Wednesday, September 28, 2016

If you want to even start understanding how the mayor, the St. Louis elite - including the cabal of Archibald and company – and Missouri politicians have run SLPS further into the ground...

More background on the mayor's appointment to the Special Administrative Board (SAB), via Susan Turk.  For yesterday's news, and more insights, see yesterday's post.

St. Louis Schools Watch
The Hypocrisy Continues
By Susan Turk
St. Louis—September 28, 2016--As expected, Mayor Slay made his appointment to replace Melanie Adams on the SAB just before yesterday’s meeting. And the nominee is none other than former elected Board Of Education Member and Board President Darnetta Clinkscale.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Ms. Clinkscale was one of the four members of the slate that Mayor Slay and Civic Progress supported in 2003 to reform the SLPS. And reform they did. 
When the Post-Dispatch lists reasons for the 2007 state takeover of the SLPS, the Clinkscale led board was responsible for them; revolving door superintendents and academic decline for instance.
During the 2003 school board election campaign one of the mayor’s two education liaisons, Rev. Earl Nance, Jr. quietly informed Supt. Cleveland Hammonds that he would be fired by the board once they won election. Dr. Hammonds resigned a month after the 2003 school board election to avoid being fired by them. They replaced Dr. Hammonds with turn around expert Bill Roberti, who was not qualified to serve as superintendent and whom they had to get a waiver from DESE, which DESE cooperatively granted, to legally install him. Roberti was given a one year contract.  

During the 2003-2004 school year they went about pretending to perform a national search for a permanent superintendent. It was an utter failure and waste of valuable time. They faked a search because they had a candidate in mind for the job. They wanted to hire Dr. Rudy Crew and they erroneously believed he would take the job. So they pretended to do a search and did not develop a serious list of alternative candidates if he should not take the job offer. Their sham search netted fewer than 10 applicants. Dr. Crew declined and took over the Miami public schools instead.  
Then they were forced to do a serious national search. So when Roberti’s contract ended in June, 2004 they instated an in-house interim, Floyd Crews. Dr. Crews left after 4 and a half months because the board was micromanaging and would not allow him to make key decisions. He believed in individualized instruction. 

Soon after putting him in place as superintendent, they also hired Dr. Lynn Spampinato as chief academic officer. She favored a regimented one size fits all approach to curriculum. Spampinato over ruled a district committee comprised of parents, administrators and teachers which had been convened to review reading curricula and implemented a controversial curriculum called Open Court. She required that it be used in all elementary schools, even magnet schools where it conflicted with magnet curriculum, and that every child be engaged in reading everyday at the same time for the same amount of time throughout the district. Regardless of whether students absorbed the material, teachers were not allowed to change the pace of the curriculum. MAP language arts scores plummeted. But long before that year’s tests were even given, Dr. Crews lost the will to continue in the job.  
Clinkscale and company (Bob Archibald, Ron Jackson and Vince Schoemehl) replaced Dr. Crews with another in-house interim, Dr. Pamela Randall Hughes. During her 5 1/2 months they undertook a serious national search and hired Dr. Creg Williams who took over in May 2005. Dr. Williams had never served as a superintendent before and was overwhelmed by the job. He resigned in July 2006 and was replaced by Dr. Diana Bourisaw.
Many of the Clinkscale led board’s initiatives involved outsourcing services. This did not always save the SLPS money. The SAB actually reversed many of the policies and practices implemented by Clinkscale’s board. Richard Gaines has been quite vocal about the practicality of returning services in house.
That Mayor Slay would appoint Darnetta Clinkscale to the SAB is a display of the poorest of judgment on his part. But where the SLPS is concerned, the mayor has never displayed good judgment.
This appointment is perhaps the single best argument for ending the SAB’s tenure running the SLPS. DESE is holding area meetings this month to gather information for policy recommendations for the coming year. The St. Louis area meeting is tonight, September 28, in the Pattonville H.S. cafeteria at 6 p.m., 2497 Creve Coeur Mill Road, Maryland Heights, MO 63043. If you cannot make the meeting, please contact DESE Commissioner Margie Vandeven or state board of education members. They must be reminded that Darnetta Clinkscale is responsible for the failures that were attributed to the elected board which motivated the state board to replace the elected board with the SAB in the first place. Mayor Slay may cynically believe no one will remember or be concerned. Such recent history should not be swept under anyone’s rug.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Updates on the politics of public school takeover in St Louis, corporate school reform, etc...

