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Help Me Prevent a Holiday Eviction

UPDATE 12-05-18: Fundraising goal has been reached! As of this writing, the campaign has $1405 in donations ($1355 after GoFundMe fees). Many thanks to all who have contributed!

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I was surprised to find one of our school’s regular substitutes crying in the teachers’ lounge. I asked what had happened, and she explained that she was to be evicted from her home in 48 hours unless she could come up with her rent plus fees. Tearfully she lamented that she thought she had secured a loan but that her plans had just fallen though and that she was being brought to court on December 6th to be formally evicted.

Homeless for the holidays.

As I listened, I realized that the brief window to assist her did not allow for a GoFundMe campaign, so I decided reverse the order of things– to front the money and conduct the campaign afterward.

I did not tell this dear lady my full plan. She only knows that I loaned her $1347 to secure another month in her residence, which gives her time to seek more affordable housing.

What I also realized from speaking with her is that she would be hard-pressed to reimburse this money– that she is on the edge of being overwhelmed with debt. I want to help keep her from slipping off of that edge. In order to give her this gift of a month’s rent plus accrued late fees, I need your help. So, I have started a fundraising campaign on her behalf: $1397 ($1347 plus $50 for GoFundMe fees). Any money raised in excess of the campaign goal I will give to her to further relieve her financial stress.

Click here to view campaign.

Thank you for your help.

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New York Times Exposes Louisiana School’s 100-Percent-College-Acceptance Lie, and More

If you read about a school with a 100-percent college acceptance rate for its grads, keep in mind that one of the surest ways to achieve such astounding results is to lie– to whip up fictitious student success stories that include a horrid home life and a string of glowing achievements that shows that these students Beat the Odds.

Such is apparently the tack of the husband and wife leadership at a Louisiana private school, T.M. Landry, an unaccredited (i.e., the state does not recognize the diplomas) private school held in a warehouse-styled building with an interior that is little more than an unfinished, open area with some white boards and a scattering of tables and chairs.

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T.M. Landry College Prep, exterior

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T.M. Landry, interior

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T.M. Landry, interior

T.M. Landry is unaccredited, but what does that matter if its graduates are accepted into top-tier postsecondary institutions, right?

Well.

One of the problems with publicizing false success is that such Beat the Odds stories draw the attention of the media– media like the New York Times. 

Either the story holds up– the school produces miraculous results (quite a story)– or the story falls apart and is shown to be fraud on fraud (also quite a story).

Unfortunately, the T.M. Landry fraud also includes evidence of physical and emotional abuse.

From the November 30, 2018, New York Times:

BREAUX BRIDGE, La. — Bryson Sassau’s application would inspire any college admissions officer.

A founder of T.M. Landry College Preparatory School described him as a “bright, energetic, compassionate and genuinely well-rounded” student whose alcoholic father had beaten him and his mother and had denied them money for food and shelter. His transcript “speaks for itself,” the founder, Tracey Landry, wrote, but Mr. Sassau should also be lauded for founding a community service program, the Dry House, to help the children of abusive and alcoholic parents. He took four years of honors English, the application said, was a baseball M.V.P. and earned high honors in the “Mathematics Olympiad.”

The narrative earned Mr. Sassau acceptance to St. John’s University in New York. There was one problem: None of it was true. …

In reality, the school falsified transcripts, made up student accomplishments and mined the worst stereotypes of black America to manufacture up-from-hardship tales that it sold to Ivy League schools hungry for diversity. The Landrys also fostered a culture of fear with physical and emotional abuse, students and teachers saidStudents were forced to kneel on rice, rocks and hot pavement, and were choked, yelled at and berated. …

Adam Broussard, a Landry parent, noticed last fall that his 8-year-old, who had attended the school since he was 3, was writing “chicken scratch.” Mr. Broussard had been happy with the school — his older son had been admitted to Brown after two years at Landry — but he confronted Mr. Landry about his younger son’s progress. Mr. Landry responded that he did not teach sentence structure and just wanted students to love to write.

An independent assessment at Sylvan Learning Center revealed that Mr. Broussard’s younger son was performing two grade levels behind. …

News of the Broussard boy’s low test scores spread last fall, and at least eight parents interviewed by The Times had their own students assessed. Of their 11 students, only two were performing at grade level, while the rest had fallen behind or made no progress. One junior was performing at a fourth-grade level in reading and math. …

High school students took ACT practice tests day after day and sporadically attended classes. Bryson Sassau, who took the ACT three times, said that once he got to college, he realized an education that revolved around test preparation had ill-served him. “If it wasn’t on the ACT, I didn’t know it,” he said. …

At least a half-dozen staff members resigned. Among those remaining was Keidrick Owens, who had been accused at his previous school of instructing older students to whip younger students with a belt. Last fall, Mr. Owens pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was sentenced to 18 months’ probation. …

Some students still cry when they discuss their experiences at T.M. Landry. …

Parents have been consumed with guilt.

