she may be motivated to make our district “ripe” (a Broad term) for corporate ed reform. Hence the strong smell of sabotage emanating from most everything she has done in Seattle. This includes lying about our kids’ college readiness (thanks to some handy data manipulation by yet another “Broad Resident” working for Goodloe-Johnson, Brad Bernatek), selling our kids short publicly, splitting apart and moving the most successful schools and programs like the district’s gifted program and alternative high school, and avoidably overcrowding and weakening the district’s strongest high school (Garfield). She even wanted to lower the graduation grade to a D average. Rumor has it that unpopular idea might be proposed again.
None of this makes sense or adds up to improving our school district, unless the superintendent’s true goal to is make our district “ripe” for privatization. If so, this is not “excellence for all;” this is sabotage for Eli & Co.
As a Seattle Public Schools parent, I want our school district and elected school board to represent the volition of the real stakeholders, those who send their kids to or work in our schools – and not allow a superintendent with a corporate agenda created by a Los Angeles billionaire with zero background in education to run amok in our district doing someone else’s bidding.
It’s true, as Dora as amply reported, there are some in Seattle who support this same privatizing, standardizing, commodifying agenda of Eli Broad, but they are businesspeople like Don Nielson, politicians with ambitions and organizations that are funded by privatizing ed reform foundations like the Gates Foundation. Though they may be powerful and wealthy, they do not represent us or our kids. The parents, teachers and children of Seattle’s Public Schools have not asked for this agenda and did not vote for it.
And none of us who are watching Seattle Public School District locally and the Broad Foundation nationally are fooled by Goodloe-Johnson’s superficial retreat from the Broad board.
SIDEBAR I: WA State Audit found Ethics Violation/Conflict of Interest in review of Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson
EX.24 – EX: Ethics Violations/Conflict of Interest
Reporting Level: Exit Item
Category: Conflict of Interest/Ethics Laws
Last Prepared By: CJC, 3/31/2010
Last Reviewed By: CJE, 5/10/2010
The Superintendent did not comply with the District Ethics policy.
The Ethic policy states “District employees shall not be financially interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract, sale, lease or purchase that may be made by, through, or under the supervision of the employee.” We noted the District entered in a contract with a vendor for approximately $402,000. The Superintendent is on the Board of this vendor (Northwest Evaluation Association) and did not disclose her relationship to the School Board until after their approval of the contract.
District policy #F11.01 states “The Superintendent shall designate a District Ethics Officer. The Ethics Officer may appoint internal or outside investigators and/or attorneys to assist in performing his or her responsibilities”. We noted that the Superintendent has not formally designated a District Ethics Officer.
We recommend the Superintendent comply with District policy and that all direct and indirect financial interests be disclosed before entering into contracts or agreements. Additionally, we recommend the Superintendent comply with District policy and formally designate a District Ethics Officer and that all direct and indirect financial interests be disclosed before entering into contracts or agreements.
SIDEBAR II: Sample of Eli Broad’s love of charters, plus New Orleans “ripe” for plunder
from the Broad 2010 Annual Report (p.17):
Charters The Broad Foundation awards a $2.5 million grant
to New Schools Venture Fund, which invests in public charter
school management organizations and other entrepreneurial
ventures working to increase the number and quality of charter
schools nationwide. By 2008, the foundation’s total investment
in New Schools Venture Fund exceeds $13.6 million.
Charters The Broad Foundation makes its first investment
of $4.75 million in Aspire Public Schools to open seven
new charter schools in California. Aspire promises its students
opportunities for success in all their future endeavors—
in higher education, work and citizenship. Through personalized
learning experiences, Aspire students master basic skills,
develop productive life skills, and acquire the thinking skills
needed for the rigorous work of the real world. By 2009, the
foundation’s investment in Aspire reaches $9.75 million.
Charters The Broad Foundation makes its first investment
of $2.8 million in Green Dot Public Schools, a charter management
organization leading the charge to transform public
education in Los Angeles so that all children receive the
education they need to be successful in college, leadership
Charters The Broad Foundation makes its first investment
of $600,000 in Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter
schools—college-preparatory public charter schools where
underserved students develop the knowledge, skills and character
traits needed to succeed in top-quality high schools,
colleges and the competitive world beyond. By 2009, the
foundation’s investment in KIPP exceeds $18 million.
Charters The Broad Foundation makes the largest single
grant to charter schools in California to Green Dot Public
Schools. The $10.5 million investment allows Green Dot to
open 21 new schools over four years. The foundation’s
investment in Green Dot exceeds $13.4 million by 2009.
Charters/Leadership Already in disrepair and further
devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the New Orleans
public school system is ripe for a total overhaul. The Broad
Foundation invests $6 million to help rebuild New Orleans’s
public education system through the recruitment and training
of more highly qualified teachers and school leaders and the
creation of new, innovative public charter schools. The grant
funds Teach For America, New Schools for New Orleans and
New Leaders for New Schools.