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K12 Classroom, LLC, and Its “Flex” Schools– or What Happens When a For-profit Company “Manages” a Nonprofit Charter School

One of the ways that charter school choice enables profiteering is through the ability of for-profit, education businesses to become “managers” of nonprofit charter schools.

Such was the case of California-based Flex Academy in San Francisco, a nonprofit charter school that was operated by for-profit K12 Classrooms, LLC, from 2011-12 to 2014-15. In June 2016, SF Flex Academy closed its doors, reportedly over an inability to “sustain facilities,” as this June 12, 2016, archived notice to SF Flex Academy parents and students states.

Interestingly, as this June 28, 2016, San Francisco Examiner article notes, within days of the SF Flex Academy closure (May 02, 2016), the California Department of Education (CDE) and state controller began investigating whether K12 and another nonprofit charter, California Virtual Academies (CVA), are “organizationally separate,” with the Examiner adding, “Nonprofit charter schools are not allowed to pad the pockets of for-profit companies with state funding for facilities or student enrollment.”

CDE had already examined SF Flex’s troubled finances, as the Examiner reports:

The charter school’s finances were recently under scrutiny in a report from the California Department of Education for “fiscal mismanagement.”

Flex Academy suffered from declining enrollment in recent years and did not meet the enrollment projections or average daily attendance goals set in its annual budgets, which determines the state funding it receives, according to the report.

The California Board of Education issued a notice of violation to Flex Academy based on the report and threatened to revoke its charter last month. The charter school was found to be financially unsustainable, with budget reserves falling below the agreed upon amount.

Then comes the issue of who was in control of SF Flex’s state-allocated funding, with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) commissioner, Rachel Norton, observing that, in approving SF Flex’s charter (which SFUSD refused twice, at least once for under-enrollment), “essentially the state was subsidizing K12 software.”

Examination of the FY2015 tax form for “Flex Public Schools” indicates pretty quickly that K12, Inc., is in charge; the school email address is listed as “www.k12.com/sfflex.”

A January 03, 2012, archive of k12.com/sfflex includes the following info:

Welcome to SF Flex

In the city’s most exciting new high school, the best of online education meets the best of traditional, onsite schooling.

Why SF Flex?

  • One of California’s first full-time, five-days-a-week hybrid high schools
  • Engaging and personalized learning that truly maximizes each student’s full potential
  • An exceptional education that allows student to thrive in high school and beyond
  • The award-winning K¹² curriculum
  • A robust catalog of core and elective courses, many of which aren’t offered in other schools
  • Books, materials, and laptops for each student to help facilitate the learning process

San Francisco Flex News & Announcements

And from the SF Flex FY2015 tax form, its “service accomplishment”:

Flex Schools’ program blends innovative new instructional technology with a traditional curriculum for students in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley areas. Flex Schools uses the K12 Classroom, LLC curriculum to offer in grades 9 -12 an exceptional learning experience with individualized learning approaches. Flex Public Schools and K12 Classroom, LLC provide the tools kids need to succeed in school and beyond.

By far, the bulk of nonprofit SF Flex School’s FY2015 revenue ($2.6 out of $2.76 million) derived from government grants.

By the end of FY2015, SF Flex was in the red, with its total expenses at $4.9 million, for “fund balance” of – $2.1 million.

The tax form also indicates that SF Flex has “management by K12 education under contract.” At first glance, it seems that K12 cannot figure how to operate SF Flex within its state-allocated resources. However, since K12 set the prices for its school, it is possible that some price padding was occurring to keep SF Flex beholden to K12, so to speak. Such a possibility is supported by the following information included in the Examiner article:

Flex Academy purchased curriculum and administrative services from K12 for five years, reportedly falling into more than $5 million in debt with the company. In turn, K12 offered Flex

Academy what it called a “balanced-budget credit” to clear the debt and ensure the company ended each year without a budget deficit.

