Thursday, October 07, 2010

Big News

I'll do a whole round-up of the part of the Board meeting I attended (this was a long one) but there was one choice piece of news. It came during the Superintendent's remarks.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson resigned from the NWEA Board (that's the company that sells MAP).

She was quite pointed in her remarks and said it was NOT a conflict of interest (legally) and had nothing to do with MAP but "it is a distraction."

I think this means she felt a lot of pressure and got tired of the question of how it looks to sit on a board of a company that got awarded a contract from the district you lead. And she didn't disclose it until AFTER the vote on the contract. I don't think it matters whether it was legal or not; to many folks it didn't pass the smell test.

Folks, good for all who spoke out about this issue. This is pretty much one of the few times the Superintendent has not gotten her way.

26 comments:

Patrick said...

Good. Of course, after the new school board sends her packing, she'll probably still go to work for them, and not as an unpaid board member...

Lori said...

I tuned in to the board meeting for a few minutes around 10PM. Sherry Carr was talking about the Board's response to the audit, and there was a lot about creating a Chief Ethics Officer position and how successful districts they visited have well-known ethics policies and ethics training for all employees. Related? Sounds so.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, Lori, that and the fact that the district overpaid 80+ people and very few of them reported it. I know there are some oddities to SPS paychecks sometime depending on what work you did in that period but that's too many people and too much money.

So there are people working in the district who thought got more money in their paycheck and didn't think to tell anyone.

Dorothy Neville said...

Her position on the board was not the issue. The non-disclosure was. So any action she does now -- resigning from the board -- is moot. The ethics violation stands. This is a lesson in the fact that actions have consequences that you cannot always undo. Resigning from the board now does nothing to change the non-disclosure.

Lori said...

good point! I thought it was an awful lot of attention being paid to the party with the carving station. :-)

Central Mom said...

Glad to see that public opinion matters.

But with regard to MGJ's actions: Too little too late. She sat on the NWEA board when the district brought in a sole-bid multi-million dollar testing program that benefited her education industry peers and quite possibly herself someday.

For her not to recognize this, still, shows in my book a serious leadership and character flaw and as I've stated in other threads, would have been grounds for a public reprimand and even dismissal in other districts in this country.

cascade said...

Let's see:

MAP was a sole-sourced contract and the superintendent did not disclose she was on the board when the sourcing took place.

MAP is now deployed in most schools in the district.

A levy, which the district thinks will pass, will finish the deployment.

Seattle can now be a case study for the sales corp of NWEA.

NWEA makes millions.

And NOW the superintendent drops off the NWEA board.

Think she'll be welcome back to the organization if she ever gives up the superintendent gig?

One word: HALIBURTON

Dorothy Neville said...

Melissa we do not know how many reported it. Kennedy did admit that after he sent out the for shame! email, he got replies from folks who said that they *DID* report it but payroll was such a mess and didn't fix it that they gave up. So we do not know how many people tried to report it. We do know that there were a few big errors, but how many were small enough that people used to getting paid erratically just couldn't figure out if they were paid correctly or not? Remember, the audit also dinged the district for signing time and effort certificates for salaries or overtime MONTHS after the service. Were those folks paid on time or only after the certificates were signed? I don't know.

Just the other day I was at a high school office and overheard a sub discussing with the secretary how his pay wasn't up to date on hours worked.

I am not trying to defend people who kept money they knew was in error, but I think the whole situation is more complex than supposing they are acting unethically.

Seattle-Ed2010 said...

Blogger Dorothy Neville said...

Her position on the board was not the issue. The non-disclosure was.


I don't entirely agree with you on that, Dorothy.

I would argue that Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson's failure to disclose her association with a vendor (NWEA) at the time of the district's no-bid $4.3 million purchase of NWEA's (registered trademarked) product, the MAP test, is definitely serious but only one part of the problem.

The other part is, we all need to assess whether the MAP product is a good investment for our schools and kids. I believe the jury is seriously out on that. In fact, there are a lot of questions surrounding the use/misuse and application of the MAP test and all the time, money and class and library time lost because of it.

So one of my main concerns about Supt. Goodloe-Johnson's affiliation with the vendor (NWEA) has always been her ability to objectively assess whether MAP is a useful or valuable product for our district or not.

How likely is it that she would find any fault with it when she was on the manufacturer's board of directors?