How We Reported This Story

The New York Times interviewed 46 sources including parents, current and former students, former teachers and law enforcement agents.

The Times also examined incorrect transcripts, a college application, court documents showing that Michael Landry and another teacher at the school had pleaded guilty to crimes related to violence against students, and police records that included multiple witness statements saying that Mr. Landry hit children.

There is much more to the New York Times article on T.M. Landry College Prep.

The entire story is worth a read, for it reminds us of the dangers of assuming that a school– an unaccredited school, at that– must be both legitimate and safe if it repeatedly advertises that its graduates– 100 percent– get accepted into prestigious colleges and universities.

Lies upon lies.

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

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

both books

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

 

Paul Pastorek Is Positioned to Charterize Puerto Rico. Who Is This Guy, Anyway?

The Puerto Rican Department of Education has decided to contract with former Louisiana state ed superintendent, Paul Pastorek, at $250 an hour ($155,000 max) for assistance that includes soliciting the US Department of Education for hurricane recovery aid.

The dog whistle in that news is a charterized Puerto Rico.

In this post, I offer a slice of Pastorek history and involvements. Even though I cut it short, this is a long post.

Get some coffee and sit in your comfy chair.

Here goes:

Like many ed reformers, Pastorek has no teaching background. A lawyer by trade, Pastorek was appointed to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) in 1996 by then-governor, Mike Foster, who was impressed by (wait for it) Pastorek’s *passion* about education. From an old Pastorek bio:

Mr. Pastorek served on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)
from 1996-2004, including the last three years as president. …

At first, he was a passionate volunteer in a New Orleans public junior high school.
Appalled at some of the things he saw in that inner-city school, he began to read
literature and work with the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce to improve the
education of children in New Orleans. His work came to the attention of Governor
Mike Foster, who appointed him to serve on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Pastorek’s time as a governor’s appointee to BESE ended with Foster’s 2004 departure from office. However, Pastorek was still around, serving under then-state superintendent Cecil Picard (a major force behind all-charter New Orleans) as “chair of the recovery school district committee.” Three years later, just after Picard died (February 2007), Pastorek became state superintendent. From this March 01, 2007, WAFB.com report:

“It’s time to take education to the level.” Those words came from the state’s new superintendent, Paul Pastorek. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education named Pastorek to finish out the late Cecil Picard’s term.

Walter Lee with BESE says, “It’s most unusual for the first time ever, for a state superintendent to be a non-educator.”

Up against two superintendents, Paul Pastorek, a lawyer, will take office as state superintendent no later than March 30th. He has served eight years on the board of education, three as president and under Cecil Picard as chairman of the recovery school district committee.

Having little to no teaching experience and being placed in key positions of ed leadership is a hallmark of market-based ed reform. So is the attendant, oversized compensation.

For such talent as Pastorek, one must expect to pay. And pay, Louisiana taxpayers did.

According to the November 27, 2009, Times-Picayune, the late Cecil Picard’s salary and benefits totaled $265,000, including housing and car allowance. (In 2002, Picard’s salary and housing totaled $127,000.)

However, in 2008, Louisiana taxpayers paid Pastorek an astounding $430,210.

For his three remaining years, Pastorek received $340,000. (See here and here and here.)

For a sense on just how oversized Pastorek’s salary was, consider the following: In 2018, the highest paid state superintendent, Carey Wright of Mississippi, received $300,000. The second highest in 2018 is Pam Stewart of Florida at $276,000, and in third place is Louisiana’s ed reformer, John White, at $275,000. (See this EdWeek article for the comprehensive list.) The 2018 average pay for state superintendents is $174,000.

Pastorek’s salary was obscene.

But the financial bonanza did not stop with Pastorek. in true market-based-reformer style, Pastorek boosted salaries for top administration to the tune of $8M, all in the name of *Attracting Talent*. From the November 27, 2009, Times-Picayune:

Salary costs have jumped in Louisiana’s education department, even as the number of full-time employees dropped, and the number of people drawing six-figure paychecks has more than doubled in the two years since Paul Pastorek took charge of the agency.

Payroll at the Department of Education grew by $8 million — 21 percent — after Pastorek became state superintendent of education in 2007, an Associated Press review of salary data shows.

Pastorek says the pay is needed to attract and keep the best talent. But with huge state budget shortfalls predicted for several years, the salary boosts have irked some lawmakers, already bristling about Pastorek’s own hefty pay increases.

“I just don’t, along with many of my colleagues, feel like we can put a lot of money into administration so this guy can go out and pay big salaries and not (put the money) into the classroom for the kids,” said state Rep. Jim Fannin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. …

Eighteen top Pastorek deputies draw six-figure salaries, compared with seven under Picard. Two of the high-paying positions under Pastorek have gone to former lawmakers.

A handful of Pastorek’s highest-paid workers have the same job titles they held under Picard but receive paychecks $24,000 to $30,000 larger.

