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Peter Greene: Let’s Blame the Targets

A powerful post by retired Pennsylvania teacher, Peter Greene.

Since I continue to belong to the group of potential K12 targets, I had to post in full.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Let’s Blame The Targets


Damn it. Damn it to hell. 

I include the link not because I think you aren’t aware of the latest mass murder in a school, but because when I come back to this post some time in the future, the link will help me remember which mass murder I was raging about.

Like plenty of other folks, I have run out of things to say about school shootings in this country. Well, almost. There’s one more thing to add.

Things I’ve said before: We have a new standard for coverage of school shootings in this country– it’s only news if it sets a new record of some sort. Usually that means highest body count. That’s grim news indeed– if your goal is to become famous as a school shooter, and you’re paying attention, then you have to know that you’ll only get there with a super-high body count. This may qualify as the most perverse incentive ever.

And this:

Sandy Hook stands out among all our many various mass murders in this country, all our long parade of school shootings, because Sandy Hook was the moment when it finally became clear that we are not going to do anything about this, ever. “If this is not enough to finally do something,” we thought, “then nothing ever will be.”

And it wasn’t.

“No way to prevent this,” says only Nation Where This Regularly Happens is the most bitter, repeated headline The Onion has ever published. We’re just “helpless.”

There’s always the hypocrisy to point out. Friday is supposed to be a big NRA celebration of the 2nd Amendment in Houston, headlined by Beloved Leader, plus Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. All of those luminaries are, of course, busily sending thoughts and prayers and “lifting up the families” on social media. 

In the last decade it has become a blindingly obvious statement to say that we have done nothing since Sandy Hook or Columbine or any of the rest, but that’s not entirely true.

We have been busy blaming the targets.

We have developed entire industries that are all about hardening the targets, about making schools (and churches and a whole host of public places) harder to get into. We subject students to regular “active shooter” drills, and we make sure that staff are up on the latest approved technique for “coping” with an “active shooter situation.” Or shit like this–one poster reported that at his wife’s school, kindergartners closest to the door are taught to “throw things in the air and wave their arms” to buy time for their classmates (read the whole thread if you dare). 

There’s an ugly damn implication in all of this–kids and teachers are dying because they are just too easy to kill. They have to make harder targets out of themselves. They have to learn to duck and cover and fight and flee.

But the responsibility for not getting dead is all on them. Because even though this is the only damn country in the world where this regularly happens, there just isn’t a thing legislators can do about it except thoughts and prayers and banning race stuff and naughty books and making sure that abortion is illegal in all cases because they are so damned pro-fricking-life. 

They’re already out there on social media, explaining that if all the teachers were armed this would never have happened. If the schools had spotted the signs this time (or ten days–TEN DAYS–ago in Buffalo) then they could have stopped this. 

We won’t pass laws, we won’t support even the most rudimentary checks on firearms, but we’ll by God send you consultants and trainers and other folks to help you make yourselves harder targets (most of whom also think that gun control not only can’t, but shouldn’t happen) because if you end up dead it’s really your own damn fault.

I am so sick and angry at all this stupid wasteful death, at the idea that my teacher wife and my soon-to-be-kindergarten children and my school and soon-to-school grandchildren are considered acceptable losses in the Noble Frickin’ Fight to preserve the 2nd Amendment right to own guns that have no purpose except to blast lumps of metal through human flesh. 

We will now proceed with the routine and ritual. Thoughts and prayers. The proposal of stupid ideas: Arm teachers, custodians, administrators, bus drivers, because clearly more guns equals more safety and since we have the most guns on Earth we are clearly the safest nation and not one where shooting deaths and mass murders are ordinary (Yup–there’s the Texas AF, right on schedule, advocating arming teachers–you know, those evil indoctrinatin’ teachers who can’t be trusted with students). Statistics to prove that the situation isn’t really that bad. Whackburgers claiming this is a false flag meant to spur gun control–as if THAT has ever happened after a mass shooting before. Someone will blame it on mental health issues (spoiler: this will not lead to more government support for mental health treatment).

And then nothing, except the usual background noise right up until it happens the next time. 

I don’t want the moon. I don’t imagine there’s a way to completely end gun violence and murder and awful scenes like we have today in Texas, but can’t we try to be better? Can’t we just try? And why wouldn’t we want to? And if you don’t want to at least try something other than saddling the targets with the responsibility for not dying, then by God do not come at me with any education reform fix the schools because it’s For The Children bullshit. You tell me what policy changes you want to implement to help keep these children alive and then I’ll listen to your yammering about phonics and saying gay. 

Damn it. Just damn it.


The NRA Cannot Bring Itself to Use the Term, “School Shooting” in Its Lame Press Release.

On May 25, 2022, the day after the Uvalde, TX, school shooting, the NRA released an insincere-but-necessary “statement” intentionally devoid of the words “gun,” shooting,” “school shooting,” “massacre,” or any other such term that could connect school shootings with the NRA pinnacle goal of guns without restriction. Indeed, such a connection could be bad for business, and the proximal time and place of this school shooting is already both inconvenient and uncomfortable given the NRA annual meeting is to occur only days later in Texas.

The NRA cannot even bring itself to name the school or city in which the shooting happened. Just a generic, ironically-reusable *statement.*

Even the purposely vague title of the press release betrays the NRA’s self-focused intent of keeping a political distance from school shootings.

However, as it grossly, hypcritically, and hollowly “pledges to redouble its commitment to making our schools secure,” the NRA did remember to include its “donate” button twice.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbies for easy availability of guns (“pro-gun”) and wants no “restrictive legislation.” It deems any legislative effort at gun control as “wrong.” Moreover, the NRA grades political candidates. Here’s what its grades mean to the NRA:

As of May 25, 2022, Texas governor Greg Abbott will not say whether he plans to attend the NRA annual convention in Houston May 27-29, 2022, but here’s the way school shooting aftermath goes among those graded well by the NRA. From the May 25, 2022, Texas Tribune:

After a shooting at an El Paso Walmart in 2019 that killed 23 people, Patrick, a staunch ally of the NRA, appeared ready to take on the gun rights group, saying he was “willing to take an arrow” to require background checks for stranger-to-stranger gun sales.

“I’m a solid NRA guy,” he told The Dallas Morning News at the time, “but not expanding the background check to eliminate the stranger to stranger sale makes no sense to me and … most folks.”

But when the opportunity to push the policy through came in the 2021 legislative session, Patrick abandoned any support for the plan, instead helping the Legislature loosen the requirements for carrying a handgun in public.

The state allows people with concealed handgun licenses to carry handguns into public university buildings in Texas. Last year, the Legislature passed a controversial law that allowed people to carry a handgun in public without a license or training. The bill had been beaten back many times before because of public safety concerns.

In January 2022, the NRA endorsed Patrick with an A+. He didn’t do what was “wrong” by NRA standards after all.

Source: Texas Tribune

In February 2022, the NRA gave Greg Abbott an A+.

In a May 25, 2022, news conference on the Uvalde school shooting, in response to a press inquiry, Abbott said he “didn’t know” why there are so many school shootings. That was enough for me. I had to turn the television off.

Nineteen dead children later and Abbott cannot forego his NRA A+.

Former Texas legislator and gubernatorial hopeful Beto O’Rourke confronted Abbott at his May 25, 2022, press conference:

Among his comments, O’Rourke told Abbott, “Governor Abbott, I have to say something. The time to stop the next shooting is right now and you are doing nothing. …You said this is not predictable. This is totally predictable…. It’s on you.”

Once outside, O’Rourke continued his comments, including

“This 18-year-old, who just turned 18, bought an AR-15 and took it into an elementary school and shot kids in the face and killed them. Why are we letting this happen in this country? Why is this happening in this state, year after year, city after city?” O’Rourke shouted. “This is on all of us if we do not do something, and I am going to do something. I’m not alone.”

Beto O’Rourke’s NRA grade is F.

Abbott will not commit to canceling his NRA conference appearance.

The NRA cannot bring itself to use the term, “school shooting” in a press release about a school shooting.

I’m disgusted with the excrement that passes itself off as public servants and whores itself to the NRA.

Eight of the victims of the Robb Elementary (Uvalde, TX) school shooting. Houston Chronicle.


Texas’ Jim Crow-Styled Highland Park ISD

On May 22, 2022, the Wall Street Journal published this story about three remarkable sports figures who graduated from Texas’ Highland Park Independent School District (HP ISD)– without mentioning HP ISD’s prolonged and quite intentional history focused upon establishing and maintaining white privilege.

On Twitter, Southern history writer Joshua Benton relays in impressive detail HP’s efforts at preserving their whiteness in their community and their ISD.

Below is Benton’s discourse, which includes commentary by Chinese-American author Jamie Ford, who in 2017 spoke at HP ISD (“I’ve visited 100+ schools. HP was the only one where students called me a chink.”)