From BG:
While the world watches the Trump and Hillary show, the powers that be in St. Louis, (mostly of the white 'democrats' and black political machine leaders who act like neoliberal republicans, as well as all the real corporate republicans who back them) continue to double down on their attempt to do away with robust, democratically controlled public schools.  

First, this morning I read that Washington University might give a free ride to KIPP alums who meet "academic standards."  That headline doesn't really sound right, to start with (translation: "if we decide you are good enough, then maybe we'll let some of you poor POCs in, since you are among those who have seen their public schools gutted and thus turned to the least bad option, a KIPP school named 'wisdom' or 'victory' or 'aspire', names, as it were, that are themselves quite patronizing forms of suggesting that white people are giving POCs an opportunity to attain one of these possibilities,  but if you aren't up to snuff it's your fault, not the fault of a system that failed you, but I dither)....

...but if we're (Wash U.) going to do that why not give a free ride to all SLPS grads who "meet academic standards?"  Probably because big KIPP booster Maxine 'Build A Bear' Clark is on the Board of Trustees and WUSTL is desperate to justify its sponsorship of KIPP, which, all in all, isn't really doing much better than SLPS.  And, the KIPPists and their pro-charter crowd are also doing their best to show that public schools don't work.  (So why help public schools in St. Louis, since the name of the game now is 'competition' and 'choice'?) KIPP was trying to colonize Normandy when Mike Brown was killed, and I'm pretty sure they still are, hence the gutting of that district as well...  Anyway, let's offer a spot to a KIPP alum to try to show how great it is! Stay tuned.  

Meanwhile, read below by Susan Turk, on Melanie Adams' departure from the SAB. Susan's cogent and insightful (and deeply committed) comments came just prior to Slay's naming of Darnetta Clinkscale to the SAB.  Here's the Clinkscale story. (For those of short memory, Clinkscale – detractors call her 'Colonel Klink' – was one of Slay's candidates when the 'Slayte' ran to take over the board back in 2003.  When they couldn't get their way by democratic means, Slay and friends backed the state takeover vetted by the Danforth-Freeman commission and corporate elites.  Being African-American, it is clear, does not put you on the side of robust, democratically controlled and well-funded public schools.  There is a political machine at work, and then there are the other possibilities.  For the moment, the machine is winning.

As per Susan's comments below, I'm not sure why the Post-Dispatch is so pro-elite and pro-corporate on this school issue, I guess they just don't get it, or they get it very well as part of the corporate 'liberal' and managerial class.  

Common Sense Publishing 
St. Louis Schools Watch
Oh, the Hypocrisy!
By Susan Turk