The department’s median salary is $60,902, a growth of $11,170 from Picard’s final month in office.

The $210,000 salary for Pastorek’s deputy superintendent, Ollie Tyler, nearly matches the base pay Picard received as superintendent, though Picard also had a car and housing allowance. …

Keith Guice, president of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said BESE doesn’t have authority over personnel decisions besides hiring the superintendent, evaluating him and setting his salary.

But he said, “I am concerned that BESE and the state Department of Education keep in mind that local school systems are being asked to educate children with less money and that we should be mindful of how we spend ours.”

Pastorek lasted two more years, until May 2011. Then-governor, Bobby Jindal, wanted to replace Pastorek with New York deputy superintendent and Teach for America alum, John White, and Pastorek was there to help.

In fact, Pastorek released a press release about White’s hire as Recovery School District (RSD) superintendent before BESE voted on White’s hire. From the April 22, 2011, Louisiana Voice: 

State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek recently got a lesson in humility, in timing, and, most important, in how not to B.S. a legislator when testifying in committee hearings.

It all occurred on Thursday, April 7, in an otherwise routine testimony before the House Appropriations Committee and Pastorek came away with proverbial egg all over his lawyerly face.

Near the end of his testimony, committee Chairman Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro), in an otherwise cordial exchange about Recovery School District (RSD) business, asked, “Are you waiting for a new RSD superintendent to help?”

Pastorek answered in the affirmative.

“When do you expect to have a new superintendent?” Fannin asked.

“I expect to have one this week if I can possibly have one.”

“So, you indicated earlier that you didn’t have one but you expect to have one?”

“That’s correct,” Pastorek said. I’ve got to get State Board (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) approval and I’m working to set that up. In fact, I have it on the agenda for Friday.”

The only problem with Pastorek’s answer was that he had already chosen a replacement for RSD Superintendent Paul Vallas and Fannin knew it.

In fact, Pastorek himself had announced the previous day, April 6, that John White, deputy chancellor of the New York City Department of Education would succeed Vallas.

Moreover, at the very time he was testifying on April 7, Pastorek’s Department of Education public information office was issuing a department press release announcing White’s appointment. The press release even quoted Gov. Bobby Jindal, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, her brother, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Dr. Norman Francis, president of Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, and Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund.

The press release, under the heading, “State and local leaders endorse John White as next RSD Superintendent,” read as follows:

BATON ROUGE, La – Less than 24 hours after State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek announced his pick to lead the state-run Recovery School District (RSD), an impressive list of state and local leaders is lining up to express their support for Pastorek’s selection. In making their endorsements, these officials join U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who yesterday praised the selection of John White. White, who began his career in education as an English teacher in a high-poverty school in New Jersey, is currently serving as Deputy Chancellor of Talent, Labor and Innovation for New York City, the nation’s largest school system.

Governor Bobby Jindal: “It’s a testament to Louisiana’s commitment to bold and innovative education reform that we’re able to attract talented public servants like John White to come to Louisiana and help move our education system forward. John is well qualified and we’re eager to work with him and Superintendent Pastorek to advance the Recovery School District and continue to improve educational opportunities for our children.”

Tomorrow, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will consider whether to authorize the State Superintendent of Education to appoint the next leader of the RSD.

On Friday, a press conference to formally introduce White will be held at 1 p.m. at Andrew Wilson Charter School in New Orleans.

Fannin allowed Pastorek to dig himself a sufficient hole before springing his trap. “It’s all over the news that one’s been selected and….you look surprised.”

“I’ve been working on selecting one for about eight months,” Pastorek said, less confident now.

“And you sit here today, under oath, telling us that you didn’t know that one was hired and that….”

“I haven’t hired anybody,” Pastorek protested. “I can’t hire anybody until the board approves it on Friday.”

“So you weren’t willing to share that you had made the selection? I think those questions were asked,” Fannin said.

“No, I don’t think that question was asked,” Pastorek said. “What I’ve been trying to do, Mr. Chairman, is, I’ve been trying to report to all my principals what my plan is to do. And I’m trying to get buy-in and support, trying to communicate to my people about that.”

“The way to get buy-in is to come to this committee and be forthcoming, forthright, with information about all you know,” Fannin admonished him. “I’m going to look you pretty straight and I have to tell you I don’t think that’s been (done)…. today.”

Another way to get buy-in is to not issue premature press releases. It’s just tacky.

There is so much story regarding Pastorek and his ed reform connections/manipulations, and it is a challenge to successfully and succinctly relay in a single post. When it came to getting White positioned as Pastorek’s successor as state superintendent (the real goal from day one with bringing White to Louisiana), Pastorek’s connection with former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, comes into play. Bush commanded a nonprofit comprised of state superintendents, Chiefs for Change (C4C), with which Pastorek remained for a while as “chief emeritus” and which, years later, White took over. Bush used C4C to push for White’s election as state superintendent. It is noteworthy that the 2011 La. BESE election was bombarded by hundreds of thousands of dollars of out-of-state billionaire cash to get ed reform sympathizers in office. (For more on Bush-Pastorek-White, see this post or read my chapters on Bush, Paul Vallas, and Eva Moskowitz in my book, A Chronicle of Echoes; for more on the 2011 purchase of BESE, click here.)