“Why would they do that? That is the question,” said Mike Davis, the SFUSD’s director of charter schools. “Were they making any money? Well, you can’t tell. They were the service provider and they were the entity receiving state funds.”

“There’s a bunch of services that are supposedly covered by K-12,” he added. “I don’t know what those services cost.”

Yet, the company set the prices.

K12 continues to operate “tuition-free online public schools” under five models, including “flex academies” like SF Flex Academy, and “virtual academies,” like the ones that were under investigation in California– and for which K12 agreed to a settlement of $2.5 million (plus costs) in July 2016, as Globe News Wire reports –which also includes a word about those “balance-budget-credits”:

K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN), today announced that it has reached a $2.5 million settlement with the State of California, bringing to an end a lengthy investigation of K12 conducted by the Office of Attorney General Kamala Harris.   K12 will also contribute $6.0 million toward the Attorney General’s investigative costs.  The settlement with the state includes no finding or admission of liability or wrongdoing by K12 or by the public, non-profit California Virtual Academies (CAVAs) managed under contracts by K12.

“The Attorney General’s claim of $168.5 million [associated with apparently canceling balances K12 offered to expunge in the name of balance budget credits] in today’s announcement is flat wrong,” said Stuart Udell, K12’s Chief Executive Officer.  “Despite our full cooperation throughout the process, the Office of the Attorney General grossly mischaracterized the value of the settlement just as it did with regard to the issues it investigated.  There is no ‘debt relief’ to the CAVA schools.  The balance budget credits essentially act as subsidies to protect the CAVA schools, its students and teachers against financial uncertainties.  CAVA schools have not paid that money to K12 and K12 never expected to receive it given California’s funding environment.”

“K12 never accrued these balance budget credits on its financial statements, and the CAVA schools similarly never incurred financial statement liabilities,” Udell added. …

K12 will be making an $8.5 million payment to the state. Of that amount, $6.0 million is to defray the cost to taxpayers of the Attorney General’s investigation, and $2.5M are settlement costs related to the separate private lawsuit alleging misreporting of attendance at the CAVA schools.

In addition, K12 and the CAVA schools will implement a series of conduct provisions, most of which K12 had planned on investing in over the next three years.  These include accessibility improvements in the company’s curriculum and technology platform. Udell pointed out that these investments would have been made by the Company in the ordinary course of compliance and product and service enhancements to improve the student experience regardless of the Attorney General’s actions.

K12 is still allowed to operate its virtual academies in California.

Interestingly, the other “flex academy” identified in California as noted in the FY2015 tax form, Silicon Valley Flex Academy, closed its doors in July 2016, less than three weeks before the opening of the 2016-17 school year. According to the July 27, 2016, Morgan Hill Times, parents and students were caught off guard by the announcement despite the school’s history of “financial unsteadiness.”

For information on a questionable K12 school near you, search K12’s “schoolfinder” site by zip code. Then enroll elsewhere.

Where-Is-The-Best-Place-To-Hide-Money-At-Home

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I wrote a few books. Here’s one on the history of charter schools and vouchers:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

And here are two more: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. Swell stuff.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

My Blog: Where to From Here?

Since late 2013, I have been writing a weekly post for Huffington Post’s “contributors’ platform.” In this capacity, I often cross-posted pieces from my personal blog. However, on occasion, I used my HuffPost contribution to post pieces that were more political or personal in nature.

Today, (January 18, 2018), I received email notification from HuffPost that effective immediately, it would be discontinuing its contributors’ platform. HuffPost began the platform in 2005, when it needed the additional contributions, and HuffPost has grown to the extent that the now-numerous contributors have become more of a noise than a help. From HuffPost’s email on the issue:

Dear HuffPost Contributors,

When HuffPost launched in 2005, it introduced a group blogging platform that revolutionized and democratized online commentary. It allowed teachers, parents and protesters to share space with celebrities, politicians and CEOs while trading ideas on the pressing issues of the day. Over the years, more than 100,000 contributors have posted on the site, with many of you posting from the start.