As I am sure most of you are aware, SLPS SAB VP Melanie Adams has resigned from the SAB. She has taken a job in Minnesota. Long live Melanie!
And now we await the announcement of her replacement. According PD Education Reporter Elisa Crouch’s August 22 article, Mayor Slay’s Director of Strategic Policy Initiatives Carl Filler reported that the mayor, “has several candidates in mind to succeed her.” That should make it easy for him to announce her replacement before tomorrow’s (Monday, September 26, SAB meeting.) Adams submitted her resignation to the mayor on August 22, more than a month ago now.
Meanwhile, Adams was celebrated for her 9 years of service on the SAB at their August 25, 2016 meeting. By way of honoring her, some very interesting things were said. SAB President Rick Sullivan remarked that although they had seen issues differently at times, they had always come to agreement. SAB Member Richard Gaines mentioned that they had had “disagreements’ and “differences” and that “her positions on issues has been the toughest, her third has been the hardest”.
Given that the SAB rarely discusses anything during their public meetings, these remarks were revelatory. You must understand that because there are only 3 of them, SAB members cannot communicate with each other about district business outside of public meetings. Two of them talking face to face, by phone or via email would constitute a quorum and require notice of a public meeting 24 hours in advance and then provision made for the public to be present.
That has not happened.
So, how and when were these differences and disagreements communicated?
Well, there is the possibility that discussions occurred during executive session, which are by law allowed to occur behind closed doors. But executive sessions are supposed to be limited to discussion of legal, personnel and real estate matters. Were any other matters discussed during executive session, which would violate the Sunshine Law?
Then there was Blake Youde. Youde has since moved on to greener pastures. During the first 2 years of the SAB’s tenure he held the annually renewable contract position of board liaison and was paid $60,000. His responsibilities were to act as an interlocutor for the SAB. According to Macmillan’s Dictionary, an interlocutor is “someone who takes part in talks as a representative of another person or organization”. If they wanted to communicate between public meetings, one of them would communicate to Youde, who would then communicate to the other SAB members. By this means they could communicate in private without public scrutiny or knowledge.
By July, 2009, Youde was determined to be of such value to the SLPS, that his responsibilities were embellished. He was promoted to be the deputy superintendent of the newly formed Office of Institutional Advancement at a salary of $135,000, a more than doubling of what he had been earning after a mere 2 years of service. He must have been doing a very good job. Youde left the district a few years ago and was replaced as deputy superintendent of institutional advancement by Rachel Seward. Whether she inherited his responsibilities as interlocutor for the SAB is not known. But I assure you someone did.
This is important because what has long been suspected has now been verified. By hook or by crook, the SAB does communicate out of the public eye and ear. And like any normal deliberative body, they have disagreements, but for some reason, they do not want the public to know what those disagreements are.
Whatever has transpired over the past 9 years has been well hidden. Fast forward to the present.
In a September 6 PD article Elisa Crouch, wrote, “Members of the SAB say their differences in philosophy and approach to overseeing city schools have been stark at times. However, they have taken deliberate steps to avoid the distractions that dominated the final years of the elected board’s power — which are still remembered for infighting and dysfunction.”
And, “They rarely discuss their differences publicly. Contracts and policy changes are almost always approved unanimously with little, if any, public discourse.” The tone of Crouch’s article is appreciative. That the SAB has kept conflict out of the public eye is seen as a positive.
As has been the continuous meme for the past 9 years, what the SAB does is fine and dandy.
However, earlier this year the state board of education began to engage the SAB and the elected board of education in a transition process to return the elected board to power. It was proceeding smoothly until August 16, when elected board Member Bill Monroe barged into the transition committee’s second meeting, creating a quorum and forcing the meeting to abruptly end.
The PD, in an August 22 editorial, took the meeting participants to task for rendering the spirit, if not the letter, of the Sunshine Law “in tatters”. The editorial board wrote, “An ample bag of tricks is available to those public officials intent on circumventing Missouri’s Sunshine Law and hiding their actions from public view.…the meeting was orchestrated specifically to keep the public from observing.”
They continued, “One trick to avoid Sunshine Law compliance is the “walking quorum,” where officials meet, talk by phone or exchange emails in groups too small to constitute a quorum. They agree on important matters. Then one participant holds a similar discussion with other individuals in the group to relay the results of the earlier meeting. The chain continues until a majority of elected officials have discussed and reached a consensus without ever having formally met in public.”
Their description of a walking quorum almost exactly mirrors how the SAB has operated during their 9 years at the helm of the SLPS, only using an interlocutor in place of a member to pass messages along.
And the editorial board concludes, “it’s a bogus way to conduct the public’s business,” and, “that end does not justify the means.”
In conclusion, if the SAB wants to operate sub rosa, in secret, that’s okay. If any other body tries to operate that way, not so much.
Questions for the Watch? Letters to the Editor? Stories to contribute? News tips? Send them to SLS_Watch@yahoo.com

Slay appoints Darnetta Clinkscale to Special Administrative Board

Slay appoints Darnetta Clinkscale to Special Administrative Board

WashU offers up to a free ride to KIPP alumni who meet academic standards

WashU offers up to a free ride to KIPP alumni who meet academic standards

Well then I guess we should also offer free ride to all SLPS graduates who meet 'academic standards' too.  Why just KIPP?

Seems a bit wrong to me.  Maybe it's because KIPP boosters are on the WUSTL board of trustees.