Following that 2011 BESE election, in early 2012, White breezed through as state superintendent.

But let’s step back to pre-reformer-purchased BESE.

The 2007-elected/appointed BESE majority was against having White– who had only been RSD superintendent for a month– slide in as interim state superintendent.

From the May 13, 2011, Advocate via the Louisiana principals’ blog:

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s pick to be interim state superintendent of education triggered criticism Thursday from the panel that will make the choice.

Three members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education said Thursday they oppose Jindal’s choice. One other, Louella Givens, of New Orleans, is said to be opposed. If four BESE members oppose the move, it will fail.

The governor needs eight of 11 members of the panel to clear the way for John White, who took over as superintendent of the Recovery School District earlier this week with a $281,000 per year pay package.

House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, also criticized Jindal’s pick.

State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek announced on Tuesday that he is resigning effective Sunday.

The state superintendent is the governor’s chief lieutenant for public schools. The superintendent recommends and carries out policies that affect an estimated 668,000 public school students statewide.

The RSD superintendent oversees 14 low-performing public schools in East Baton Rouge Parish and about 70 others in New Orleans.

The governor names three BESE members and eight are elected from single-member districts. BESE leaders plan to meet next week to pick an interim superintendent.

On April 8, [2011,] BESE approved White to become RSD superintendent 7-1 with three abstentions. Dale Bayard, of Lake Charles, was the lone “no” vote. Keith Guice, of Monroe; Linda Johnson, of Plaquemine; and Givens abstained.

All four were cited Tuesday as being opposed to White becoming interim superintendent even as word spread that Pastorek would quit.

Guice, who is also a former BESE president, said Thursday  he opposes White’s selection.

“I am looking at Mr. White’s qualifications, and I cannot support his candidacy,” Guice said.

“And it has nothing to do with the governor,” he added.

Guice said White lacks the education credentials to be a public school principal in Louisiana.

“We desperately need someone that can build some bridges with public schools, can communicate with the educators of Louisiana, who understands their problems,” he said.

White, 35, is former deputy chancellor of the New York City school system.

Bayard said he will oppose efforts to make White interim  state superintendent.

“The guy really needs to get seasoned to handle such an important job,” Bayard said.

Johnson also said she will oppose White becoming interim state superintendent.

“We brought him 30 days ago to be RSD superintendent,” Johnson said. “In my opinion, he has not had an opportunity to prove himself.”

Givens did not return a call for comment.

Walter Lee, of Mansfield, another BESE member, said he told Jindal’s office that he is undecided on White.

Lee said he would prefer a compromise candidate.

Under state law, BESE can only offer an interim superintendent a seven-month contract until a new board takes office in January.

If BESE goes along, White would reportedly  serve as both state and RSD superintendent, for now.

But Tucker said Thursday he told the Jindal administration that officials should find someone other than White to be interim state superintendent.

“I want him to be focused on RSD,” Tucker said of White.

Meanwhile, Legislative Black Caucus Chairwoman Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, said Jindal was “possibly holding up” Senate committee action on a House-passed bill to redraw BESE boundaries.

Smith said the delay would be aimed at pressuring BESE members to back White while the new boundaries are finalized.

But state Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur and sponsor of the bill, said he requested the delay Wednesday because he was concerned that Pastorek’s resignation would dominate the meeting.

Bayard plans to seek re-election in October.

Asked if there was any linkage between his stance on White and new lines for his BESE district he said, “Anything’s possible.”

Johnson is not seeking another term.

Adam Knapp, president and chief executive officer of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said the state needs an interim superintendent who can maintain Louisiana’s national reputation as a fertile ground for public school reforms.

White did get voted in as state superintendent in January 2012. Though delayed for seven months, Pastorek’s efforts to place White as Louisiana state superintendent paid off.

But let us return to discussion of RSD:

Another issue referenced above is that of former RSD superintendent, Paul Vallas, another market-based-reform opportunist non-teacher with an established history for butchering the finances of school districts (again, for details, see my Vallas chapters in A Chronicle of Echoes). Pastorek’s and Vallas’ time in Louisiana overlaps (2007 – 2011). It was a time of incredible squandering of federal funds. From my June 29, 2013, post on RSD fiscal history:

During Paul Vallas’ time a RSD superintendent (2007-2011), every annual state audit evidenced issues of fiscal irresponsibility and corruption. …

And some more awful handling of federal aid to RSD, chiefly during Vallas’ tenure:

state audit released Monday faults the Recovery School District for not properly overseeing modular campus construction after Hurricane Katrina, resulting in $6.1 million in questionable costs on the $105 million project. The project’s original budget increased by $29 million thanks to 60 change orders and contract amendments, the audit says. …

The [January 2007 to September 2009] report lands as New Orleans works its way through a massive school rebuilding plan funded in large part by nearly $2 billion in FEMA funds. It also comes just a week after [legislative auditor] Purpera’s office issued a separate audit showing that $2.7 million in property had been lost, misplaced or stolen from the Recovery School District in the last 4 years. …

The [January 2007 to September 2009] audit found that Arrighi-Simoneaux charged the RSD $170,571 for fuel for temporary generators that was never provided and $37,843 for 16 light pole foundations that were never built. An additional $472,852 that was charged for foundations “appears to be unreasonable for the service provided,” according to the audit. The firm billed at least $139,000 in work beyond the scope of the contract.