So the conflict of interest may not be a monetary one (at the moment -- maybe she will benefit in the future), but her association with NWEA is/was definitely a conflict in that it impeded her objectivity, as well as a serious lapse in ethical judgment on her part overall.

Does this free her up to now analyze the MAP product objectively? I don't know. Wouldn't it be pretty to think so?

-- sue p.

Dorothy Neville said...

Sue, I do not disagree with you. I agree that there are issues regarding MAP and is it the wise choice for the district. But we are having this discussion too late, after the board approved the contract. Our Super ought to be able to be on any board she wants but it needs to be disclosed so that can be part of the approval process. If it had been disclosed properly, then all the questions of whether she's impartial, whether the board would need to step back and ensure it's not a no-bid contract, all of that could have happened in a timely manner.

That's why the ethics violation is the non-disclosure. And that her saying she's resigning the board because it's a distraction is moot. She doesn't get it. Her resigning is a red herring. It's shutting the barn door so long after the horses have escaped that vermin have moved in.

mirmac1 said...

We have since found out MGJ's appointment to the board predates the "external" consultant's report on assessment tools (the consultant's title, oddly enough, is Special Assistant to the Superintendent. The "appearance of impropriety" is an ethical violation. Any appearance of quid pro quo.

An NWEA spokesman has said MGJ got her seat on the board in April 2008.

Anonymous said...

Re: overpayment
The paychecks issued by the district are nearly impossible to decipher. What I got month-to-month varied, even as a salaried employee, and the math that they do makes no sense. Trying to get a live person who has authority to see your paycheck is a nightmare. I'm wholly unsurprised that people didn't report overages, and I would be unsurprised to find out if people got underpaid periodically either.

Former teacher

wseadawg said...

It's also one of the few "distractions" that the wider public, outside of this blog (including Times commenters) sunk their teeth into and frowned heavily upon. To many, it was a no brainer, not just because of its appearance, but because somebody who is paid more than the governor should be giving 100% of their time and efforts to their SI job, and not with side-businesses & "distractions" like NWEA.

But if she couldn't see that her position on that Board, per se, gave her undue influence both on that Board and in her SI job, then she needs to takes ethics classes. What was she doing on NWEA's board, watering the plants? Of course not. She was aiding in the design and implementation of policy for standardized testing and greasing the skids for an outside entity doing business with SPS, which is a HUGE conflict of interest. Being on the Board should have been an obvious no-no. I hope she gets that someday.

Seattle-Ed2010 said...

Dorothy -- I agree the evaluation of the MAP product should have occurred before the district decided whether or not to hand over that $4.3 mil to NWEA.

But I don't feel the district should feel obligated to continue to use the MAP product if it is indeed useless or problematic or sapping too many resources. I think we can and should evaluate it regularly and discontinue it if necessary.

mirmac1 -- Verrry interesting about when MGJ joined NWEA. Then why was the official press release citing this fact not released (or dated) until September 2008? Was someone playing chronological games?

See: http://www.seattleschools.org/area/news/sbnews/nwea_board.doc
(excerpt below--)


(Notice the strange & revealing wording about the purpose of MGJ's position on NWEA's board -- seems pretty clear that the intention was for MGJ to serve as an advocate for NWEA and "help NWEA fulfill its mission." Hmm. Silly me: I thought her job, as superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, was to fulfill our district's mission of best serving our kids.)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: JulieAnna Little, R/West PR
503.223.5443 x114/ julieannal@r-west.com

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Joins Northwest Evaluation Association Board
Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson Lends Education Expertise and Leadership to Help Further NWEA’s Mission to Help All Kids Learn

September 16, 2008 – Portland, Ore. – Northwest Evaluation Association is proud to welcome Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, to its board of directors.

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson will lend her experience and guidance to help NWEA fulfill its mission of “partnering to help all kids learn” by using assessment data to help make education more child-centric.

"I look forward to working closely with NWEA to support development of effective assessment and evaluation tools,"
said Dr. Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. "To reach our goal of excellence for all students, we must provide teachers, principals and school systems with data that lets us know what is working well and where instruction, services or programs need to be adjusted. It is very powerful to collaborate across all member districts and to share best practices." (...)


-- suep.

wseadawg said...

