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La. BESE’s Kira Orange Jones: Shifting Residency, Missing Ethics Filings, and Profound Meeting Absences

August 11, 2019

In both 2011 and 2015, corporate-reform-promoting millionaires and billionaires purchased the majority of seats on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).

One of their purchases is Teach for America (TFA) executive director, Kira Orange-Jones.

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Kira Orange-Jones

Even though Orange-Jones has been BESE District 2 representative for almost eight years, she has yet to file her annual disclosure reports for 2017 and 2018.

One critical bit of information on the annual disclosure is the representative’s physical address. On this point, Orange-Jones’ actual address becomes a bit cloudy.

On the last annual disclosure that Orange-Jones filed– for 2016— Orange-Jones identifies her address as on Laurel Street in New Orleans. On the same disclosure report, Orange-Jones also acknowledges her marriage to Christopher Ruszkowski, who was at the time deputy secretary of education in New Mexico. In 2018, Ruszkowski became “secretary designee” at the NM Department of Ed when he replaced Hanna Skandera. It seems that Ruszkowski exited by 2019.

On Ruszkowski’s 2017 and 2018 financial disclosure reports, he lists a NM address. Orange-Jones’ residence remains unclear. (One can search those forms here by looking up “ruszkowski” and selecting “2017” and “2018.”)

Since Orange-Jones has not filed the required financial disclosures for 2017 and 2018, the public does not know if Orange-Jones maintained a residence in her district, one of the qualifications for serving on BESE.

But there’s more.

Orange-Jones plans to run for re-election in October 2019. The Louisiana Secretary of State has her address as being on Philip Street in New Orleans. (One can view this info here by searching “parish candidates” on the side bar; selecting “BESE District 2,” and then clicking “view candidates for selected race(s).”)

Examination of property tax records for the Philip Street address shows that the owner is NJS Properties; according to details of the search, “NJS” stands for Norma J. Sabiston.

On Orange-Jones’ July 2019 campaign finance report for the upcoming, October 2019, BESE election, one of Orange-Jones’ expenditures is $15,000 to Sabaston Consultants, whose president is Norma Jane Sabiston.

Does Orange-Jones live at the Philip Street address, or has her consultant provided the address in an attempt to legitimize Orange-Jones as a District 2 resident? Has Orange-Jones forfeited a New Orleans address at any point since her last, 2016, annual filing?

But there’s more:

On her July 2019 campaign filing, Orange-Jones offers yet another address for herself, this time on Dauphine Street in New Orleans. The Dauphine Street address is listed under “qualifying name and address of candidate.” According to a property tax search, the Dauphine Street address is owned by Bakers Row LLC, whose registered agent is New Orleans attorney Everett Fineran.

Does Orange-Jones reside at the Dauphine Street address?

Chronologically, Orange-Jones’ declaration of candidacy occured on August 06, 2019–after her July 2019 candidate report with the Dauphine Street address– which puts the Philip Street address as the most recent.

But there is still more information which raises questions about Orange-Jones’ whereabouts since 2016, and it concerns her chronic absence from BESE meetings.

On August 04, 2019, I received the following email from a New Orleans parent. The subject line read, “Kira Orange Jones and CHristopher Ruszkowski”:

Hi Mercedes,

I’m a parent in New Orleans with a kid in the public charter schools. I’ve been trying to get more active in changing the situation here.

Anyway, I was reading your article on Kira Orange Jones and Christopher Ruszkowski. I went to see if Kira ever filed her financial disclosure forms and she has not. Her lastest filing is from 2016. However, I found that New Mexico does has filings for Christopher Ruszkowski for 2017, 2018…though 2018 seems to lack full information…there is some info included about Kira.

Every other BESE board member has filed their 2018 personal financial disclosure forms.

I also went through all of the BESE board meetings of the last term (since Jan 2016) with video and/or minutes and tallied Kira Orange Jones’s attendance. Here’s the summary of what I found:

Total Meetings = 121
Meeting absent = 46 (38 percent of total)
Left Early = 3
Left in Middle = 2
Late = 8
Total absent, late etc. = 59 (49 percent of total)

Kira Orange Jones is the current chair of the School Innovation and Turnaround Committee. Out of the 13 meetings as the chair, she was absent 8 times including the time she was first scheduled to serve as chairperson. She is absent for this committee meeting 62 percent of the time.

Thanks,

Laura Reiff

I asked Laura Reiff if she would send exact dates of Orange-Jones’ BESE meeting absences, and she did.

Orange-Jones has been absent from over one in three BESE meetings; she is two years delinquent in her annual disclosure filings, and her uninterrupted, legitimate physical address in BESE District 2 is in serious question.

But she already had $31K on hand by the time of her July 2019 campaign finance report filing, and she has begun spending tens of thousands on her October 2019 BESE re-election, including a $15K payment to a consulting firm whose president happens to own the property that Orange-Jones lists as her most recent New Orleans address.

Two other candidates are running against Orange-Jones for the Distrcit 2 BESE seat in the October 2019 election: Shawon Bernard and Ashonta Wyatt. (The New Orleans parent who compiled Orange-Jones’ BESE meeting absences has since decided to work for the Wyatt campaign.)

Given that Orange-Jones’ uninterrupted residency in BESE District 2 is in serious question, it seems to be in Bernard’s and Wyatt’s best interest to file a claim against Orange-Jones with the Louisiana Ethics Board.

BESE District 2 constituents with concerns about Orange-Jones’ questionable physical address and her failure to file annual disclosure reports could do the same.

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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.

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7 Comments
  1. Linda permalink

    Presumably, the N.O. contractor schools (charters) create a situation that appeals to the Koch-affiliated Manhattan Institute, as evidenced by the right wing plan to expand the situation across the country.
    In July 2018, Max Eden wrote at Manhattan Institute that he talked with a black New Orleans parent who said the charter schools represent the latest iteration in structural racism perpetuated by a new generation of oppressors. Elaborating further she said, teachers who lived in the neighborhood had been replaced by twenty-something TFA’ers who don’t have the skills to understand their students.

    Big shout out to Koch brother, Bill Gates. I hope I live long enough to see him stripped of the medal of freedom.

  2. Linda permalink

    A citizen should ask Kira to defend how a Senior Research Fellow from the Charles Koch Institute ends up as a Pahara Fellow along side Hannah Dietsch, Asst. Superintendent for Talent in the La. Dept. of Ed.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: Does This Member of the Louisiana State Board of Education Live in Louisiana? | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. La. BESE Member Kira Orange Jones: Sloppy at Best; Deceptive at Worst. | deutsch29
  3. Lawsuit filed to block TFA executive director, absentee BESE member Kira Orange Jones from seeking third term on board | Louisiana Voice
  4. Do Your Homework – Think504
  5. Education Reform Now: Manufacturing Grass Roots Support for La. BESE Candidates Castille and Orange-Jones | deutsch29

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