Originally tweeted by Joshua Benton (@jbenton) on May 22, 2022.

Let me close with the “Dear Highland Park” video referenced above, a 2020 effort by HP ISD students to address the “us versus them” attitude of race entrenched in school and community– and where “us” means “white.” One request that a student makes of HP ISD is that it “invest in educators and administrators of color, with precautions against tokenism.” Another student comments that for over a century, Highland Park has been known as a “sundown town”– unsafe after dark for people of color. In reference to the murders of persons of color including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, yet another student asks, “your students have cried, petitioned, and protested, but where are you?”

There is so much pointed content to this 24-minute video, and what has HP and HP ISD done in response since its creation two years ago? Not much, it seems.

Watching the video on Youtube allows one to read the comments– an education in themselves.


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Brad Pitt’s “Make It Right” Post-Katrina Housing Wreckage

When celebrities or other wealthy-yet-geographically-removed individuals come to a community to help in a time of crisis, those tempted to accept the help should be cautious. It is not that affluent, would-be helpers do not have good intentions; it is that they may not understand the community that they want to help but naively think they do, and they do not have to face any potential error or damage from their involvement in real time, face-to-face, if they do not reside in the community (i.e., the helper from a geographical distance has a sort of protection from accountability by virtue of not having to physically contend, in person, day after day, with the consequences of largesse gone awry); and (and this is a biggie), celebrities may not realize that they are (and should be) responsible for those under their influence and employ to carry out said project.

Consider the awful mess that is actor Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation and associated entities, which swept into New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina promising “high quality housing to the poor and distressed.”

NBC News, 2018

In 2007 Pitt formed the nonprofit, Make It Right (MIR) Foundation. (Tax forms for 2007-2018 can be found here. MIR stopped filing returns in 2018.) Here it what MIR reported as its purpose and service accomplishments on its first tax filing (2007):

The website referenced above is no longer in existence, but here is an archived version dated October 11, 2007. Note that formatting is lost with archiving; however, given how Pitt’s project crashed and burned in subsequent years, and how his MIR tried to rob their homeowners of their right to recourse, AND how Pitt himself tried to remove himself as the object of litigation, his opening quote about “failing [the most vulnerable] and failing miserably” is ironic (click on image to enlarge):

The best way to convey the backstory and complications resulting from MIR’s poor decisions (including unwisely taking on other projects before the New Orleans project was completed) is best told in this 2018 class action lawsuit brought by two MIR homeowners:

Here are excerpts from the 2018 suit (click on images to enlarge):

The reference above it to MIR’s 2009 tax filing.

Another reference to MIR’s 2009 tax form, and another word about Make It Right Solar, Inc.:

So here we have MIR potentially overextending itself by taking on home development in Newark, NJ, even though it had not yet fulfilled its commitment to New Orleans residents. The suit continues by noting that “by the end of 2011,” MIR had completed only 73 of the promised homes. Meanwhile, in 2011, MIR took on yet another project, in Kansas City, MO, and in 2013, it started a project in Fort Peck, MT.

The suit next references MIR’s 2013 tax filing as the place in which MIR noted issues “related to certain materials in the construction of completed homes and certain designs of homes that required significant repair costs.” However, I cannot locate the excerpt included in the lawsuit, which was copied from some other document. Since the excerpt concerns cost changes related to December 2014 (which is out of the realm of a 2013 tax return), the referenced “accompanying consolidation statement” must be attached to some other financial document. I searched MIR’s 2013 to 2016 tax forms and did not see it.

The point in the lawsuit is that homeowners were not formally made aware of the defects.

Here is the text from the suit:

Since the referenced excerpt is difficult to read in picture form, have typed it below:

Make It Right Foundation and Subsidiaries

During 2013, the Foundation identified issues related to certain materials used in the construction of the completed homes and certain designs of homes that required significant repair costs. As such, the Foundation recognized a warranty and repair liability in the accompanying consolidated statement of financial positions of $2,968,714 and $1,525,996 as of December 31, 2014 and 2013, respectively, for the estimated construction repair costs to be incurred in subsequent periods. The Foundation recognized approximately $2,500,000 and $1,800,000 of repair and warranty expense during the years ended December 31, 2014 and 2013, respectively. These expenses are classified as Program Expense in the accompanying consolidated statement of activities and changes in net assets.

Some of MIT’s Lower Ninth Ward houses were repaired, such as this one, featured in this December 2013 Woodworking Network article:

Some were repaired, but it seems to have been very few. Years passed, and after years, MIR sent engineers to inspect its Lower Ninth ward homes. Also, MIR arguably made it difficult for homeowners to view the resulting inspection reports. It seems that MIR was trying to run out the clock on potential legal recourse to which homeowners were entitled according to Louisiana law:

The next MIR strategy to avoid litigation was to have unsuspecting homeowners sign away their rights via nondisclosure and binding arbitration agreements, thereby leveraging MIR to avoid litigation by exploiting the homeowners. Referenced in the lawsuit excerpt below are MIR COO/Treasurer/ board member James Mazzuto and MIR employee Tanya Harris:

This Make It Right home’s front porch was crumbling and collapsing in 2021. Judith Keller

In April 2015, Pitt sued TimberSIL, the manufacturer of the wood used to build MIR’s Lower Ninth Ward homes. (According to Woodworking Network, TimberSIL was discontinued in 2010 “due to performance.”) The suit was still pending in 2019, during which time MIR’s Lower Ninth Ward residents were being strung along and kept in the dark, even as the issues with their homes had more than begun to show. (The issue with rotting TimberSIL wood was already making headlines by December 2013.)

Brad Pitt’s Make It Right has not filed a tax form since 2018. The Make It Right website is not longer in operation.

In 2018, Brad Pitt tried to remove himself from the 2018 class action suit referenced above. In October 2019, a federal judge ruled that Pitt would remain a defendant in the suit.

In September 2018, Pitt sued architect of record, John C. Williams.

In April 2021, Pitt sued MIR’s former executive director, Tom Darden III, and other NIR officers, for (as the Architect’s Newspaper puts it) “widespread project mismanagement from 2007 to 2016.” As ArchTech notes:

As the first of the homes reached completion, the Lower 9th was transformed into a storm-battered architectural tourist destination of sorts as visitors descended via tour bus to rubberneck at the ultramodern elevated structures. However, displaced residents of the Lower 9th were hesitant to return to a neighborhood still largely cut off from the rest of the city by the storm and lacking basic services. Meanwhile, new arrivals to the rebounding city gravitated toward other neighborhoods. In 2014, it was revealed that roughly two-dozen Make It Right Homes were already in a severe state of decay due to the use of TimberSIL, a nontoxic wood product unable to withstand high levels of moisture. New Orleans, of course, is a city known for being on the steamy side. (Make It Right sued the manufacturer of TimberSIL in 2015.)

In 2018, serious complaints from homeowners came to light regarding electrical fires, mold, gas and water leaks, foundation issues, and the use of building materials that were substandard or incompatible with the temperamental New Orleans climate. These complaints yielded a proposed class-action lawsuit against the Make It Right by two homeowners. In October of last year, a deteriorating home designed by Adjaye Associates and completed in 2011 was deemed unsafe by the city and slated for demolition. This came less than two years after another rot-ravaged Make It Right home, this one designed by KieranTimberlake, was condemned and razed.

In December 2021, MIR was sued by a bank; one of the MIT properties was facing seizure by municipal government, and the man who kept the lawns was also trying to sue MIT for nonpayment but could not locate a representative to be served in the suit. From the December 10, 2021

In recent months Make It Right has also filed court documents asserting that its former officers and directors “severely mismanaging the foundation” during construction of the houses. Particularly, Make It Right’s current leadership blames the old guard for pursuing tax credits that did not benefit the project and for blundering into what they called the “Blitz Build” program, presumably to streamline and expedite construction. The nonprofit alleges certain past leaders “acted in their own self-interest” over the interest of the organization.

In view of those high-stakes issues, the empty lot at 1801 Jourdan Ave. is small potatoes, but it has added to Make It Right’s recent woes. It is owned by Make It Right, and is littered with the remnants of wooden pilings, a broken toilet and other debris. City Hall cited it as a nuisance, raising the specter of a $705 fine, and asked the Sheriff’s Office to seize the property.

Then there is Wesley Broaden Sr. The owner of a lawn care service, he asserts that Make It Right owes him about $4,500.

Broaden said that for 10 years he has cut the lawns of Make It Right’s properties, for $35 per lot. The organization occasionally missed a payment, he said, but always made good on what it owed. When payments stopped about six months ago, he continued mowing for a while.