Arrighi-Simoneaux’s unit pricing may also have been too high. For instance, the company charged $110 to drill each of 180 four-inch holes in wooden floors, though the task takes less than 30 seconds, auditors say.

Here’s what Pastorek allowed to happen in the first year of Katrina recovery:

The relatively gargantuan salaries of many of the consultants who appeared to rule the new system was another factor in the public’s general unease. Functionaries of the accounting firm Alvarez & Marsal, for example, which will have taken more than $50 million out of its New Orleans public schools’ operation by year’s end, were earning in the multiple hundreds of thousands, billing at anywhere from $150 to more than $500 per hour. The firm’s contracts continued unchallenged, despite the fact that one of its chief assignments — the disposition of left-over NOPS (New Orleans Public Schools) real estate — was being handled without the services of a single architect, engineer, or construction expert. This omission cost the city a year of progress in determining how and where to rebuild broken schools, and endangered hundreds of millions of dollars in FEMA money. It only came to light when the two Pauls [Pastorek and Vallas] were forced to hire yet more consultants for real estate duty, and to bring in the National Guard to oversee the engineering operations.

The security firm that billed RSD more than $20 million defends its profiteering by noting that no student was killed during the previous school year— thin proof given that no student was killed on campus in the previous 60 years either (with one sad, anomalous exception). That company, the Guidry Group from Texas, will keep its contract in the coming school year. Sodexho has never explained why it could not deliver hot food to those 22 campuses, and no public or media entity ever held its feet to the fire for that explanation. Its contract, too, continues. Alvarez & Marsal, for its part, merely said “whoops” when its lack of competence in the field for which it held a $30 million contract was exposed.

That’s what one gets from Pastorek leadership in a crisis situation: A chaotic hemorrhaging of recovery funding.

But Pastorek will watch out for his own. After all, he was willing to allow Louisiana taxpayers to fund Vallas’ repeated, personal trips clear across the country, as the November 22, 2009, Times-Picayune reports:

The superintendent of the Recovery School District drove his state-issued vehicle on numerous out-of-state personal trips in an arrangement that violated the state administrative code but had the blessing of his immediate supervisor, according to an audit report released this morning.

The report by the state Legislative Auditor found that RSD Superintendent Paul Vallas drove a state-owned, 2007 Dodge Durango on 41 out-of-state trips between July 2007 and April 2009.

“Superintendent Vallas reviewed a listing of these 41 trips and characterized 31 of them as personal in nature; 30 of the personal trips were to visit family in Illinois and along the Gulf Coast,” the report said.

The state paid for $946 in fuel costs for these trips and also paid $774 to cover damage that Vallas caused in a Nov. 2, 2008, car accident that happened while he was driving to a press conference in Chicago to discuss a constitutional convention in that state.

The report said Vallas also failed to maintain a log of how the vehicle was used, as state employees are required to do.

Vallas, who oversaw public schools in Chicago and Philadelphia before coming to New Orleans and still owns a home in Illinois, told auditors that he had verbal permission from state Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek to use the SUV for personal trips. Pastorek confirmed that he had given the authorization.

Anything for a fellow reformer– including serving one who wants to privatize Los Angeles schools, billionaire Eli Broad. Consider this October 21, 2015, LA School Report:

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation said today Paul Pastorek, a former superintendent of public education in Louisiana who joined the foundation in an executive role earlier this year, has been appointed to lead the group’s efforts to expand charter schools in Los Angeles Unified. …

We have asked Paul to lead our foundation’s involvement in this particular initiative for the next several months, working closely with other funders and community organizations, until we ensure any plan reflects community and family needs for quality public schools,” the Broads said in a letter to “Friends” that was distributed today.

Few issues have roiled the LA Unified community more than the foundation’s plan to expand the number of charter schools in the district. An early report by the foundation said the goal is to serve as many as half the students in the district in 230 newly-created charter schools within the next eight years, an effort that would cost nearly half a billion dollars. 

It’s also a plan that district officials have said would eviscerate public education as it is now delivered by LA Unified.  …

As education superintendent in Louisiana from 2007 to 2011, Pastorek worked to establish more charter schools….

In 2017, Los Angeles school board succumbed to its first pro-charter majority; Broad spent almost $1.9M in the effort.

