I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Another Day, Another Reformy Hypocrite: Camden Edition

Leave it to Laura Waters to summarize the reformy defense of Camden's new, very young, very inexperienced state superintendent of schools, Paymon Rouhanifard:
While Rouhanifard has many admirers in the world of public education, he has attracted critics who charge that he's inexperienced and too closely associated with charter schools and other elements of education reform.
Been there, done that. Camden's most recent superintendent, Bessie LeFra Young, was 57 years old when she was hired by the Camden School Board in 2007. (One of those board members was the aforementioned Jose Delgado.) Young had spent 31 years as a classroom teacher and another four as an administrator, including her last appointment as Superintendent of Central Region in North Philadelphia.
Age and experience, right? How'd that work out?
During Young's tenure, student academic outcomes declined; currently, 23 of the district's 26 schools are on the list of the 75 worst schools in the state. Fiscal oversight of the district's $313 million budget has been so poor that the Department of Education sent in a State Monitor. Under Young's watch the district falsified reports on violence and vandalism and failed every section of the state accountability rubric called QSAC.
Student and teacher absenteeism soared. Young's too: during her last two years in the district she missed more than 180 school days, despite her annual salary of $240,000. Last July the School Board bought out her contract for $62,000.
The superintendent who preceded Young, Annette Knox, had been a veteran education and a regional superintendent in Cleveland when she was hired by the Camden School Board in 2001. At the time she was 54 years old. Knox resigned in 2006 after five years on the job because two staff members became whistle-blowers, alerting the State to widespread fraud in test scores and evidence of a cover-up. Knox also gave herself $18,000 in unauthorized performance bonuses.
There's much to be said for maturity and experience, yet Camden's last two superintendents have met those standards and failed miserably. (I haven't gone further back in history.) Sure, Rouchanifard's a young man. But perhaps it's time to rethink our assumptions about the prerequisites for educational leadership. [emphasis mine]
To summarize:

  • Experience and credentials are required to lead a school district.
  • But sometimes experienced and credentialed superintendents do a bad job.
  • Therefore, experience and credentials are unnecessary.
I'm not going to waste any more of your time or mine pointing out how transparently illogical this argument is. 

I will, however, happily point out that Laura Waters seems to value experienced school leaders when they work in her district:    
Lawrence Township Public Schools Superintendent Philip Meara announced his retirement Monday night after more than five years as the district's top administrator.
Meara's resignation, effective Sept. 1, comes two years before his contract was set to expire in 2013. He cited his need to spend more time with his family as the reason for retiring before the end of the contract.
Meara, 60, of Allentown, makes $184,730 as superintendent, according to state payroll records. The district intends to begin a search for his replacement, according to a release from the school board.
"Phil Meara is personally responsible for almost everything good that has happened in the Lawrence Township schools over the past six years,” said Board of Education President Laura Waters. “He’s overseen the development of our High School Academies, the integration of technology into student learning, robust academics and teacher training, and a renewed partnership with the community."
Meara previously served as the Freehold Borough schools superintendent. During his nearly 40-year education career, he also worked for the East Windsor, West Windsor and Plumstead Township schools. [emphasis mine]
Golly, imagine how much better Meara would have been for Lawrence is he had only come into the job with six years of education experience! You know, just like Rouhanifard! I'm sure Waters would have been able to see through his meager record and wouldn't have just dumped his resume in the circular file...

And what of Meara's replacement, Dr. Crystal Lovell?

Presently Lovell is the Assistant Superintendent of LTPS, serving in that capacity since 2005.  She holds an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Management and Policy from Seton Hall University with a dissertation focus on Title I-funded extended day programs,  an MS in Chemistry from Rutgers University, and a BS in Secondary Education.
In LTPS Lovell oversees areas of curriculum, instruction, assessment, grants, federal programs, extended-day programs and professional development.  Some of her prominent endeavors include the High School Career Academies, the Talent21 mobile device 1:1 initiative, the NWEA assessment system, curriculum alignment with the new standards, and the Robotics programs.
Lovell’s education career spans 24 years, the first five of which were teaching biology in East Orange.  While there, she also coached varsity cheerleading, choreographed the marching band routines, and participated in a summer internship for science teachers at Merck, working with researchers studying Alzheimer’s disease.
The next nine years found Lovell teaching high school chemistry, biology, earth science, and laboratory techniques in Hillsborough.  Many of her students took their learning on the road as they taught science to elementary students or participated in a mock crime scene as forensic scientists.
While in Hillsborough Lovell continued participation in summer internships for teachers working at Union Carbide and Hoeschst-Celanese.  She also teamed with Rutgers University to act as a facilitating teacher for the RU-MAPPS program, an initiative designed to attract more minority students to the field of biomedical science.
In 2001 Lovell joined the Metuchen School District as Supervisor of Math and Science and after two years, became the Director of Math and Science for the Highland Park School District.  Much of her work at Highland Park focused on raising the academic performance of at-risk students.
We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Crystal Lovell will be our new superintendent,” related BOE President Laura Waters. “A thorough and efficient search across the region proved what many of you already knew: the top candidate for the job was right here all the time. Dr. Lovell’s leadership skills, curricular knowledge, fiscal acuity, and passion for educational excellence make her the perfect choice for the Lawrence Township Public Schools.” [emphasis mine]
Highly credentialed, highly experienced, conducted scholarly work, AND spent the last five years in the same district that she now leads, so she knows the communtity and has already earned the respect of the parents, students, and staff.

Such, of course, is the way of the "reformer" who doesn't actually send her children to schools in the urban districts she claims are "failing." Experience and credentials and a history within the district are vitally important for the leaders of her community's schools. But for the less-affluent people of Camden?


Chris Christie: "Paymon has a proven track record..."


jcg said...

You are an amazingly, well honed b.s. detector.

Mrs. King's music students said...

Laura Waters article describes past practices in Camden that contributed to what's happening in Camden today. Direct and to the point. Can't fault her for having her eye on the plight of Camden kids while she's taking care of business at home.