When it became clear to him that his bills would remain unpaid, he tried to sue Make It Right. But Broaden said he was told that the court was unable to locate a representative of Make It Right to receive official notice of the suit, so he’s thus far been denied his day in court.

“They just vanished on me,” he said.

Make It Right could not be reached for comment.

This Make It Right home underwent major structural repairs in 2018. Judith Keller

In February 2022, Common Edge featured an interview with German native and international research scholar Judith Keller, who moved from Illinois to New Orleans post-Katrina and covered MIR’s home build as part of her masters thesis. Below are some excerpts of Keller’s responses from that interview, in which interviewer Martin Pedersen is trying to discern what went wrong with MIR’s Lowere Ninth ward housing:

I started this work (tracking the developments of Make It Right) back in 2018. It was part of my master’s thesis, then I graduated in 2019 and went on to do my Ph.D., and that’s what brought me back to the U.S. for further research. And recently when I was in New Orleans, in November and December (2021), I revisited the community and saw how the state of the homes had further deteriorated, and how things that had already been bad in 2018 were now even worse. That inspired me to write the article for The Conversation, to draw more attention to the situation.

Some are completely remodeled. They had a flat roof that had to be replaced with a pitched one, or the entire pilings had to be cut out and redone. Some houses that had already received repairs now need additional repairs. And then there were a lot of homes that have never been inspected and that haven’t had any repairs done. They’re in bad shape and need help. I think about six homes remain in good shape.

I first visited in 2018, and there were already a lot of homes that had issues. But it has gotten worse. And that basically mirrors the time that Make It Right has been inactive. Some of the homes were just sitting empty, some of the homes didn’t get the repairs they needed. But not all of the issues are visible from the outside. Some residents I talked to had problems with mold and termites, and that’s not something you would see from the streets.

Your other point was about the role of the famous architects. … Most of them proposed fairly avant-garde ideas that were really more about design, the look of things, rather than the local context, especially the climate.

…The residents are aware of how important their role is. They’re trying to maintain their houses. The repairs they’re asking for still fall under the promises that they got from Make It Right. Substandard materials are not the residents’ fault. That’s not a maintenance issue. Those are structural issues caused by Make It Right. Some of the residents are now stepping in and doing some of these repairs themselves, even though it’s hard on them. Many of them are low-income, and they cannot renovate their homes out of pocket.

Another Brad Pitt Make It Right home demolished in the Lower Ninth Ward. The property sat, rotted, and eventually became an eyesore. October 14, 2020

Here is the crux of the matter, as Keller states during her interview:

So, first of all, it’s really important for me to say that I’m not pointing my finger at Make It Right or Brad Pitt. I don’t want to single out one person from Make It Right and say, they’re responsible. A number of things went wrong. One of them was that homes were not designed to properly withstand the climate in New Orleans. Some of the local features of the neighborhood were not taken into consideration. That was really crucial. They also used some experimental materials that didn’t work as they expected them to. And, again, I’m not saying that’s their fault. It was probably a good idea, at first, to try out something new. But when they don’t work, you have to own up to your mistakes and then try to fix those mistakes. That’s what I blame on Make It Right. When some of these issues started coming out, they were not transparent. They wanted homeowners to sign nondisclosure agreements. They did not ever come up with a formal apology. And I think that’s when Make It Right went really wrong. It’s not their fault that some of the structures did not work. It’s not their fault that some of the construction companies made mistakes. But it is their fault that they didn’t assume responsibility, didn’t show accountability, when the issues started to come out.

As of February 2022, only 6 of the 109 Lower Ninth Ward homes built by Pitt’s MIR are in “livable condition.”

Pitt and his Make It Right need to own up to their mistakes and either fix the damaged homes for the residents or compensate them for their loss, both of property and of peace of mind. That and that alone would finally Make It Right.

Celebrities wanting to come to the rescue of others should take a lesson from Pitt’s experiences. Don’t be naive. Research what you’re getting yourself into, including liability. Aim for practicality rather than glamour. Do not overextend.

Consider that the same people you aim to help you can also hurt really badly. Know what is transpiring in your own organization.

Don’t set yourself up for choosing to save your own skin when the best laid plans go awry.

Frankly, the best way to help as an outsider is not to start a project from scratch but instead to contribute to established, reputable organizations with experience in approaching the crisis at hand– and who are experienced in assisting the community you wish to serve.

As for the residents who were victimized by Make It Right, I cannot fault them in this situation. New Orleanians’ lives were in such upheaval post-Katrina, who would have said no to a celebrity riding into town with promises of affordable, energy-efficient housing constructed by experts?

No, no. This debacle I wholly lay at the feet of Brad Pitt. He must Make It Right.

One of the abandoned Make It Right houses. From Common Edge.
From the September 2018 “June 30: The moldering shell of a Make It Right house at 5012 N. Derbigny St. in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward was demolished. Built just seven years before, the long-unoccupied building had become a tattered loaf of rotting wood, fraying tarpaulin and ominous open doorways. Its demolition brought attention to possible defects in the designs of the experimental houses.”


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter (don’t be scared) @deutsch29blog

Alligator on the Sidewalk (?!?)

In teaching, you never know.

Today, for me, it was alligator on the sidewalk.

Mid-morning, I was in the hallway that exits to the baseball field. I was collecting aluminum cans, which I do daily in order to leave them by my driveway for a special needs neighbor to collect each morning, like many of my neighbors do.

The students happened to be on a break prior to taking an exam, so the hallways became crowded. I thought I would wait it out by seeking cans in the quiet outside, behind the hallway and next to the baseball field.

Upon exiting the building and turning to walk on the sidewalk between the building and the rear of the visitor’s dugout, I saw a 4-foot alligator facing me 20 feet away on the sidewalk, just as still as could be.

Compliments of Mrs. Bostick

I thought it was a prank. This could not be real.

I took two steps forward, and as I did so, the prank adjusted its head.


So, there we are, just me and Alligator Surprise. I can’t leave. I have to stay here. Just beyond me, behind the doorway where I had just exited, is a hallway full of students oblivious to this surprising development, and I needed to keep them oblivious so that they would not rush outside.

But I needed assistance. I moved to the doorway and held the door, watching for another faculty member.

Also about 20 feet away, the band director emerges from the bandroom and joins kid-filled hallway.

“Mr Wild,” (he turns toward me) “I need you to come here NOW.” And I don’t move.

He looks at me quizzically but slowly begins to walk in my direction.

I’m trying not to blurt it out to loudly. By now, Mr. Wild is within a few feet of me in this busy hallway.

“There’s an alligator on the sidewalk. I need an administrator.”

Some kids hear me. Mr. Wild replies, “You’re kidding.”

“Not kidding.”

From Mrs. Bostick’s classroom. I and others were further up the sidewalk to the right of this shot.

Mr. Wild steps outside with me, and a few students try to come, but I tell them to stay inside, and I close the door.

Mr. Wild tries to phone the office but is having troble getting through. I open the door to find a hovering student whom I know, and tell him, “Go to the office and tell the administration I need them to come here now.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Wild also gets through to a front office staff member.

Pretty soon, two administrators, our campus police officer and an additional officer, and custodial backup show up. Meanwhile, the students are itching to see this alligator, still 20 feet away, and, fortunately, still almost completely motionless.

One student puts forth his most polite-rehearsed voice in unintentionally-comical monotone: “Please, may I come outside to see the alligator?”

I had backup enough, so I told the phone-wielding mass, “Okay. You may stand on this pavement and get you pics.” No one tried to rush forward, or be the foolish, alligator-approaching center of attention. I gave them their moment to witness and record our guest and then sent them back inside.

We had a few waves of students wanting pictures, and all behaved.

Within the hour, animal control came with a steel catch pole and a large pet carrier. By this time, our alligator decided to leave the sidewalk and curl up next to the brick wall below a colleague’s classroom. (That would be Mrs. Bostick, who calmly opened her classroom window and snapped the pics included with this post.) The decision to move next to the wall in a corner of sorts made capturing this gator easier.

Curled up in a corner convenient for capture, right below Mrs. Bostick’s classroom.

Throughout our time outside, conversations went thusly:

“That’s just a baby.”

Four feet long.

“Well, maybe not a baby.”

I’m glad our guest had not made it further up the sidewalk before our encounter, and I’m glad I discovered this surprise before any students did.

I also look forward to a boring tomorrow by comparison.


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Louisiana: Details on the 2022-23 St. Tammany Pay Raise

The St. Tammany Federation (Louisiana) has posted a concise summary of the financial opener concerning 2022-23 teacher and staff raises. In short, for classroom teachers, the local raise, combined with the state raise of $1500 is projected to be roughly $4000. (Note that Governor Edwards hopes to increase state portion to $2000).