Broad was also involved in the out-of-state billionaire effort to buy Louisiana’s 2011 BESE election (the one on the heels of Pastorek’s resignation and work to get White in as his successor as state superintendent), which serves to (again) illustrate how ed reformers connect and reconnect help other ed reformers, which brings me back to the opening of my post:

As current chair of the board of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Pastorek will surely use that $250/hr. in consulting fees to charterize Puerto Rico.

And if history holds true, Pastorek will assist in steering the resulting federal funding toward any number of overpaid, incompetent edupreneurs in Puerto Rico even as he collects his overpayment and moves on to his next ed reform stint.

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Paul Pastorek

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

.

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

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)
.

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

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

Teach for America Is Looking for a Lobbyist. Interested?

On November 15, 2018, Teach for America (TFA) posted this Linkedin job listing for a government affairs manager (in other words, a lobbyist).

Though TFA is fine with putting inexperienced college grads in classrooms as temp teachers following a five-week sneeze of *training*, if one wants this critical TFA lobbying job, one “must have” (TFA’s words) “two years of public policy and/or federal legislative experience.”

Why, TFA is even willing to help the would-be-yet-inexperienced TFA lobbyist get a foot in the Congressional door via its one-year Capitol Hill Fellows Program.

And, as one might expect, the successful TFA lobbyist applicant must have “a deep belief in Teach for America’s vision, mission, and theory of change.”

Token teaching for two years and then landing an ed policy position promoting TFA in the ears of legislators is part of that TFA theory of change. Such is the career path taken by current TFA director of government affairs (i.e., head lobbyist) Kelly Brougham. After a two-year TFA stint in Houston (make that one year, ten months), Brougham became an ed policy advisor in the US House of Representatives for four years (more than twice as long as she lasted in a Houston classroom) before becoming a TFA government affairs manager (same job as that of the job listing featured in this post) on her way to becoming a TFA head lobbyist.

It does help for one on the road to TFA lobbying to have a bachelor’s degree in political science, which Broughan does. However, if one holds a bachelors in something other than poli sci, as in the case of TFA lobbyist Gloria Molina-Estolano, one can always remain in the classroom for three years, until one earns a masters of ed policy, and then leave in order to advocate for TFA’s theory of change.

The TFA theory of change must feed TFA the organization. It’s an integral part of the TFA lobbyist job description, posted below in full. (Not sure about the August 5th deadline….)

Manager, Government Affairs

Company Name: Teach for America

Company Location: Washington, D.C., DC, US

Posted 2 weeks ago  Number of views: 18 views

Job description

TEAM: Government Affairs
REPORTS TO: Vice President, Government Affairs
LOCATION: Washington, DC

THE ROLE
The Government Affairs team seeks a manager to support the team as we represent and advocate for Teach For America’s priorities before Congress and the Administration. In this role, you will serve as a critical member of the Government Affairs team and will use your knowledge of Congress and the Executive Branch to help raise Teach For America’s profile, advance the organization’s federal priorities, and build champions among key decision makers in the federal government. You will also play an important role in supporting the Teach For America Capitol Hill Fellows Program by providing support in the application, selection and placement of Fellows, as well as on-going professional development throughout the Fellowship cycle.

THE ORGANIZATION
There are more than 16 million children growing up in poverty in the U.S., and less than 10 percent of them will graduate from college. These statistics are not a reflection of our children’s potential; we know that children growing up in poverty can and do achieve at the highest levels. Rather, these statistics reflect the systemic lack of access and opportunity for children in low-income communities.

Teach For America’s (TFA) is to find, develop, and support a diverse network of leaders committed to expanding opportunity for children from classrooms, schools, and every sector and field that shapes the broader systems in which schools operate. We are seeking individuals who align with our mission, and commitment to and are ready to join us in this

THE PERSON
Government Affairs (estimated 70%). Working closely with the Vice President and Director of Government Affairs to:

  • Execute a strategy that ensures Members of Congress understand and value Teach For America’s mission and impact in their communities and nationally
  • Help secure bipartisan support in Congress for programs, policies, and federal funding streams that support Teach For America’s mission across the country
  • Help cultivate relationships with internal and external stakeholders to advance Teach For America’s mission
  • Collaborate in the drafting and review of advocacy materials, memos, hearing questions, fact sheets and other materials for internal and external use
  • Manage the reporting of lobbying disclosures
  • Attend Congressional briefings, hearings and other external events and report back on key observations and contacts made
  • Assist in the planning, organization, and execution of legislative summits and advocacy days for the CEO, members of the National Community Alliances team, and in partnership with other organizations
  • Develop and execute an engagement plan for Teach For America alumni who work in the federal government in the D.C. region.