Today, with the proliferation of social media and self-publishing platforms across the web, people have many more opportunities to share their thoughts and opinions online. At the same time, the quantity and volume of noise means truly being heard is harder than ever. Those who are willing to shout the loudest often drown out new, more-deserving voices. The same has proven to be true on our own platform.

It is with this in mind that we have made the decision to close the contributors platform on our U.S. site.

HuffPost’s notification has made me reconsider my own blogging, Over the past couple of years, I have found myself wanting to write the occasional political or more personal piece (not connected to education or to holidays), and up to this point, I have been able to funnel such writing to my HuffPost blog. However, that outlet no longer exists for me.

So, what to do?

I briefly entertained the idea of starting a second, political blog. Briefly. I do not want the responsibility of keeping up with two distinct blogs, and I do not plan to post political pieces nearly as often as I post educational pieces. Thus, what I have decided to do is to use this blog as both my educational and political platform, with the bulk of my writing continuing to be educational.

I also have used the HuffPost notification as an opportunity to update this blog, which will be five years old next week. I gave it a cosmetic makeover; updated and refined my posting categories, and revised the blog’s mission statement as follows:

Mercedes Schneider’s Blog: Mostly Education, with a Smattering of Politics and a Pinch of Personal

I realize that not all who read my ed postings share my political views. (Frankly, if we agreed on everything, I would find it creepy.) Thus, I will preface my political posts with, “Heads Up: It’s Political!”, and so that readers can decide whether they wish to continue reading or not.

I have had readers express their disappointment over my politics in the comments section of a given post. It is no problem to disagree with me, so long as such disagreement is respectfully stated. Some have even chosen to discontinue following my blog because of their disagreement/disappointment. Of course, this is your choice, but I hope you will first consider whether it is worth writing off my educational postings because of political disagreement.

As it stands, I find that my readership has been fluid, with many choosing to briefly follow my blog because, for example, I write on a specific, often regional, topic, and when I a cease posting on that topic, those follows discontinue. Others follow because they are more interested in national issues, and when I spend time on local issues, those readers also choose to leave. Still others follow for a brief period as part of a college class requirement, and once the class is over, so is their time following my work. Finally, others choose to follow over the years, reading as much or as little as they choose based upon their interests.

In the end, the best I can do is to continue to offer what is authentically Schneider, and this, my friends, is my selected direction du jour.

Thank you for reading and for supporting my work.

french-doors-6

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I wrote a few books. Here’s one on the history of charter schools and vouchers:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

And here are two more: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. Swell stuff.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

More on ERDI’s Paying School Admin to Connect with Ed Businesses: Dallas Dance of Baltimore

The so-called Educational Research and Development Institute (ERDI) is a business that does little more than connect ed businesses with school administrators who might promote (and purchase) their products. It’s a pay-to-play in which the ed businesses dish out thousands of dollars in order to pitch their products to school admin that the ed businesses get to choose from among a pool of ERDI-paid school admin “product reviewers” who are paid stipends by ERDI to attend ERDI events, with travel expenses also paid by ERDI.

I previously wrote about ERDI in this January 14, 2018, post.

Former Chicago superintendent, Barbara Byrd Bennett, who is serving time for receiving kickbacks from another organization with which she was associated, SUPES Academy, was also an ERDI senior advisor.

The November 2017 Baltimore Post article featured in this post, which is written by Ann Costantino and which features the ERDI connection of former Baltimore superintendent, Dallas Dance (full name Shaun Dallas Dance), is an excellent resource for understanding ERDI operations.

dallas dance

S. Dallas Dance

Dance, who, like Bennett, was also connected with SUPES Academy, continues to be under investigation.