Teachers and other education personnel are underpaid. Believe me, I get it. I also understand the temptation to pooh-pooh this current St. Tammany result when comparing it to, say, St. Charles Parish’s announced 10 percent local raise, not including the state portion. Nevertheless, to discount the work done by St. Tammany union leadership in this effort and in previous months prior to official negotiations being open would be sorely remiss. Therefore, in an effort to allow readers a snapshot into what has actually transpired with this latest St. Tammany pay increase, I offer the backstory for salary and benefit negotiations that began sooner than scheduled and already have future windows scheduled for continued negotiations.

The following information is posted on the St. Tammany Federation website. I include it here for convenience– and to interject a bit of my own narrative.

We begin with a bit of background on the efforts expended by the union on behalf of St. Tammany teachers and support staff since Brant Osborn became union president in May 2021, elected along with his slate (with a special thanks to St. Tammany bus drivers). (Note also the call to action, which is always a good place for any disgruntled employees to productively focus their upset):

Next comes two decades of St. Tammany teacher/para pay history, including nothing added to increase salary for four years (2012-13, 2013-14, 2016-17, 2020-21) (Yes, in 2020-21, we had some sizeable stipends, but stipends are a one-time expenditure that do not contribute to a professional’s salary base and are therefore appealing to management because the funding commitment is not recurring– including as a part of future retirement pay.)

Note that the 2022-23 raise is based off of step zero plus $1000 (the equivalent of two “steps,” of $500 for each of two years of 181-day service, as noted on 2021-22 salary schedule). The chart below includes a breakdown of the total expected raise for teachers starting before 2014-15. The first row is the anticipated total raise in 2022-23 for a teacher working 181 days and who began prior to June 30, 2014, with a masters degree. The remaining rows apply to teachers hired prior to June 30, 2014, who work different numbers of days and who hold a bachelors. (Beyond 181 days, the compensation is adjusted according to days working more than the 181-day base.)

The salary increase details and calculations included in this work are based upon two phone calls I had with Federation EVP Stephanie Underwood prior to writing this post.

To determine the base 3 percent increase, one can consult the 2021-22 salary schedule in order to calculate 3 percent of the step zero pay for date of hire (before June 30, 2014, or after) and for a given advanced degree. For example, a teacher works 181 days and who had a masters plus 30 PRIOR TO JUNE 30, 2014, will receive an additional $1467 (48,900 x .03 = 1467) plus $1000 for the two steps, which is $2467 from the district and (currently) $1500 from the state, for a total increase of $3967.

Here are the step zero schedules for different numbers of annual working days and degree levels, for quick access in performing the 3-percent calculations (keep in mind the two-step increase is more for more days worked above 181 days; see above chart for exact amounts.)

First, for those hired prior to June 30, 2014 AND who earned given advanced degrees prior to June 30, 2014 AND who work a certain number of days beyond 181:

Next, step zero for teachers hired prior to June 30, 2014 and who earned certain advanced degrees after June 30, 2014 while possibly having one or more advanced degrees prior to June 30, 2014, all of whom work for 181 days:

There are so many different “step zero” possibilities because teachers hired prior to June 30, 2014, were at different places with their advanced degrees when the rules changed to pay less (only $500) per advanced degree. This is a Jindal et al., ed-reform ugliness that said advanced degrees didn’t matter to student test score outcomes, so let’s go on the cheap with rewarding educational advancement of classroom teachers.

The 2021-22 salary schedule includes numerous variations based on being hired either prior to or after June 30, 2014, and holding what advanced degrees prior AND which advanced degrees were earned after AND for varied length of the work year. It would be awkward for me to post all of these variations in this post, but I will offer a couple more. Read carefully to see if it applies to you situation. For example, a teacher hired prior to June 30, 2014, with a bachelors AND who now holds an EDS AND who works 189 days would base the 3 percent raise off of a step zero salary of $49,637:

Another example: A teacher who was hired prior to June 30, 2014, with a masters at the time of hire but who now holds a PhD AND who works 194 days would base the 3 percent raise off of $52,947. (Again, keep in mind that the additional raise for “two steps” is adjusted to include more than $1000 for working beyond 181 days):

As for the teachers hired after June 30, 2014, the step zero is as follows for given numbers of days worked:

The St. Tammany Federation also notes that it wanted to have the 3 percent raise based off of a teacher’s current base salary (not step zero), but according to Federation EVP Stephanie Underwood, the St. Tammany school board pointed out that the compensation formula prevented the weighting of experience as more than 50 percent of total salary, as required in Louisiana’s Act 1 (the “teacher tenure” law brought to us by the legislature under Bobby Jindal):

And so, our raises begin at step zero, which ignores experience.

Its all a game.

The Federation wants to change the law– another opportunity for the dissatisfied to channel that energy toward visible and vocal action.

Other benefits for all employees, including divvying up half of any budget surplus funds in the form of stipends AND no raising of health insurance premiums or lowering of health benefits as a corner-cutting measure:

More benefits for all teachers– including effectiveness stipend (not just “highly effective”) raised to $1000 and classroom supply reimbursement raised to $500:

The Federation also asked for incentives for teachers of SWE (students with exceptionalities), based on the SWE teacher being certified or OFAT (out-of-field authorized):

I am happy for the SWE teachers to get a little something extra. I would not want to complete all of those IEPs. My SWE paperwork as a regular-ed teacher is enough. I am also fine with this token incentive for teachers in high-needs areas. Helping one helps relieve pressure on the entire system:

As for benefits and plans of action for support staff:

And now, here’s the truth of it: None of this would have happened without the Federation’s hard work.

The Federation under Brant Osborn’s leadership is not the same old union colluding with management. It’s a new day, and the information in this post proves it.

Yes, you may want more. I want more. So, don’t just criticize from the social media bleachers. Join the fight. Join the union. Pound the pavement, be visible; actively work toward change. Bothered by St. Charles’ 10 percent teacher raise? Let your school board members know. Better still, help elect a school board more amenable to the fiscal needs and well being of its teachers in the long term.


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This Year.

On May 09, 2022, my senior English students graduated from high school.

In 2021-22, I had the largest class sizes since I began teaching in 1991.

Our school had a substitute teacher shortage, and to compensate by not missing school and sending my students to the cafeteria or gym or to another teacher during planning, I only missed part of a day in the spring to deliver the eulogy at a friend’s funeral. (Not all teachers could keep such a commitment, and I fault none of my colleagues for their absences. We should be able to take the leave we are allotted.)

My seniors were also juniors during the pandemic, which means they had less exposure to writing a research paper. I walked them through our research writing assignment one section at a time, meeting with each student individually. Doing so spread me very thin, but the one-on-one time was necessary. I ran out of school year and had to rush the end of the assignment by modeling the writing of a generic introduction and conclusion and explaining why I included what I did in this model eye-to-eye, one-on-one, to each individual student, knowing in essence these were my final words to each before our time together came to its end.

This year, I feel like I worked the hardest and most efficiently to teach less than enough. Combined with the requirements of caring for my aging mother, I walked a fatigue tightrope, I kid you not.

By God’s grace, I end this year okay mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually.

I wish I could have done more for my students.


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter (don’t be scared) @deutsch29blog

Ridge-Lane Limited Partners Offers Jeb Bush-Heavy Education Expertise

Need help with your public or private business venture? Well, NY- and DC-based Ridge-Lane Limited Partners (LP) offers “venture development at the apex of public and private sector.”

Here’s Ridge-Lane LP’s opening spiel, “About Us”:

RIDGE-LANE Limited Partners is a strategic advisory and venture development firm founded by financier R. Brad Lane and The Honorable Thomas J. Ridge – focused on root-cause solutions to grand challenges in Education, Sustainability, and Information Technology – with a team of General Partners, Venture Partners, and Senior Advisors who have served at the highest levels of finance, government, and military.

We create value for our clients and society by bridging the gaps between private-sector innovation, investment capital, policy and procurement – across the Federal, State, and Local levels: an innovation ecosystem, providing corporate development to commercialize and scale novel venture-backed technology companies, as well as place-based solutions that improve cities and quality of life.

Our team serves as a fiduciary advisor to companies looking for strategic ways to accelerate growth, providing an integrated offering of Advisory, Capital, and Business Development – aligning the commercial interests of private business, with the needs of society and our future civilization – where our knowledge and networks are leveraged to create maximum value for all stakeholders.

Ridge-Lane will help you spend your (or taxpayer) money on them, as advisors on how to spend your (or taxpayer) money.

Of course, being an entity set on a public-private “apex,” one would certainly expect services available in the education sector. Ridge-Lane LP believes, for example, that “the education of our future workforce an American imperative” and in “scaling for impact” those identified “pockets of excellence in public and private schools.”

