Investigations reveal systemic corruption in K-12 school leadership, and students and teachers lose out

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Disclosures of corruption in business and government are becoming an everyday affair, with Example after Example people in leadership positions using high status for personal gain rather than for the public good. The deluge of stories about lies and cheating The politicians, industry lobbyists, and business leaders can lead to easy cynicism about the way things work in business and politics.

But what about when corruption flourishes in public schools?

A recent series of investigative articles that I brought back for Our schools, an educational project by the Independent Media Institute, found numerous cases of decision-oriented school and staff purchases rewarding opportunistic leaders and well-connected businesses rather than students and teachers. And although a number of these revelations suggest systemic corruption, media accounts generally present these scandals as singular examples of corrupt behavior.

A recent survey found numerous cases of decision-oriented school and staff purchases that reward opportunistic leaders and well-connected businesses rather than students and teachers.

But take, for Example, former Kansas City public schools superintendent John Covington, who suddenly resigned his post there to run a public school district in Detroit. He carried away with him an employee Mary Esselman, and their relationship with a software company called Agilix, its “Buzz” learning platform, and the consulting firm School Improvement Network. Detroit metro schedules journalists Curt Guyette reported that the software was barely functional and that teachers were increasingly angry with being forced to use it. But Covington and Esselman worked to get the Buzz software platform “extended“—Not just in Michigan, but across the country.

Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson was accused by board members to have many ongoing conflicts of interest and ultimately terminated when an audit find that $ 1.8 million in contracts awarded under a program it administered “presented no public benefit or were questionable”. Covington hiring she also for her concert in Michigan.

In Los Angeles, Superintendent John Deasy’s tenure has been overwhelmed by scandals with private contractors, including the deployment of a new sstudent records system “widely describe as “catastrophic” and an amount of nearly $ 1.3 billion failed iPad program, which Deasy personally negotiated with Apple and the Pearson publishing house.

In Clarke County, Georgia, which includes the city of Athens, Superintendent Demond Means was accused by a group of parents having a conflict of interest with Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), a private non-profit organization offer a consulting and training program. Flagpole Magazine local press briefing reported that Means recommended that “the council spend $ 511,000 to send teachers [AVID] training ”without revealing that he had an ongoing business relationship with AVID in which he has received $ 500 for a day’s work. Although Means was ultimately erased accusations, controversies continue whirlwind around Means’ business relationships.


Another worrying model Our schools find was a trend for education-related companies to use circular business models that allow companies hired by schools to rehire themselves at school for other contracts.

For example, companies looking for new superintendents or other leaders often also offer other support services to newly hired school leaders. This arrangement, according to our schools, can influence the schools hiring process, so it is intended to hire executives who can help the future sales of the company.

Companies looking for new superintendents or other leaders also often offer other support services to newly hired school leaders.

Our schools found several cases in which recruiting firms were involved in searches for superintendents who retrained preferred candidates, despite numerous flaws, including falsified academic or professional degrees, documented evidence of financial mismanagement, and incidents of conflict of interest.

In several districts of Illinois, our schools find examples where the research firm of Superintendent Hazard, Young, Attea, and Associates (HYA), based in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, has shifted directors to executive positions while the associate firm of HYA, the ECRA group, then sold these quarters a variety of services.

One district, Oak Park Elementary District 97, used HYA at to rent Albert Roberts. During his tenure, the district hiring ECRA to produce an analysis of the achievement gap between white and non-white students in the district. When Roberts retired, the district again used HYA for a superintendent search which resulted in hiring Carol Kelley. Kelley currently appears in ECRA’s marketing literature brag the company’s strategic dashboard.

Another popular scheme involves organizations that act as intermediaries between school districts and businesses that sell school-related products and services. The result is a payment system to play in which principals are paid to meet privately with companies who then receive privileged leads to secure new lucrative deals.

One of these intermediary companies Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI) grabbed national headlines when the New York Times reported how the company paid the superintendents “Fees” travel to attend conferences at luxury resorts where they have met with business representatives. The companies have subscribed to the conferences by paying ERDI. (ERDI recently Posted a press release in which he said that honoraria paid to principals will be paid “on their behalf to foundations or non-profit / charitable organizations of their choice”.)

In the Youngstown City School District in Ohio, CEO Krish Mohip was a paid consultant for ERDI when the district had a contract of $ 261,914 with an ERDI partner company. Beaufort County, South Carolina Superintendent Jeff Moss became the matter an FBI investigation into contracts with ERDI and thirty other companies related to the company while working as a paid consultant for ERDI.

In Pittsburgh, journalists find The school district spent more than $ 14 million on dozens of non-competitive contracts with ERDI-related companies at the same time as Superintendent Anthony Hamlet served as a paid consultant for ERDI. In Baltimore County, Maryland, Shaun Dallas Dance was convicted of perjury when it was discovered that during his tenure as superintendent he had hidden $ 4,600, he had been paid by ERDI for attending confidential meetings with vendors at an ERDI conference.

When suspicious transactions are discovered, school board members who approve purchasing decisions are often the first to be blamed.

But deals are often negotiated in secret or presented to local school boards in a way that gives the impression that the insider schemes are legitimate. Amy Frogge, Nashville School Board Member Recount In our schools, superintendents can keep board members in the dark about the inner workings of contractor relations and district operations in several ways.

Superintendents can also outfit their administrative staff with associates from their previous employers to show a unified facade to the board, and they sometimes hire consultants to help them “train” the board.

Our schools discovered multiple instances of school leaders banning district employees from speaking to school board members, refusing to answer board members’ questions, stirring up controversies to distract from ongoing issues, and even outright lying to members advice.

Frogge also pointed out that a school board member position is usually a part-time job that earns very little money and that board members are elected to represent parents and constituents, not to be experts in school finance and administration.

Public school districts will continue to be vulnerable prey to careerists and exploitative companies as long as “education is still seen as a gold mine,” Thomas Pedroni, associate professor of curriculum studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, Recount Our schools.

Pedroni blamed much of the blame for the growing corruption in the school leadership arena on an education reform movement that urged schools to operate more like businesses and imitate company management hiring process.

Even when opportunistic principals and exploitative companies have horrendous academic results, as they often do, they still make a lot of money in a short period of time, Pedroni warned. And taxpayers — and school children — are worse off.

“School board members need to be better informed and better informed about profit motives and organizations seeking to influence their selection,” Frogge noted. Avoiding conflicts of interest with principals and outside companies is “essential”, she said, as decisions made by these insiders “can lead to catastrophic results for students and staff”.


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