(An aside: Interestingly, on his Twitter page (@SDallasDance), which has not been used since 2014, Dance identifies himself as “SUPES Academy consultant and on the side I oversee Baltimore County Schools.” UPDATE 01-17-18: This is a parody page for Dance. His verified Twitter is @S_Dallas_Dance, where he does not mention SUPES, ERDI, or any specific work history in his tag: “Twitter Account for S. Dallas Dance – Father, Leader, Educator, Author, & Innovator – Reasonably impatient about improving educational outcomes for ALL children.”

A second aside: Dance is Dr. S. Dallas Dance; a Google search of “s dallas dance dissertation” yields numerous sites offering academic papers for sale. I Googled other names preceding the term, “dissertation,” and did not duplicate the resulting hits on sites selling academic paper-writing services.)

I offer an excerpt from the Costantino’s Baltimore Post piece on ERDI. However, the entire article, which includes actual ERDI documents, is quite an education in ERDI and well worth the read:

When Dallas Dance, the former head of Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), was paid thousands of dollars to sit down at conferences with companies like DreamBox and Curriculum Associates, it was supposedly to give them feedback about their educational products.

But a cache of emails and documents inadvertently made public on a website used by an education vendor, paints a far different picture of why Dance and other schools superintendents were paid to attend.

These documents, discussing a 2016 conference in Arizona, suggest the real reason was to pitch the vendor products to large school districts with the cash to buy a lot of product. And Dance was listed by at least one company as their top prospect.

The documents also raise questions about the conference organizer, the Educational Research & Development Institute (ERDI). Although not widely known, ERDI has played a key role in linking school district leaders with education and software vendors.  But the documents appear to show ERDI blurring the ethical line between school superintendents like Dance and the vendors who are trying to sell them educational products. …

ERDI offered several levels of “involvement” to mostly educational software and hardware vendors that wanted to participate. The “levels” determined how much time they would get to spend with school officials. With the money from the vendors, ERDI paid not only for the conference expenses, but paid each school official who participated.

In effect, ERDI was passing money from vendors to the superintendents who were supposedly engaged in an arms-length transaction about what to buy for their school districts.

One of those vendors was Istation, a Texas company that sells education software.  The contract, which Istation had with ERDI, shows that the vendor paid $23,000 for a “silver” plan that allowed the company to meet with 10 superintendents of its choosing.

How did Istation choose which superintendents it wanted to meet?

A spokeswoman for Istation told The Baltimore Post the company wanted “a group of districts that represent diverse student populations: a combination of large, medium, and small districts; rural, urban, and suburban; diverse socioeconomic factors, etc. ”

However, of the 10 school system leaders chosen by Istation, six represent some of the largest school systems in the country. Baltimore County Public Schools, for instance, the 25th largest school district in the country, had 112,000 students in 2016.  Istation’s “National Price Sheet” shows it charges districts a per student rate for its software, meaning that the higher the enrollment, the more software the company can sell. …

When Istation signed up for its ERDI silver level membership in September 2015, it invested $23,000 to pitch to 10 superintendents – over two sessions  – of the company’s choosing. The membership allowed the company to pitch its products and services to district leaders, at $2,300 each.

The website records show that Dance was the first pick among 10 superintendents Istation selected in rank-order.

Istation did not say why Dance was their first pick. But it was clear that Dance was an eager buyer.

The scale of his spending has been detailed by Joanne Simpson, a freelance journalist, who found that Dance committed Baltimore County schools to at least $260 million, by the 2018-2019 school year….

This money was spent despite the fact that some schools in the system lacked basic services such as drinkable water, special education teachers and functioning air conditioning. …

Reporters, who have tried to reach out to Dance over several months, have not been successful.  Neither he nor principals from ERDI responded with a request for comment.

The following ERDI price listing for ed business access to school administrators comes from this November 2017 New York Times article by Natasha Singer and Danielle Ivory on ERDI in Baltimore (click image to enlarge):

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

On MLK Day: If You Support Trump, You Won’t Like This Post.

Martin Luther King, Jr., risked and lost his life for the sake of American citizens who were systematically being treated as subhuman and nonhuman.