Ridge-Lane LP wants to help (for a fee, of course) with all of the following:

  • Bridging the gap between Research and Practice
  • Transforming K-12 Education
  • Enhancing Higher Ed: Closing the Knowledge & Skills Gap
  • Developing the Workforce
  • Aligning Financial Incentives
  • Professional Development: Educator Leadership
  • Appropriate Utilization of Technology
  • Procurement & Learning Efficacy: Data, Analytics, Review and Improve
  • Personalized Learning: The Whole Child
  • Life-Long Learning

In order to help bring about (for a fee, of course) any and all of the above for its education clients, Ridge-Lane LP “has significant experience in the K-12, post-secondary, college/university, and workforce training environments.”

Let us now consider the crew Ridge-Lane LP has on its team as its K-12 advisors, all of whom are listed as “Board Member, State K-12 Education Chiefs”:

Four of the individuals listed above were among the original Chiefs for Change and had their ed-reform careers notably influenced by former Florida governor, Jeb Bush: Hanna Skandera, John White, Gerard Robinson, and Chris Cerf. You can read about them in this March 2013 post I wrote on “Chiefs for Change in Bush’s Service,” but let’s also discuss them a bit below so that prospective Ridge-Lane LP education customers can know some more about the *expertise* that has escaped those lovely Ridge-Lane LP bios– and for which they would be paying.

Hanna Skandera

From 2005 to 2007, Skandera worked as an ed deputy under then-Florida governor, Jeb Bush. Although she lacked the qualifications to become ed commissioner in New Mexico, she held the job for several years unconfirmed (2011-2015) under the title, “designee,” until she was finally confirmed in February 2015. Before being a confirmed state ed chief, in 2013, Skandera became the chair of Bush’s Chefs for Change.

Despite having been positioned to hold a number of higher-level ed positions, Skandera has no classroom experience. She did promote Bush’s idea of school letter grades, billed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as “the lynchpin” for ed reform. In 2016, Skandera became the chair of the Common-Core assessment consortium, PARCC, without any public announcement. In June 2017, she resigned as NM ed commissioner with no professional destination. Between 2017 and 2019, in a sort of professional ed-reformer seeking of something to do, Skandera formed some organizations and joined others. Two years later, in 2019, she was appointed to the Colorado Community College System to complete an unexpired term for former board member, Theresa Peña.

John White

A golden boy to former Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, John White was brought in from New York in May 2011 to head the New Orleans Recovery School District. Only three days later, White was in the news as Jindal’s pick for next state ed superintendent following exit of another Chief for Change, Paul Pastorek, who implicated himself in having already hired White to head RSD before the state board actually voted on the matter. As for his lightening-fast rise from RSD superintendent to state superintendent, White had Jeb Bush’s folks working behind the scenes in arranging for a Louisiana state ed board that would vote him in as Louisiana state superintendent in January 2012.

In 2015, in the months preceding Jeb Bush’s presidential bid, White replaced Skandera as Chiefs for Change chair, even as the Bush-controlled organization formally became an independent entity. Note how 2015 EdWeek describes the organization, and keep it in mind when considering potential, Ridge-Lane LP education advice:

Chiefs for Change, the advocacy group of state superintendents prominent for supporting the Common Core State Standards and teacher evaluations based on test scores, has announced that it is shifting its mission to focus more on major urban districts. …

White and Skandera denied that Jeb Bush’s possible run for president in 2016 influenced the group’s decision to break away from the foundation he started, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, although Skandera did say that perceptions about Chiefs for Change and its links to the foundation did lead people to certain conclusions about its work.

Let the backgrounds of its acolytes attest to the conclusions one makes about its work– and the work of Ridge-Lane LP, who houses several of these Jeb Bush, ed-reform faithful.

In November 2019, near the end of his time as a state superintendent, White was replaced by Pedro Martinez as Cheifs for Change chair.

For all of his top leadership catapult, White has only three years of classroom teaching experience with Teach for America (TFA). His post-Louisiana bios boast of his having been the longest serving Louisiana superintendent, but he never mentions why he resigned from the third highest paid state ed chief position effective March 2020 and, like Skandera, was headed nowhere in particular. Prior to his resignation, he and former TFAer Paymon Rouhanifard started a nonprofit, Propel America, that actually had “pilot projects” in Louisiana while White was still superintendent– news that apparently blindsided members of the state board of education. After White’s departure, in 2021, he and a whole slew of former Louisiana Department of Education ed-reformers crafted yet another *venture,* Watershed Advisors.

Gerard Robinson

In July 2012, Robinson “resigned abruptly” after one year on the job. From the July 31, 2012, Associated Press:

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson is resigning from the job he’s held for a year, his time marked by glitches in the state’s school grading system and standardized testing program.

Robinson gave no reason for leaving in letters of resignation that he submitted Tuesday to Gov. Rick Scott and State Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan.

The letters included a list of accomplishments, but Robinson wrote only that he was resigning effective Aug. 31, “after much contemplation and discussion” with his family.

The board, not Scott, appoints the commissioner, but the Republican governor gave Robinson his enthusiastic support after pressuring his predecessor, Eric Smith, to resign shortly after Scott took office. The governor does appoint board members but when Robinson was hired most were appointees of former Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist.

From my 2013 “Chiefs” post:

If reality breaks through and corporate reform is really embarrassed, well, one might have to “take one for the team.” That seems to be the case for former Florida “Chief” Gerard Robinson, who continues his time with Chiefs for Change as an emeritus member. Even though Robinson resigned “for family reasons,” his departure as Florida’s state education superintendent occurred amid national humiliation:

“…Robinson’s tenure had been dogged in recent months by the public-relations pounding the department took after FCAT scores collapsed, followed a few months later by the school grades mix-up. The Florida Board of Education was forced to lower passing grades for the statewide writing tests in May after the passing rate plunged from 81 percent to 27 percent for fourth graders and showed similar drops in eighth and 10th grades. Then, in July, the department had to reissue grades for 213 elementary and middle schools and nine school districts as part of a “continuous review process.” That came after the number of schools receiving an ‘A’ had plummeted from 1,481 in 2011 to 1,124 this year. The new grades showed 1,240 schools getting the highest mark — a jump of 5 percentage points from the first cut of the numbers.”

…According to this Orlando Sentinel article,, Robinson raised FCAT passing score thresholds in response to Bush’s own wishes:

“Robinson’s decision [to raise FCAT passing scores] bucks the recommendations of Florida’s school superintendents as well as other public school and college experts asked to weigh in on the new scoring system. But it meshes with the wishes of some State Board members, who said they worry the state’s high school standards are too weak, given how many graduates ended up in remedial classes in college. It also follows the suggestions of two politically influential groups, former Gov. Jeb Bush’s education foundation and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.”

  Another source adds: “…Bush and the Chamber are so far dodging accountability for the FCAT Writing nightmare. It was they who served as Robinson’s backers on increasing FCAT stakes. Their silence on the three-day old story is telling as they’ve thrown Robinson under the bus.”

Bush-styled “test and punish” seems to mostly have punished the Florida superintendent promoting it. In Virginia, Robinson lasted as ed chief for only a year and a half (January 2010 to June 2011). In Florida, he held the top spot for only a year. And as for K12 classroom experience, according to his Linkedin bio, Robinson taught fifth grade at a private, inner-city school in Los Angeles for only one year. But here he is, ready to advise Ridge-Lane LP customers on K12 education.

Chris Cerf

Chris Cerf as an education advisor? All I can say to that is “Edison’s teacher pension bailout.”

From my 2013 “Chiefs” post:

Time to shift our focus to New Jersey’s Chief, Chris Cerf. What a story we have here between Cerf and Bush. In 2001, Cerf became president of a company called Edison Education. As Jersey Jazzman notes, Edison “couldn’t produce the results it claimed it could.” Edison had gone public in 1999 and was in deep trouble by 2003; not wanting corporate reform to ever appear to fail, Jeb Bush used the vast resources of the Florida teachers retirement system to bail out a company that ironically was trying to shut out public school teachers:

“Whittle and Cerf needed a buyout; someone with pockets deep enough to take the company private and protect the value of their own shares. Ironically, their white knight turned out to be funded by none other than the Florida teachers pension fund.

Yes, you read that right: Florida teachers paid for Whittle and Cerf to take their company private – a company that advocated for the continuing corporatization of public schools. Understand that the fund itself was being run by a firm that was engaging in some questionable practices.

… The deal was approved by the three trustees of the FL pension: CFO Tom Gallagher, then-Attorney General and future-Governor Charlie Crist, and then-Governor Jeb Bush.

… So the pensions of Florida teachers were used to rescue a failing company that advocated education policies counter to those of the teachers unions. This buyout saved the contract of an investment firm that was doing a lousy job managing the pension by playing to the ideological predilections of a powerful governor, who just happened to be the brother of a president who ushered in No Child Left Behind, the law that set the stage for ‘school choice.'”

