Kind of Spooky

So out in Philadelphia, they ousted their Superintendent.  She was due, under her contract, $1.5M but they paid her $900,000 to leave (of which $400k came from anonymous, private donors).  Boy, they really wanted her leave.  It didn't help that she did this (from the Huffington Post):

With the situation becoming increasingly untenable, Ackerman faced it head-on Thursday in a speech to district principals. She publicly challenged school board members to "sentence me ... or set me free" in what many saw as an unannounced farewell speech.

She entered the room to Sade's song "Is It A Crime?" – which became the theme of her remarks. She also read Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise": "You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I rise."

Ackerman then referred to the past year as "full of lots of challenge and controversy for me" and said her crime was to put children first.

That must have been some show.

She seemed to be a constant lighting rod for controversy but:

She is credited with continuing the district's rise in test scores – a streak now at nine years – as well as lowering class sizes in primary grades, creating a parent-outreach program and launching an initiative to transform chronically failing schools through staff overhauls or conversion to charter schools.

But also:

But critics called her "Queen Arlene," saying she was polarizing, autocratic and overpaid; her $348,000 salary was twice what Nutter makes. The district's $664 million budget gap this year – due in part to massive reductions in state and federal aid – led to thousands of pink slips and program cuts.

She drew criticism for a no-bid contract for school surveillance cameras, for her bungled handling of racial violence at a high school and for a high-profile dispute with a teacher who questioned Ackerman's decision to turn a district school into a charter.

That bungled handling of racial violence at a high school led to a ruling by the U.S. Justice Department against the district, saying the district had acted with "deliberate indifference."

So what's so spooky?  There are a large number of parallels to MGJ and SPS:
  • Ackerman worked in SPS under John Stanford as some kind of administrator.
  • Both MGJ and Ackerman were said to be involved in racial politics.
  • Both had their contracts bought out under stressful conditions.  
  • Both alienated the teachers unions.  
  •  Both had their contracts extended before things blew up.   (A point here is that while MGJ surely could have been exited for "just cause", it would not have helped any court case if the Board had just extended her contract.)
  •  Both had issues with contracts for minority companies.  
  •  Both were criticized for their autocratic management styles.  
  • Both were gone when things turned sour.  (At least Ackerman did end up being there when it ended unlike MGJ who made her exit early and didn't have to face anyone.)


Anonymous said…
related article:

"What did the Seattle School Board learn? A look inside the School Board and its recent scandal"

City Living section of Queen Anne News/Magnolia News
August 24, 2011

front page article by Alex Perry
Mike Dillon, publisher,

"... the school board ultimately remains accountable for what happens within the district....'The buck always stops with the school board,' DeBell said."

Jan said…
Melissa -- I couldn't tell for sure, but sort of "reading between the lines" on the Ackerman thing, it sounds as if she, like MGJ, may also have sailed in and closed a bunch of schools.
Charlie Mas said…
That article in City Living was pretty weak. It didn't challenge any statement made by any of the School Board members.
Sahila said…
I think you have forgotten to include the fact that MGJ AND ACKERMAN ARE BOTH BROADIE TOADIES...
seattle citizen said…
Not only that, Sahila, but look at this Broad press release of 2007:"...FORMER SUPERINTENDENT [of San Francisco] ARLENE ACKERMAN HEADS BROAD SUPERINTENDENTS ACADEMY..."
So she was LEADING the Broad Academy (of wannabe corporate Urban Superintendents)
Before Broad, she was Supe of San Francisco. Of her tenure in SF, the release says that "Under her leadership, San Francisco had the highest student achievement of any
urban school system in California in 2004, 2005 and 2006. During her tenure, test scores for the district’s African-American, Latino and English Language
Learners students improved."

We can only hope that the "test scores" of Whites and Asians also inproved. Yet another example of how "test scores" and race categories are abused by Reform: It's all about test scores, all about minorities, and nothing more need be said about those have success in areas not tested and those who are white.

It goes on: Ackerman was named Superintendent of the Year for
2004-05 by the National Association of Black School Educators. From 2005-2006, she served as chair of the Council of Great City Schools, which is comprised of the country’s
largest urban school districts."

Broad would like us to believe it is about "urban schools," but in rhetoric such as the above, which praises only Ackerman's "success" (test scores) with minorities, we see that Reform is about minorities. Since it is predicated on "the achievement gap," and since minority groups are hijacked for use as pawns or shills to prop up all sorts of leagues, alliances, coalitions and the like (and we DON'T see broager categories listed in those groups), it is apparent that minority groups are co-opted for use as the low end of the "achievement gap" in order to "turn a district school[s] into a charter."
Charlie Mas said…
I'll tell ya what's kinda spooky. I just finished reading The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. I think that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson would score pretty high on that test.

Seriously. About 1% of the population are psychopaths, but 25% of prison populations and 4% of high level executives.

Psychopaths are lacking empathy. They are the sort of people who can cause harm to others and not lose any sleep over it. They also refuse to ever admit any weakness or failure. They refuse to take responsibility for things going wrong - it's always somebody else's fault.

Read the book and think about how Dr. Goodloe-Johnson would rate on the Dr. Hare's checklist.
Sahila said…
another BROADIE TOADIE deform superintendent bites the dust - this time in Kansas City... they're falling like flies...