Such sacrifice.

king  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Almost as if it were planned for some strategically-released, reality-TV show, only days prior, Donald Trump proved yet again his unfitness to hold the highest office in the land, this time with his now-infamous “s***hole countries” comment directed at Haiti, El Salvador, and certain African countries.

Some senators have confirmed Trump’s remarks, and others offered a denial (see here and here), with the strongest confirmation coming from Illinois Senator, Dick Durbin. From the Hill, on January 15, 2018:

President Trump blasted Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Twitter Monday, claiming the senator “totally misrepresented” his comments calling Haiti , El Salvador and African nations “shithole countries.”

“Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can’t get made when there is no trust!” Trump tweeted.

Durbin confirmed a report in The Washington Post that Trump had made the “shithole countries” remark during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration reform, telling reporters that the president made “hate-filled, vile and racist” comments.

“You’ve seen the comments in the press,” Durbin said Friday. “I’ve not seen one of them that’s inaccurate. To no surprise, the president started tweeting this morning, denying that he used those words. It is not true. He said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”

Trump has denied that he made the comments on Twitter, although the White House did not initially deny the report.

Trump’s use of profanity isn’t as problematic as the message behind the profanity– one that he has stated on Twitter– and that is entrance into America based on “merit”:

The lurking darkness here is that someone would have to make a value judgment on what “merits” entrance– and it sounds like being white carries the most merit with Trump.

“Become strong and great again” reads like, “become whiter”– or “become less black and brown.”

How does one argue for the merit of saving a person fleeing for his/her life?

Given Trump’s established reputation for racist words and actions, a disgusting subtext emerges:  “Yeah, I can offer asylum, but what have you done for me lately? And what can you do for me if you’re not white?”

Don’t tell me that this self-serving, white-centric, “merit” posture addresses the complexities of immigration in the mind of this shallow, arrogant man. It does not. It only offers a convenient avenue for exercising racial exclusion.

On the day when America celebrates the life of a man who actually advanced civil rights as the civil rights of his time, Trumpism not only falls flat– it leaves a hole in my heart.

A compassion hole. Not a s***hole.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

ERDI: Paying School Admin to Review Ed Products that Those Admin Could Then Purchase… (?)

Former Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett is serving time in a West Virginia minimum security prison for sending CPS contracts to an ed consulting business where she once worked, SUPES Academy. In turn, Bennett received kickback money for supplying the contracts. (Read more about that here and here.)

ct-barbara-byrd-bennett-corruption-sentence-met-20170427.jpg

Barbara Byrd Bennett

It turns out that Bennett had a number of ed business involvements/connections, as John Kugler detailed in this May 05, 2015, Chicago-based, Substance News article.

One of those organizations is the Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI). In 2015, Bennett was listed as ERDI “senior adviser” (see Substance News post).

ERDI is an organization that brings together school administrators and ed business, purportedly so that those ed leaders can comment on ed products. From the ERDI “about” page:

The Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI) empowers school districts and their leaders throughout the United States to directly examine, evaluate and fundamentally influence the design and scope of educational products and services offered to American schools and their students.

Through research-based analysis and assessment, ERDI school districts and their leaders provide product/services developers unvarnished, impartial and unequivocal feedback and recommendations on what works—and doesn’t work—with school populations.  It is through these intensive assessments that products and services are refined and modified to ultimately maximize their effectiveness in meeting student needs.

Unlike other research opportunities, ERDI offers to those who develop educational products and services the ability to obtain unbiased, straightforward and frequently blunt criticism from the very practitioners—nationwide educational leaders with a broad array of expertise—who best understand educator and student needs.

The problem with ERDI is that it pays those ed leaders for their input, which presents conflict of interest issues when those ed leaders happen to be the ones who make purchasing decisions for ed products promoted by ERDI.

Consider the situation of Youngstown City Schools (Ohio) CEO Krish Mohip, as reported by Amanda Tonoli in the November 19, 2017, Vindicator:

The Youngstown City School District contracted with a company that is a partner of a firm for which CEO Krish Mohip was a paid consultant.