Chris Cerf has involved himself in other shady and unethical (illegal?) situations. (See this this article by Leonie Haimson for a succinct yet pointed discussion on Cerf’s questionable doings.)

At least he is faithful to the reformer agenda of privatization, and after all, that is what matters, isn’t it?

Jeb says yes.

Another slice of Cerf, this time from the February 2014 NJ Spotlight News article announcing his first NJ resignation, this one as state ed chief:

As news becomes public today and reaction starts pouring in, there are sure to be those critical of his tenure, or at least his stewardship of [NJ governor Chris] Christie’s agenda.

Some have complained about the pressure created by the new testing and curriculum embodied by the Common Core State Standards, which Cerf embraced. Others have criticized tighter controls on school spending at a time of increased mandates and reduced state funding in a majority of districts.

The pace of change under the new teacher evaluations has been especially contentious, and even was subject of an Assembly committee hearing yesterday.

Maybe most significantly, before Cerf came into office, Christie drastically reduced school funding in the face of the recession-driven revenue cuts, and nearly 80 percent of districts have yet to fully recover. Nonetheless, Cerf has been left to defend the funding reductions and press for new ones.

Christie brought Cerf back a year later, in 2015, to take over the state-run Newark schools. From the August 2018 Newark Chalkbeat:

By the time Cerf was appointed by former Gov. Chris Christie in 2015 to take over as Newark schools chief, the district had become a case study in ambitious reform gone awry.

Parents, students, and the Newark Teachers Union had joined forces against the school closures and staff layoffs, and the superintendent who had pushed the changes, Cami Anderson, had resigned. The troubled reform efforts were detailed in a critically acclaimed book by journalist Dale Russakoff, published just as Cerf became superintendent.

In an effort to market Newark success upon his departure, in true education businessman form, Cerf turned to private investors to brand for himself a positive legacy. Use of private money conveniently keeps spending details– and vetting– from the public :

It’s common for outgoing administrations to highlight their accomplishments. But the district’s close coordination with donors, whose contributions often evade public scrutiny, raises ongoing questions about transparency and private influence over public schools, said Domingo Morel, a political scientist at Rutgers University-Newark who has written about state takeovers of urban school districts.

“It’s actors behind the scenes trying to shape public education without any role for the public,” he said.

Most of the money flowed through the Community Foundation of New Jersey, a nonprofit that manages charitable funds and has overseen the Zuckerberg money since 2016. District officials determined how the foundation money was spent, but donors still had to sign off, people familiar with the foundation said. The arrangement allowed consultants to do work for the district without being publicly vetted.

It’s All in the Edu-brand.

Branding is important in the education business, and certainly, that branding mindset shapes the details ed reformers include in their bios. Cerf does not mention the Florida teacher pension buyout of his failing Edison. He also doesn’t mention that according to his Linkedin bio, he was taught high school in Cincinnati for only four years several decades ago (1977-81). He should tout that accomplishment. Even though he was in the K12 classroom mostly during the Carter administration and left for good soon after Reagan took office, his being there for four years makes him the veteran among his fellow Jeb-Bushites.

Others among the Ridge-Lane LP K12 state education chiefs also mention association with Chiefs for Change in their bios (Candice McQueen, Steve Canavero). Furthermore, Lillian Lowery, who has no Ridge-Lane LP bio as of this writing, has also been involved with Chiefs for Change, as the 2019 Chiefs for Change publication below notes on page 2.

So, if you want to dip into some of this Ridge-Lane LP K12 “significant experience” (not in the classroom, mind you, but in Jeb Bush reforms, such as school grading, and Common Core, and PARCC, and pension funneling), then get your (or the taxpayer’s) proverbial checkbook ready so that these once state-ed superintendents can spin an income advising you out of those edu-dollars.

Jeb Bush


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter (don’t be scared) @deutsch29blog

Lawsuit: Former DC Principal, Director Sue DCPS for Firings Related to Relay GSE Concerns

Below are excerpts fron a lawsuit put forth by two former employees of DC’s Boone Elementary School, who took issue with DC Public Schools (DCPS) higher admin wishing to impose controversial scripted and harsh practices at the direction of the so-named Relay Graduate School of Education (“graduate school” as a brand name and worth as much as my legally changing my own name to “Mercedes Schneider, MD” to deceptively promote the idea that I practice medicine).

Former Boone principal, Carolyn Jackson-King, repeatedly voiced her concerns about DCPS pooling lower-income, predominately Black schools under the jurisdiction of Relay and the fact that the administrator overseeing this requirement was formerly with “no excuses” KIPP schools (as in highly-scripted conformity at the expense of developing critical thinking and self-value for low-income students). Jackson-King even collected data to support no need for this concocted “Relay remediation” plan for Boone students, to no avail. Within one year, she was brought from being a principal deemed worthy of mentoring others to one released from her duties as principal and given the lowest rating of her career.

Fellow Boone employee and director of strategy and logistics, Marlon Ray, was arguably singled out and punitively required to work in person throughout the pre-vaccination period of COVID and later terminated due to “reduction in force” after he filed a 2020 whistleblower suit with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) about Relay, including contracts and payments under two distinct codings and that did not line up.

Jackson-King and Ray are suing DCPS and requesting a jury trial “to remedy the effects of the illegal conduct described [in the suit]” and to “award damages for back pay and other monetary losses” incurred by DCPS “[having] violated the provisions of District of Columbia law recited [in the suit].”

The lawsuit itself is 35 pages long and is posted at the end of this piece. I wish I could post the entire document as I believe it is worth a full read for its value on many fronts, including how those in education reform are able to all-too-quickly position themselves in upper administration and through their connections promote other entites selling ill-informed ideas that are contrary to sound educational practice; how such education businesses are often particularly positioned to prey on lower income students and students of color; how genuinely concerned, career-invested stakeholders are often wrongfully punished for voicing their concerns and seeking remedy (including being told that the issue should be kept “in house,” a strategy also often employed by domestic abusers), and how the underdog often has to pay out of pocket to seek relief in the courts.

First from the suit: background on Relay:

The Relay Graduate School of Education (“RGSE” “Relay GSE” or “Relay”) was founded by Hunter College Dean David Steiner, and charter school founders Norman Atkins of Uncommon Schools, Dacia Toll of Achievement First, and David Levin of KIPP charter schools in 2007.

Initially named “Teacher U,” in 2012 Relay severed its relationship with Hunter College, rebranding itself as the Relay Graduate School of Education.

This rebranding followed Steiner’s departure from Hunter College to become Commissioner of Education for New York State in 2009. As Commissioner, he led the New York State Board of Regents to “authorize an independent teacher preparation graduate school of education” where entities that were not institutions of higher educations were permitted to grant master’s degrees in the State of New York. Two years later, Steiner returned to his position at Hunter College, and remains a member of its Board of Trustees.

During Steiner’s time as Commissioner, he supported the New York State Board of Regents granting a provisional charter to Relay on February 3, 2011, despite charges of conflicting interests.

In New Jersey, Relay faced community concerns regarding its oversight, due to its attempts to usurp state requirements for teachers with what it deemed its “equivalent qualifications.”

In Connecticut, Relay faced additional scrutiny, due to its connection to Toll. Toll’s Achievement First schools were the largest network of charter schools in Connecticut. With some schools featuring 96 – 99 percent Black and Hispanic students these schools were responsible for the state’s highest suspension and expulsion rates. Its curriculum has been criticized for “emphasizing methods that are reductive and control-oriented, rather than research-based and conducive to critical thinking.”

Relay’s reductive view of teaching “emphasizes the kind of techniques shown to narrow the curriculum and adversely affect students’ socio-emotional development.” Such techniques follow “no credible research base to support its claims to effectiveness.” Meanwhile, its list of private partners and agenda “has typically worked against community interests and exacerbated inequities— draining resources from struggling districts, [and] deepening segregation.”

Relay’s teachers are trained to “bark commands and questions” akin to a drill sergeant, and in one training video when a student “confuses the word ‘ambition’ with ‘anxious’ (an error that is repeated by a classmate), you know that is how he is feeling at the moment.” …

Relay was first introduced in Washington, D.C. in 2017, with DCPS teachers beginning to attend RGSE training sessions at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

Some background on Jackson-King, including her established career as a DCPS administrator:

Plaintiff Dr. Jackson-King began working for District of Columbia Public Schools in 1999. After a break in service, Dr. Jackson-King re-entered DCPS in 2005.

Dr. Jackson-King was hired for her most recent role as School Principal at Lawrence E. Boone Elementary School in 2014. Prior to becoming principal, Dr. Jackson-King was the assistant principal and Dean of Students at Wheatley Education Campus for five years.