Capitol Hill Fellows Program (estimated 30%)

  • Support the Teach For America Capitol Hill Fellows Program in partnership with VP, Policy and Associate, Public Partnerships
  • Develop and execute recruitment strategy for next cohort of Fellows
  • Support all stages of application process for next cohort of Fellows
  • Support planning for professional development and career support for current cohort of Capitol Hill Fellows through their year-long fellowship in Washington, D.C. including attending Fellow program events and advising on post-Fellowship opportunities.

Qualifications

THE MUST HAVES

Skills

      • Excellent interpersonal, organizational, verbal and written communications skills
      • Excellent strategic and critical thinking skills
      • Highly motivated and able to excel in an entrepreneurial environment
      • Ability to partner with external and internal stakeholders
      • Ability to develop and cultivate relationships and networks in order to achieve results
      • Ability to effectively organize, plan and execute projects
      • Ability to work efficiently and accurately in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment
      • Proficiency with MS Office Suite (Word, Excel, Power Point, OneNote)
      • Commitment to issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in the workplace
      • A deep belief in Teach For America’s vision, mission and theory of change

    Prior Experience:

      • 2 years of public policy and/or federal legislative experience
      • Experience in or knowledge of education policy; OR
      • Previous experience in a government affairs role related to education policy.

Work Demands

      • Occasional evening or weekend work required to support special events and projects.

THE TEAM

    • The mission of the Government Affairs team is to support Teach For America (TFA) through the pursuit of public policy outcomes and funding that benefit the organization as it pursues its mission to ensure that every child receives an excellent education. To do so, we represent TFA before the legislative & executive branches of government. We cultivate champions among federal elected & appointed officials, and build & work within coalitions that help propel TFA’s work forward.

THE PERKS

    • By , you join a network of individuals committed to pursuing equity for all students and developing themselves as professionals in the process. We as an organization value the longevity of our employees and offer a that has proven to be pretty competitive. The salary for this position is also competitive and depends on your prior work experience. Please be advised, you will have an opportunity to discuss salary in more detail after you begin the application process.

WE ARE DEEPLY COMMITTED TO DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION

    • Teach For America encourages individuals of all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds to apply for this position. We are committed to maximizing the, as we want to engage all those who can contribute to this effort.
    • Teach For America is committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all qualified individuals and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age, marital status, veteran status, pregnancy, parental status, genetic information or characteristics (or those of a family member) or any other basis prohibited by applicable law.
      • This job description reflects Teach For America’s assignment of essential functions and qualifications of the role. Nothing in this herein restricts management’s right to assign, reassign or eliminate duties and responsibilities to this role at any time.

NEXT STEPS

    Interested in this position? Apply now by submitting a resume and cover letter by August 5th. ! Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the link to the online application. If you still have questions regarding the role, feel free to contact our recruitment team at staffing@teachforamerica.org or visit.

If you believe that all children should experience a rotation of teachers with five minutes of training and you’re willing to reframe this scenario in a manner that feeds the TFA organization, then this job could be for you.

As for me, well, I’m of no use to TFA. I have no interest in selling turnstiles.

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

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

both books

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

 

The Teacher Life: Grading Papers Over Holiday Break

Like many teachers across these United States, I am finishing a holiday week, which means I was off from school– technically.

It is true that I did not need to report to school this week. However, a notable part of Teacher Life is that school clings to the teacher whether said teacher is on school grounds or no.

On November 5th, I collected from my senior English students 107 formal essays on one of three fiction works of their choice (Silas Marner, Pygmalion, or Till We Have Faces).

I began grading them that very day, just a few as my school day allowed.

The entire lot followed me home. On Election Day (November 6th), a holiday from school, I graded roughly another 18 or so as I marathon-watched election results roll in.

The next day, Wednesday, I graded a few papers during the day– about six. Same for Thursday during the day, but Thursday night, I graded about ten more.

Of course, the weekend was my major opportunity to hit is hard, which I did Saturday and Sunday to the tune of perhaps another 25 papers.

All of this effort meant that I began the week prior to Thanksgiving break with about 38 papers to go. I knew realistically that I would not finish grading all before Thanksgiving, and I told my students so because they were asking about the grades (with the first one to ask the day after I collected the 107 papers), and I had begun to hold individual conferences with students about their papers.

But I could not get it all finished prior to break, and I knew it.

At the time that school let out on the Friday before Thanksgiving, I had only six papers left.

I left them in my living room as I went on vacation to visit friends in Georgia. And when I returned home on the day before Thanksgiving, there they were, right where I had left them: six more ungraded essays.

Now, you might think that after grading 101 of those essays, six hardly presented an issue, but I assure you that wasn’t so.

It was more difficult for me to face those remaining six than it was for me to begin tackling the 107. My mind was still on vacation. But I had to bring my mind back and get those six papers done.

And I knew that as much as I did not feel like grading six more papers, I surely did not feel like facing six more papers Sunday evening.

So, on Wednesday evening, after driving home from Georgia, after unpacking my car and getting laundry started, I graded one essay, then another, then a third.

Three to go.

The day after Thanksgiving, after mostly decorating my home for Christmas, I rallied myself for one more. And another.