The school district has paid $261,914 to Curriculum Associates, a partner company of Education Research & Development Institute, which used Mohip as recently as August as a paid consultant. …

In August, Mohip acknowledged he was paid $4,000 in 2017 by ERDI for his position on two educational review panels.

When questioned by The Vindicator on Aug. 9 [another] relationship between [another ed business and Youngstown Schools,] Atlantic, and ERDI, both of Chicago, Mohip quit being a paid consultant for ERDI that very day.

In April 2017, the Louisiana Board of Ethics (LBE) ruled that one of Louisiana’s superintendents, Isaac Joseph of Jefferson Parish Public Schools (JPPS), could not ethically accept “an honorarium and payment of travel, meal, ground transportation and lodging costs in exchange for providing consulting services.”

From the LBE docket summary and statement of LBE position:, as addressed to JPPS legal counsel, Patricia Adams from LBE attorney, Jennifer Land:

You also stated that as a participating consultant, Superintendent Joseph would be expected to attend two conferences per year and ERDI would pay for his lodging, meals, airfare and ground transportation. Finally, you stated that ERDI will pay Superintendent Joseph an honorarium of $2,000 for each conference, plus an additional $100 for serving as a panel chairperson.

The Board concluded, and instructed me to inform you, that the Code of Governmental Ethics would prohibit Superintendent Joseph from accepting an honorarium and payment of travel, meal, ground transportation and lodging costs in exchange for providing consulting services to ERDI. … Because Superintendent Joseph would be providing consultant services regarding matters related to his job duties, he would be prohibited from receiving any thing of economic value from ERDI in connection with his position as a consulting educational leader at its bi-annual conferences.

Note that Superintendent Joseph could still attend an ERDI conference, but it cannot be on ERDI’s dime.

The official LBE vote on the above advice (9 yeas, 1 nay) can be found in this record of LBE minutes for its meeting dated April 20, 2017.

The story of ERDI becomes more complicated when one considers its owners, David Sundstrom and Joseph Wise, who chose to register ERDI as a business in Florida, with the address of 12029 Cranefoot Drive, Jacksonville, FL, 32223.

However, the ERDI website lists the ERDI address as 910 West Van Buren, Suite 315, Chicago, IL 60607– the very same address as another Sundstrom-Wise entity, nonprofit, Distinctive Schools– which happens to also be registered in Florida.– and another school (not registered as a nonprofit), Acceleration Academies (also registered in Florida).

In all, it seems that Sundstrom-Wise have 6 corporations registered in Florida. (It seems that one has been dissolved.)

The story of Sundstrom-Wise is likely an iceberg tip in this post, with Tonoli’s Vindicator article in Mohip capturing some more of the tale, which brings us back to SUPES Academy and Bennett:

The relationships between education companies and superintendents or CEOs like Mohip can be complicated.

In Mohip’s case, its moreso since as a state-appointed CEO, a board of education does not have to have to approve his actions. Essentially, he has carte blanche to contract with partners of his choice.

In February, for example, Mohip hired Atlantic Research Partners to search for city school district principals at a cost of $12,500.

Both Atlantic and ERDI have ties to two men – David Sundstrom and Joseph Wise.

Sundstrom and Wise were both founders of Atlantic. Sundstrom left in March to co-own ERDI. Wise was said to join shortly after. Both are now listed as ERDI governing board members on ERDI’s website. …

Sundstrom, Wise and Atlantic have been part of past controversies in education. In June 2015, Atlantic acquired parts of a company called The SUPES Academy, a training program for principals and superintendents. SUPES was part of a multimillion-dollar kickback scandal that sent former owners Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas and former Chicago Public Schools CEO and SUPES consultant Barbara Byrd-Bennett to prison for seven years, 18 months and four years, respectively.