John Covington resigns
Anonymous said…
Dear Dr. Mas, M.D.
Thank you for sharing your professional insights. I was reading the DSM IV and came across the criteria for obsessions in OCD diagnosis. I thought I would share with you:

Obsessions as defined by (1), (2), (3), and (4):

(1) recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress

(2) the thoughts, impulses, or images are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems

(3) the person attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, impulses, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action

(4) the person recognizes that the obsessional thoughts, impulses, or images are a product of his or her own mind (not imposed from without as in thought insertion)

-Dr. Kettle, M.D.
Jan said…
Sahila -- hard to tell what on earth is going on in Kansas City. One of the board members has resigned along with Covington -- and there are allegations that somehow the Board president was entangled with some big construction contract. I can't even keep up on shenanigans and accusations in THIS District -- BUT there was one comment posted by a woman (who of course I also don't know -- and the claims she was making sounded SO SO SO familiar to what we were recently dragged through by our very OWN Broadie -- that I couldn't resist posting the following excerpt.

In it "Benson" is the director who is also resigning (along with the Supe -- sounds like a version of our very own Don Nielsen).. They have the "Star" as their very own Seattle Times -- they even have a $28,000 trophy, substituting in for MJG's retirement party with carving stations and $100 gift cards. I cannot vouch for the truth of any single bit of it. But it all makes for almost surreal reading:

The commenter (sorry, when I copied it, I didn't get her name -- Harriet somebody) writes:

Here's the concern that I have. . . . [Benson] told supporters (after being elected with few write-in votes) that he didn't really care what the voters wanted, he had his own ideas. Then bragged that he'd already identified a candidate for the district. Later - the board was coaxed into writing a contract that gave Covington unfettered power.

That's the problem in a nutshell. The board - and the voters - have given Covington free reign to do what
he wanted - even at the expense of students (1,000 of which walked away
in the first 6 months). They supported Covington even when they disagreed with him. He made it clear he wasn't accountable to anyone but Broad Institute (which calls a lot of the shots behind the scenes).

He closed or downsized more schools than required - including the successful Lincoln Prep program. He decimated the SWEC early college program. And he sent a staff member to request firing 150 new, untenured teachers so he could bring in 150 from Teach America. When the board - and Airick West - asked for documentation showing the newer teachers had poor performance, they were told Covington had no intention of providing it - he didn't need it because the targeted teachers weren't protected by tenure. So he wasn't solving the problem with older ineffective teachers was he?

So here's the pattern with Covington:

1. My way or the highway methodology backed by no research or empirical data.

2. A refusal to provide accountability to the board elected by voters

Jan said…
3. He's full of hot air and little substance. For example: when questioned about sending a principal to SWEC who had only elementary school experience he replied (this is paraphrased) "He (the SWEC principal) doesn't need high school experience. I (Covington) don't have urban experience and I think I'm doing a great job!"

4. Enrollment dropped. ACT scores stand at 16 out of a possible 36. Lincoln's scores are stagnant at 22 out of a 36 (too low for most competitive colleges).

Covington brags about what he does right, but doesn't take any responsibility for all the ways he failed students and parents. And he asks the board to vote for his requests without question.

There are also problems with the STAR reporting:

1. they rushed to judgment and reported supposed wrongdoing by West without doing any research of their own. Their sole source of information is the Arthur Benson, who most voters blame for the deseg debacle and who has done no outreach to the community that elected him.

2. The STAR called for West's resignation but fails to credit him with supporting most of the superintendent's initiatives, voting to support his requests even when it was clear the supporting evidence deemed otherwise, was the ONLY person to organize the board workshops that lead to more motivated citizens running for the office, put together a slate of widely supported candidates who have lobbied successfully for more resources for district children as well as hold community forums to try to address the very things people complain about on this forum (I've attended some of them - outside of my district since Arthur Benson doesn't do anything of that sort to rally his own constituents).

3. The STAR fails to hold Covington accountable for the loss of students, for the second consecutive year of falling test scores, for falling graduation rates, for dismal ACT scores, for frequent staff turnover, for lack of research to support his initiatives, for spending money on trophies instead of children, for firing new teachers who were coaxed to work for our pathetic district in order to import untested teachers with similarly low experience.

4. The Teacher's Union bowed because they saw the writing on the wall. What did they do to protect those 150 new teachers Covington asked the board to fire? Nothing. Andrea Flinders is a joke.

Let's have some balance STAR - worse - let's have more than the lazy editorials and lazy rush to judgment that have become the hallmark of this newspaper.

The kids will never get the two years they lost under Covington back. He dismantled the school closing program agreed to by the community, the Teacher's union and parents. He dismantled the K-8 program in its infancy despite evidence and research showing 7-12 results in LOWER academic achievement (and it has - hasn't it). He decimated the budget but had $28,000 for a trophy. And he hasn't provided any proof of significant interference in his job.

Why is he leaving? Because Arthur Benson recruited him on the promise that he coul d do whatever he wanted without board interference. NO OTHER corporation operates that way. We voted for a new board to provide checks and balances. Apparently Covington's "my way or the highway caught up with him." And this is the result. A coward who could work wonders with a budget but whose educational expertise was smoke and mirrors.

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