During the 2017-2018 school year, Plaintiff Dr. Jackson-King was selected to be on the Chancellor Cabinet. Then, during the 2019-2020 school year, she was selected by DCPS to be a Principal Coach for principals who were new to the district or principalship.

In her role as school principal, Plaintiff Dr. Jackson-King brought change in a myriad of ways. She worked closely with her school community to transition from the Orr building to the 51 million-dollar, newly constructed, and renamed, Lawrence E. Boone Elementary School, in Ward 8. Dr. Jackson-King
redesigned the school day schedule, extending the school day and providing teachers with additional planning time.

Lawrence E. Boone Elementary boasts some of the highest teacher retention rates in the district according to DCPS’ Spring INSIGHT survey (Spring 2019 Insight and Spring INSIGHT survey (Spring 2020 Insight). Talent development at the school not only developed teachers but also six paraprofessionals who were trained and promoted to the ranks of teacher. Lawrence E. Boone also had
three team members who joined the team from the parent ranks, as Boone pushed to promote from within and retain its staff.

Now, a bit about Marlon Ray– including that his OIG complaint resulted in over $128K returned to the district:

Plaintiff Ray was first employed by DCPS in October 2002, and was most recently hired by DCPS at Lawrence E. Boone as the Director, Strategy & Logistics. Throughout his tenure, Ray has shown himself to be a loyal and dedicated employee, always keeping the best interest of DCPS children at the forefront of his work.

Ray filed a whistleblower complaint with the D.C. Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) in August 2020 alleging that building contractors stole $128,219 in school supplies from Lawrence E. Boone Elementary School during the 2017-2018 school year. This in part, led to the retuning of this money in January 2020.

Here is where the problem enters in the form of a mandate delivered by DC deputy chancellor, Teach for America (TFA) alum and former KIPP chief academic officer, Melissa Kim. At the time, Kim had been deputy chancellor for 10 months:

On June 6, 2019, Plaintiffs met with Deputy Chancellor Melissa Kim, amongst the principals of twenty-one (21) other D.C. Public Schools. The principals featured schools that were predominately in Wards 7 and 8 (Black communities with high poverty rates in Washington, D.C. ).

Deputy Chancellor Melissa Kim had a significant relationship with KIPP prior to becoming Deputy Chancellor as she was the Chief Academic Officer of KIPP, and the director of the Instructional Improvement at New Schools Venture Fund. The latter is a venture philanthropy nonprofit that has raised money for DC Prep, KIPP DC, and a number of charter school networks operating in the District of Columbia.

At this June 6 meeting, Deputy Chancellor Kim explained that these principals would be trained by the educational organization Relay. Further, she explained that these schools were being reorganized under the grouping of clusters with the pretext of supporting enrollment at feeder schools.

The District of Columbia Public Schools contracted Relay GSE to coach school leaders and coaches in schools located specifically in Wards 7 and 8. …

At the June 6 meeting, Dr. Jackson-King and several other principals were informed that they would be placed in the “RELAY cluster.”

Concerned, Dr. Jackson-King continued to try and raise awareness regarding Relay’s practices and shortly thereafter contacted Instructional Superintendent (“IS”) Elizabeth Nambi. She had a call with Nambi on June 28, 2019.

On this call, Dr. Jackson- King discussed her issues with Relay, and the racist overtones of homogenously clustering schools as a form of tracking.

Likewise, she questioned Nambi on how elementary schools clustered together could help enrollment at the feeder middle and high school levels, especially since the elementary cluster schools do not engage with the feeder middle or high schools in a systematic way.

Specifically, she doubted the reasoning behind this justification and additionally articulated her opposition to the way Relay was structured due to the program’s problematic behavioral management techniques.

Moreover, Jackson-King expressed concerns that this program was being deliberately implemented to create a school to prison pipeline system for black and brown children. She felt that the lower income black students of D.C. were the experiments for a program that has not been proven to work anywhere.

Part of Jackson-Kings’s concern were due to Deputy Chancellor’s Kim significant relationship with the KIPP organization prior to joining DCPS. …

Still, her concerns went unheard.

Jackson-KIng’s second meeting with Nambi:

On August 21, 2019, Dr. Jackson-King met with IS Nambi about her reason for resistance to Relay. She described how Relay trains school leaders to implement techniques which they call Strong Start/Culture-behavior management techniques. Moreover, she articulated how Relay’s practices encouraged thecontrolling of Black children’s bodies with the “no excuses” mentality. Finally, she expressed that it was discriminatory for DCPS to have Relay only in schools that serve Black students in Black neighborhoods.

Jackson-King gathers data about the progress of slated “RELAY” schools:

On October 21, 2019, Dr. Jackson-King hosted the Cluster meeting for the principals in her group. The principals observed in classrooms and placed feedback on charts and sticky notes around their meeting room. All the feedback that was given by other DCPS principals was positive and constructive, therefore, Dr. Jackson-King understood that based on the knowledge of her colleagues at the time, their school was on track. As such, she had no indication that her school was in danger of falling behind other schools.

Jackson-King inquires about funds being used to pay for mandated Relay:

On October 24, 2019, Dr. Jackson-King spoke out on behalf of several principals at a meeting as a member of the Principal Retention Team. During the meeting she asked, “what happened to the money that some schools were given at the end of 2018?” Dr. Jackson-King was told by several principals that
this money was allocated to services related to Relay.

Again, on November 7, 2019, Dr. Jackson-King voiced concerns [presumably to Nambi] about Relay
and the amount of money Defendant DCPS paid for Relay training. Dr. Jackson-King maintained that there was an issue with DCPS investing so heavily in an organization with foundational practices that were not in the best interest of children, specifically Black children.

Still concerned and unheard, Jackson-King seeks assistance from another DC upper-level administrator, Corrine Colgan:

On November 19, 2019, during Leadership Academy, Dr. Jackson-King spoke with Corrine Colgan, DCPS Chief of Teaching and Learning about Relay’s discriminatory practices, Relay only being implemented in schools East of the Anacostia River and that Relay coaches were being utilized instead of the DCPS content specialists. Dr. Jackson-King’s apprehension was that teachers who worked in the Relay clusters were receiving scripted strict pedagogical techniques that are only used in D.C. schools that serve Black students and did not lead to quality training for teachers who teach students furthest from opportunity.

And here it comes:

On December 19, 2019 Dr. Jackson-King received a low evaluation, 2.75. She reached out via email requesting a meeting with IS (Instructional Superintendent) Mary Ann Stinson to discuss the inaccuracies of the evaluation.

On December 23, 2019, IS Stinson and Deputy Chief Holmes attended the ending of an Academic Leadership Team (ATL) meeting at Boone Elementary School focused on data analysis and Vocabulary.

Despite being aware of Jackson-King’s concerns related to her unfair evaluation, they arrived 5 minutes
before Dr. Jackson-King was to end the meeting. It was becoming apparent to Jackson-King that she would not have a fair chance to discuss her evaluation.

After several attempts she was granted a meeting on January 25, 2020 to discuss her evaluation. Dr. Jackson-King was marked down in her evaluation due to her engagement in the protected activity of “Opposition” to discrimination. During her meeting she complained to several high-level district
administrators that DCPS was engaging in prohibited discrimination by clustering schools that serve majority Black students from low-income households and forcing the schools to implement strategies from an organization that perpetuated the “school to prison” pipeline. …

With her career wrongfully jeopardized, Jackson-King continued to seek a listening ear for her concerns about Relay. Ray is also part of this effort:

On February 12, 2020, Mr. Ray and Dr. Jackson-King met with Ward 8 D.C. Councilmember Trayon White and his team member Wendy Glenn, about the concerns about Relay expressed by the parents and community of Lawrence E. Boone. As a result of the meeting, Councilmember White was to contact the Chancellor to see how he could support the school.

DCPS’s response: King-Jackson is micromanaged and relieved of her principalship:

From February through March 2020, Dr. Jackson-King began to experience intense micromanaging from IS Stinson in several areas. When Dr. JacksonKing checked in with colleagues, it became apparent that this was not happening to anyone else.

On February 25, 2020, Dr. Jackson-King received an email invitation to a meeting with Deputy Chief of Elementary Schools Dr. Jeffrey Holmes and IS Mary Ann Stinson, that had no agenda. The meeting was held two days later on February 27, 2020. There, IS Stinson stated that an IMPACT score of 2.7 was reflective of non-reappointment, and Dr. Jackson-King would not be reappointed to principalship due to performance.

The next day, at a meeting on February 28, 2020… Dr. Holmes reprimanded and repeatedly questioned Dr. Jackson-King for speaking to D.C. Councilmember Trayon White. Dr. Holmes then directly stated that Dr. Jackson-King should not be discussing anything with external operators, stating ‘what happens in the house stays in the house’ or words closely to that effect.