Sundstrom said Atlantic acquired parts of SUPES in an agreement stipulating that it wasn’t involved in any criminal misdoings. About six months later, Sundstrom said he and Wise rescinded the deal after the kickback scandal was revealed. Sundstrom said he was the victim of a misrepresentation.

In 2007, Sundstrom and Wise were asked to leave their positions as chief of staff and superintendent, respectively, at Duval County (Fla.) schools. Sundstrom explained that he and Wise were in positions of transformation for an academically challenged school district.

Iceberg tip, folks.

iceberg-clevenger-small

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Vermillion Parish Supt. on Hargrave’s Arrest: “I Should Have Stood Up, Okay?”

When Vermillion Parish (Louisiana) teacher Deyshia Hargrave was escorted out of a January 08, 2018, school board meeting as she was responding to superintendent Jerome Puyhau, who had directly addressed her, Puyau chose not to intervene.

Board president Anthony Fontana signaled for officer Reggie Hilts to take some action as Hargrave was speaking, though what Fontana intended Hilts to actually do once he reached Hargrave remains unclear.

What Hilts did was throw Hargrave to the floor, cuff her, and drag her from the building once she was in the hallway. Nothing about Hargrave’s behavior warranted Hilt’s excessive display of force.

Neither Puyau nor Fontana exhibited any shock at Hilts’ actions.

Hilts has a history of using unnecessary force.

Still, Puyau defends him. From CBS on January 11, 2018:

While emotional over the backlash, Puyau says he doesn’t blame the deputy marshal who arrested Hargrave.

“I’m the superintendent, I’m to blame,” he said. “I should have stood up, okay? That’s what you want to hear and it’s the truth, I should have stood up….Let her speak.”

Puyau said no one on the board directed the city marshal to escort Hargrave out. The marshal was contracted to work security at the meeting, but Puyau said they don’t plan on having him again. He also noted the deputy is a well-liked school resource officer at one of the district middle schools, and does not plan on firing him. CBS News has reached out to the marshal but has not heard back.

However, in an interview a day earlier with KATC, Puyau said that he supported Hilts’ actions and that Hilts was simply following orders.

Puyau defended both Hilts’ excessive force and “protocol” while failing to acknowledge that he himself chose to break protocol in choosing to continue a conversation with Hargrave. Public upset over Hargrave’s arrest– an unnecessary arrest that Puyau had the authority to prevent if only he had exercised a skilled leader’s sensitivity in responding to the situation– has led to death threats for both Puyah and Vermillion school board members.

From KATC on January 10, 2018:

Many in Vermilion Parish are getting death threats over the arrest of middle school teacher Deyshia Hargrave, including the parish’s superintendent, Jerome Puyau.

Puyau is pleading for death threats against himself, his family and others in the school system to stop.

“Leave our communities out and our schools.. just stay away,” begs Puyau.

Despite the threats and overwhelming outrage, Puyau stands by the officer who escorted Hargrave out of the building in handcuffs.

“Our people know what to do, and when it happened, that person, that marshal acted in what we asked him to do,” said the Vermilion Parish superintendent.

When the question was raised whether Puyau believes he should have acted differently during Monday’s meeting, he said it would have all come down to protocol.

“Protocol says: Go to the podium. State your name. You have three minutes. That way, there is no ambiguity if someone received the authority to speak or not,” said Puyau.

It seems that Puyau has found himself in a corner and forced to admit fault. Indeed he is the superintendent, and he most certainly should have prevented Hargrave’s exit.

All he had to say to Hilts was, “It’s okay. She is responding to an inquiry that I initiated. I understand why teachers would become upset at my receiving a raise, and I believe they should be allowed to speak.”

Such an empathic (strategic?) response surely would have curtailed the profound public outcry from which Puyau must now extract himself.

Ironically, Puyau’s own failure to act in the moment in defending Hargrave at the questionable meeting at which his contract was finally renewed could be his actual undoing as superintendent in Vermillion Parish.