And I agree with Sue, Dorothy, Cascade, and especially Central Mom. I believe her resignation under protest, it almost seems, should result in her being placed on "last chance" probation. That conflict of interest and non-disclosure rises to the level of a firing offense in my mind, and the Board should strongly tell her that she is skating on thin ice now, and one more stunt like that will be game over.

It's time for Maria to choose who she's loyal to: SPS, or the National Ed Reform movement. She can't have both.

Kathy said...

Next up...Resignation from Broad Board of Directors???

BTW, Wendy Kopp (TFA)also sits on the Broad Board of Directors.

Charlie Mas said...

How is her position on the board of the Alliance for Education (a non-profit board seat that was somehow left off her disclosure form) not a conflict of interest when the Alliance lobbies the District about what to include in the teachers' contract?

Chris said...

I'd rather she have resigned from SPS to give her full effort to NWEA.

Eric M said...

Har! I like Chris's position.

Or maybe she should resign from trying to control Middle Earth so she can focus her efforts on tidying up the mess at Mt. Doom.

mirmac1 said...

The release is dated 9/08. The NWEA had a link to its announcement date in 7/08. Which date is it? I suppose it's whatever makes them looks less sleazy, if that's possible.

I have not seen a document out of SPS dated before the 6/08 consultant report "objectively" reviewing different assessment tools. Two weeks later the MAP pilot was in the works, lo and behold!

Meg said...

So, I hate to be a naysayer, but I think the Superintendent did get her way.

She visibly violated ethics/conflict of interest by being on a board - even if it was nonprofit - of a company that SPS was considering a contract with and not disclosing that relationship to the school board. She did not disclose this relationship to the board when the company came up as a pilot, or when the contract came up. When she did finally disclose her position on NWEA's board, she stated that because the position wasn't paid, "clearly" there was not a conflict of interest. When she announced her resignation, she repeated that "clearly, there was no conflict of interest." While it would be lovely if we could all repeat things and make them so, usually, in the real world, this is not the case. However, for the current Superintendent, it appears that repeating "clearly, there was no conflict of interest" made it the truth for at least 4/7 board members.

There has been no board investigation, no public censure from the board, and in fact, no visible consequence. At all. So while the flak from the community and the state auditor may have been a hassle she was no longer willing to put up with... how did she not win this?

FYI: concerned citizens CAN file an ethics complaint with the district ethics officer.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, you're right. The ethical misstep already took place (and she seemed unhappy to step down anyway).

wseadawg said...

she stated that because the position wasn't paid, "clearly" there was not a conflict of interest.

Oh Maria. What power and influence could you possibly have to steer a large contract toward SPS? You're only the lowly Superintendent of Seattle Schools. How could NWEA possibly benefit financially from having you on their board? I'm sure, of course, that you had no influence whatsoever because you weren't paid.

Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.

mirmac1 said...

I'm gonna make a crazy wild-ass guess that the lawsuit re: MAP selection may have influenced her resignation. Maybe the fancy district lawyers said better get your ass outa there.

Because it's true. Has she backed down yet from any other issue?

Charlie Mas said...

Actually, I don't think it was the district lawyer who pressured her (or warned her) into resigning from the NWEA board. I think it was our Board.

I don't really give them credit for it, however. I think that they were shamed into doing it by Don McAdams.

I know that Don McAdams is persona non grata with a lot of people due to his association with the Broad Foundation, but I have read his book. He is an advocate for strong boards. He is an advocate for student achievement. He is an advocate for strong Board oversight and a HIGH degree of community engagement. I agreed with just about everything he wrote in that book.

When I asked him about a superintendent who refused to act after getting a specific direction by the vote of a Board, he said - straight out without hesitation - that is was a firing offense. I'm pretty sure that, in the review of the audit, he learned of the superintendent's position on the NWEA board and told the Board in no uncertain terms that OF COURSE it was a conflict of interest.

He would have told them that on September 11, 2010. The superintendent's resignation came less than two weeks later.

I think Don McAdams shamed the School Board into pressuring the superintendent to resign from the NWEA board. Before being scolded by him I don't think 4/7 saw anything wrong with it.

For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure that Smith-Blum and DeBell knew it was a conflict and also pushed for it.

wseadawg said...

Sorry Meg. Forgot to attribute the italicized portion of my last post to you.

So, Meg said....(See my last post)