That brings me to today, Saturday.

The last one.

Done.

Yesss.

(Note to interested parties: I intentionally assigned nothing to my students over break so that they might enjoy their holiday.)

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_________________________________________________________________________________

Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

 

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

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

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

both books

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

 

Louisiana Teacher Arrested at January 2018 Board Meeting Vindicated by Judge’s Ruling

On January 08, 2018, in a meeting of the Vermillion Parish (Louisiana) school board, teacher Deyshia Hargrave questioned board approval of a $38,000 pay raise for the district superintendent, Jerome Puyau.

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Deyshia Hargrave

Within minutes of being told she must leave the meeting, Hargrave was forcibly thrown to the ground and arrested as she was in the hallway leaving the building by a school officer, Reggie Hilts, who has a history of using excessive force.

Puyau, who chose not to intervene in the situation, later admitted that he “should have stood up, okay?”

In March 2018, Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry sued the Vermilion Parish School Board for creating a hostile atmosphere at its meeting.

Ten months following Hargrave’s terrible experience, on November 08, 2018, Louisiana judge David Smith of the 15th Judicial Court ruled that the Vermilion Parish School Board “violated open meetings law by not opening up comments prior to each agenda item.”

Furthermore,

There is no indication in the evidence that Ms. Hargrave’s behavior was willfully disruptive. Ms. Hargrave addressed the board respectfully. She was not loud or disruptive. It is clear that the Vermilion Parish School Board violated the Open Meetings law by not allowing Ms. Hargrave to publicly comment on the agenda item “Public Concerns for the Superintendent.”

…The Court has wide discretion to remedy this injustice. At this time, the Court will issue an injunction directing the Board to strictly adhere to and abide by the Open Meetings Law and Board policy with respect to public comment at future meetings of the Board. All Action taken at the January 8th, 2018 special meeting of the board is null, void, and without legal effect. Further, the Court will award reasonable attorney fees and other costs of the litigation from the Vermilion Parish School Board to the Vermilion Board of Educators upon  presentation and review of itemized expenses and affidavits by the Vermilion Board of Educators.

Since the Vermilion Parish School Board voted at that January 08, 2018, meeting to grant Puyau that $38,000 pay raise, Smith’s ruling declares such a vote “null, void, and without legal effect.”

Congratulations to Hargrave for her long-overdue, legally-supported vindication.

Whether lawyers for the Vermilion Parish School Board choose to appeal remains to be seen. However, in choosing to appeal, the board only further damages its reputation with an incensed community. So, I suggest the board seriously consider the ramifications of such an appeal.

boomerang

_____________________________________________________________________________

Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

 

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

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

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

both books

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

In Kansas, Teach for America Underdelivers and Still Gets Paid $270K

On November 16, 2018, KMUW.com (NPR in Wichita, Kansas) published an article entitled, “Kansas to Pay Teach for America $270,000 for Recruiting Three Teachers.”

$270,000. Three teachers. (But if you count last year, which was pre-TFA-contract, and allow those teachers to become part of the TFA commitment, the number rises to five recruits….)

Still, $270K for five TFAers. A waste of public money, for sure.

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Add to that story the reality that those three teachers aren’t permanent hires. TFA doesn’t promote classroom teaching as a career, just a temporary stop onto a more lucrative potential career: Ed Reform Ladder Climber.

Of course, one rung of said ladder is to spend two or three TFA years in the classroom, only to turn around and be compensated handsomely as a TFA recruiter. (For examples, see here and here and here and here.) It is even possible to become a TFA recruiter having been a substitute teacher for under two years, though, to be fair, one might possibly break the four-year mark in the classroom before landing on the incomey softness of TFA recruitment.

And as a TFA recruiter– regardless of the number of recruits, apparently– the payoff is sweet.

From the KMUW.com article:

…The Kansas City, Kansas school district says it only hired three Teach For America instructors this year. Two other recruits started teaching in the district last year before Kansas hired the organization. …

The state education department says Teach For America told the department it recruited all five of those teachers this year. The department is currently drafting a $270,000 contract to pay the organization.

A budget document from the Kansas Legislative Research Department dated Oct. 10 states, “Teachers will be paid a salary of $36,000.” But that money actually goes just to recruiting, training and placing each teacher.

That totals $180,000 from the state for recruiting five teachers, plus $80,000 to pay for the salary, benefits and travel expenses of a recruiter and $10,000 for one day of professional development.   [Emphasis added.]

So, here is a suggestion to state legislatures considering doling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to TFA in the name of filling teacher shortages:

Use that money to raise teacher salaries across your state. Or, at the very least, use the money to offer new hires a signing bonus, and stagger the bonus across, say, the first five years as a teacher in the state (or district).

Do something with that money other than paying a bloated ed reform organization to underdeliver quotas of temp teachers recruited by those who left the classroom to make more money recruiting.

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____________________________________________________________________________

Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

 

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

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

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

both books

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