In his January 11, 2018, CBS interview, Puyau was in tears. However, the timing of his tears betrays that Puyau is likely crying not for Hargrave, but for himself.

As of this writing, Puyau has offered Hargrave no public apology.

On January 11, 2018, Abbeville City Marshal Jeremiah Bolden called for an independent investigation into Hilts’ incident with Hargraves.

photo (4)  Jerome Puyau, in tears

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Officer Who Used Excessive Force on La. Teacher Sued for Same in 2012

UPDATE 01-11-18: I corrected some details in the post below regarding the grass cutting mishap. The behavior of the officers involved remains unchanged from the initial posting.

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Reginald “Reggie” Hilts, the officer who threw Vermillion Parish (Louisiana) teacher Deyshia Hargrave to the ground; cuffed her, and dragged her from the school board meeting building on January 08, 2018, has a prior history of using unneccesary force.

I first wrote about Hargrave’s situation in this January 09, 2018, post.

In 2012, Hilts and fellow City of Scott (Louisiana) officer Mark Venable were sued in US District Court, Western District of Louisiana (Lafayette) for violating the civil rights of 62-year-old Bruce Falcon, a man suffering from chronic cirrhosis of the liver and who, as a result, was warned by his doctor to avoid cuts and bruises because his blood might not properly clot and could lead to his bleeding to death.

The incident with Venable and Hilts involved overgrown grass on an undeveloped lot that Falcon owned and that had already been cut. The individuals that the City of Scott sent (under the direction of Officer Venable) to cut the grass accidentally cut grass at the wrong address. Falcon also owned the misidentified property.

It turns out that Officer Venable confused the property addresses and instructed the lawn care service involved to cut the grass at the incorrect address.

When Falcon tried to explain to officers Venable and Hilts the error, the two officers without warning grabbed Falcon and slammed his head against a door and then slammed his head on concrete, splitting Falcon’s head open, fracturing one of his ribs, and bruising his face, arm, and shoulders. As a result of the incident, Falcon also suffered from headaches and neck pain.

The case, Falcon v. Venable, is available here.

In March 2016, settlement was reached, the details of which are not disclosed. However, what is known is that Hilts is still functioning as a police officer.

On January 10, 2018, Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) president, Debbie Meaux, offered the following statement via email as per my request:

LAE fully supports Vermilion Association of Educators member and leader Deyshia Hargrave. As President of the Louisiana Association of Educators, in conjunction with the National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, a joint statement in support of Deyshia and all educators who suffer the injustice of being silenced and disrespected has been issued.

Deyshia is currently being represented by the LAE attorney Brian Blackwell. Our NEA General Counsel Alice O’Brien has been apprised of the situation and will be brought in if needed.
LAE fully supports the right of all educators to exercise fully their democratic rights and duties as citizens. LAE is looking at the legal possibility of pursuing a suit based on a breach by the school board of Deyshia’s First Amendment rights.

Governor John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards have expressed their support for Deyshia and her right to speak freely. For too long educators have been maligned and treated as though they are “the hired help”. And once again, it was a woman disrespected. This kind of violence and humiliation of educators must stop!

As LAE President, I issued the following statement the day after the event:

LAE was informed of the situation involving Deyshia Hargrave since shortly after the incident occurred. She is, in fact, a member of our association, and our attorney, Mr. Brian Blackwell, is working with her on next steps – he has been since Monday (1/8) evening.

As an organization that advocates for the dedicated school employees of Louisiana, we firmly denounce the mistreatment of Ms. Hargrave, a loving parent and dedicated teacher serving the students of Vermilion Parish. It is every citizen’s right to speak up for their beliefs. Any action that infringes upon this right is unlawful and unacceptable.

We will continue to support the right of every single school employee to take an interest in, and ultimately stand up for, the best interests of their schools and their students.

Debbie Meaux

I will continue to follow this story.

photo (3)  Reginald “Reggie” Hilts

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.