On or about 06 July 2020, Dr. Jackson-King was demoted to Dean of Students. She was replaced as Principal by Kimberly Douglas. (According to the suit, Jackson-King was later terminated.)

According to the lawsuit, Jackson-King’s efforts continue. (Please read full lawsuit for details.) These highlighted points are important to post:

At no point during this process did DCPS senior leadership question why a first year Instructional Superintendent was recommending a Principal Coach with an impeccable record for non-reappointment and dismissal.


On May 15, 2020, during a meeting with parents, teachers and community members who were upset by Dr. Jackson- King’s dismissal as Principal of Lawrence E. Boone, Dr. Jeffrey Holmes stated that DCPS does not subscribe to the culture and climate of practices for Relay. However, after pressure from the panel, Dr. Holmes admitted that a few select schools implemented the Strong Start component of Relay. Furthermore, Dr. Holmes acknowledged that “there’s no data” when asked by Boone teachers if DCPS had data to show if Relay had successful outcomes within DCPS.

Following the details surrounding Jackson-King’s loss of principalship, the suit delineates Ray’s being singled out, as well:

Dr. Jackson-King was not alone in suffering retaliation for her actions regarding Relay, as Mr. Ray suffered as well. Principal Douglas (Jackson-King’s successor), despite the safety concerns of COVID-19, required Ray, of a school staff of 60+ employees, to be the only staff member working in- person 5 days a week. This continued from July 2020 through November 2020.

Douglas herself worked from home all five days of the week, yet did not consider that due to Ray’s age (over 55) and underlying health conditions, he was at high risk for death if he contracted COVID-19.

In support of his school community, and well within his rights, Ray participated in a peaceful protest on October 28, 2020. He stood in support with parents, Lawrence E. Boone teachers and students.

The next day, at approximately 9:00 a.m., Ray was called to Douglas’s office. Upon entering, Ray was chastised and berated for his participation. Unable to manage her anger, Douglas began to yell irately at Ray, then swiftly departed from the school. Douglas did not use this aggressive tone or tactics with any of the other participants in this protest.

During a leadership meeting in November 2020, Douglas announced the change to teleworking days, where she and two assistant principals would work inperson a couple of days a week to “support” Mr. Ray. Mr. Ray was not offered the opportunity to work any of his schedule virtually. This arrangement
continued through February 5, 2021.

On February 8, 2021, Douglas and two assistant principals began to work every day in person, just as Ray had been doing since the beginning of the school year.

Just one week later, Douglas announced that she would be reinstituting telework days for herself and two assistant principals. She initially did not include Ray in such accommodations. Only after Ray objected did Douglas reluctantly agree to let him telework two days a week.

Starting February 23, 2021, Ray began to telework from home two days a week.

On March 12, 2021, while out sick awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test, Douglas called Ray to inform him that his position would not be included in their budget for the upcoming SY 21/22.

During a virtual staff meeting on March 17, 2021, Ray informed the team that he would not be returning for SY 21/22.

The next day, March 18, 2021, Douglas approached Ray in his office. She once again berated and yelled at Ray over his decision to inform staff of Douglas’ budgetary decision to eliminate Ray’s position.

Three days later, on March 21, 2021, Ray was no longer allowed to work from home, after only 1 month of telework, and despite being in close contact with someone with COVID earlier that month.

Despite the alleged reduction in force of Ray’s position, Director, Strategy and Logistics, on May 18, 2021 a Manager, Strategy and Logistics position at Boone ES was posted on the DCPS vacancy listings.

On June 11, 2021, Plaintiff Marlon Ray was terminated via a letter notifying him that his position was eliminated as the result of a reduction in force.

Read the full suit, which includes more detail than I could post, including numerous footnotes.

How a jury would not find in favor of plaintiffs Jackson-King and Ray I am at a loss to imagine.


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Louisiana Testing Contracts: Data Recognition Corp (DRC), 2015 – 2025

This post includes Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) testing contracts and contract amendments for the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) and the testing company, Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), from 2015 to 2025. The purpose of this post is to make these documents easily available for public viewing.

It is possible that there are more amendments extending beyond the 2021-2022 school year; I did not specifically ask for such amendments in my records request to LDOE.

Including all pricing adjustments referenced in this post, the total cost of the LDOE-DRC contract for 2015 – 2022 is just shy of $60M. That’s an average of $8.6M per year, and this is only for DRC contracts. ACT testing adds another $3M – $3.5M per year, and as of this writing, I have not finished posting all of the most current (as in 2020 – 2022) testing contracts between LDOE and other testing companies.

And now, to the documents included in this post.

First is the 2015 -16 LDOE-DRC contract. (Note that some attachments are duplicated). Cost of 2015 -16 LEAP assessment, ELA and math, grades 3 – 8: $3.2M. I wrote about this contract in May 2018, when then-superintendent John White was indirectly using PARCC items; PARCC testing and Common Core had become tainted, controversial ideas to the public. Indeed, as I wrote in February 2016, LDOE never had a direct contract with Pearson for PARCC tests. Ever focused at keeping the truth at arm’s length from public view, White used DRC as the go-between for LDOE and PARCC. (Attachment B limits the use of PARCC items to “not more than forty-nine and nine-tenths of the questions included in the selected assessments….” This was in accordance with the legislative game at the time to portray the tests as “mostly” not PARCC.)

The second LDOE-DRC Contract is from October 2016 to June 2021 (five years) and is worth $61.5K (later amended to $51.7K; see Amednment 5 below). Tests include LEAP reading and math formative assessments for grades K – 2; practice tests and interim and summative assessments English language arts (ELA) and math (grades 3 – 8) and high school End of Course (EOC) tests in English I, II, Algebra I and geometry; EOC English III item development.

Note that “item acquisition” (from PARCC) is included in the costs and is $1.6M across five years (add another $230K for copyright registration and copyright support staff). Note also that released test items are newly developed by DRC and are not the copyrighted “acquired” items. Attachment C of contract includes “proposed solutions” for acquiring test items given that LDOE had no direct contract in 2016 with PARCC vendor. Pearson, and left it to DRC to “acquire” test content. The language is even more cryptic regarding the K-2 formative assessments: “Access to content through external source for years 1 and 2….” It gets even more interesting in the “detailed descriptions” section of Attachment C:

The K – 2 Formative Tasks will be accessed via a single-sign on from eDIRECT to the PARCC Resource Center to access k – 2 formative tasks and resources. These tasks will be aligned to Louisiana State Standards and branded appropriately. Branding includes, replacement of text, graphics, etc. with Louisiana approved logos and page designs approved by LDOE.

DRC will coordinate permissions, if required, with PARCC.

So. The content belongs to PARCC, and is PARCC, which is assessment companion to Common Core, but let’s not call it Common Core or PARCC; let’s change the Common Core name to “Louisiana State Standards” and “brand” Common Core assessment tasks, PARCC tasks, as such.

Amendement 1 to above contract removes the clause about “annually” releasing 10 – 15 items for each grade and course (“Part B”) and instead making released test items a one-time issue (“Part A”).

Amendment 2 concerns the falling apart of the “PARCC test” effort; the PARCC Consortium had shifted (become?) PARCC, Inc., which by 2017 had changed hands, with PARCC items now being sold to New Meridian and, apparently, CenterPoint.

Amendment 3 concerns minor modifications in interim test delivery as well as dropping language about interim assessments being held to the standard of “predicting” summative assessment outcomes– a seeming, tacit admission that LDOE and/or DRC did not want to be held liable by having entangled themselves in some VAM-like situation.

The major issue in Amendment 4 is reducing the maximum 2016-2021 LDOE-DRC contract amount from $61.5M to $51.7M. This change was made in February 2020. John White, who was by then headed out the door, was not there to sign for himself.

Amendment 5 extends the 2016-2021 LDOE-DRC contract to June 30, 2025. The amendment is dated December 09, 2020, and includes no modified fee schedule. (See Amendment 6).

The final amendment included in this post is Amendment 6, signed by superintendent Cade Brumley on February 24, 2022, and which offers details for extending the LDOE-DRC contract set to expire in June 2021 for only a single school year, 2021-2022. The cost of this single-year is an additional $1M (bringing the updated, adjusted total to $52.7M for 2016 – 2022) and includes the following cost justification:

(Justification for amendment increase or extension.)

This amendment is required due to K-2 Formatives having been descoped from the contract. It also confirms and updates FY21 th billing schedule from $11,869,655 in 2019 (Amendment 4) to $6,344,097 in 2020 and funds FY22 in the amount of $6,361, 220 (Amendment 6). This is an increase of $1,015,652.00 to the total contract.

Amendment 6 also includes “Attachment A: Deliverables,” which details for what is covered in the 2021-22 total cost of $6.4M.


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