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

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Eli Broad's Made Men

Back in the spring of 2012, I pointed out that being a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy Book Club was a great way to get on the gravy train to Reformyville. Penny MacCormack and Mike Miles - both graduates of Broad, just like NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf - were making big consultancy bucks:
Last week, ACTING Commissioner Chris Cerf of the NJ DOE had to explain to the legislature how the state could afford some hefty consulting fees:

In documents provided to the OLS in its budget review, the department disclosed consultants on the Cerf’s school funding proposal made as much as $1,000 or even $2,500 a day.
“That’s certainly an interesting amount,” said state Sen. Nellie Pou (D-Passaic) of the latter figure. “Imagine if that went a full year, that would break all records.”
One assistant commissioner, Penny MacCormack, was hired last fall for three months at $1,000 a day until she could be confirmed by the state Board of Education as a permanent hire in January. She is now earning a salary of $135,000 a year, officials said.
Cerf defended the extra pay, saying MacCormack was a critical hire and the consultants on the funding report – including some notable national names in the school funding debates – were invaluable.
“This level of talent and expertise comes with a price tag,” he said.
Nonetheless, Sarlo asked Cerf for a full list of the per diem and consultants hired. The chairman said afterward it remained a curious stretch for an administration quick to criticize the pay of teachers and other school employees, including caps on superintendents, that is well below what it is paying consultants.
“A little hypocritical, isn’t it?” Sarlo said in an interview.
More than a little, I'd say; especially since this isn't the only recent instance of the state pushing tax dollars toward school consultants. Take a look at what's happening in the state-controlled district of Paterson:

PATERSON, NJ – An education specialist fired last September by the U.S. defense department over allegations of misconduct has been working at Paterson Public Schools under a consulting contract that pays a Colorado company $7,244 per day.
Shirley Miles had been executive director of the Department of Defense Education Activity when an Inspector General investigation last year found that she steered jobs to friends and family, took liberties with travel reimbursements and failed to properly report vacation days, according to a story by Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper.
After being fired in September by the federal government on the nepotism-related allegations, it seems Shirley Miles’ family connections quickly landed her work in Paterson.
By October, she joined the team of consultants assigned to Paterson under the school district’s contract with Colorado-based Curriculum Focal Point, according to district employees. Her brother, Mike Miles, is described as one of Focal Point’s “professional developers” on the company’s website and many district employees generally consider him the consulting company’s main representative in Paterson. [emphasis mine]
Remember: MacCormack and Miles, just like Cerf, are graduates of the Broad Superintendent's Academy Book Club. Further, both MacCormack and Miles went on after their state-sponsored consultancies to run districts: MacCormack in Montclair, NJ, and Miles in Dallas, TX.

So, how's that working out? Let's start with MacCormack:
During the past school year, the Montclair School District held off on conducting annual performance reviews of its principals. Schools Superintendent Penny MacCormack acknowledged she did not do the state-mandated evaluations during the 2012-2013 school year for the principals of the district's 11 public schools. 
"I wasn't here for a complete year, so I don't think it was fair to the principals that I evaluate them last year," said MacCormack, who began as superintendent in October 2012. 
MacCormack responded during this past Monday's Board of Education meeting to questions posed by board member David Cummings, who asked the superintendent what criteria she used to give merit raises to principals and to determine their tenure. 
"I evaluated the principals based on their school status, achievement-wise, and made observations in school buildings," MacCormack explained. "But again, the formal evaluation process, which is a full year in length, was not something that I thought I could complete since it wasn't started when I came on board." [emphasis mine]
So, Dr. MacCormack: you didn't think it was "fair" to do a formal evaluation of the principals; but you did think it was "fair" to give them merit pay based on your observations?! Golly, I'm sure your staff has a ton of faith that they're being evaluated "fairly" after that...

And what about Mike Miles? (via Diane Ravitch):

The Dallas school board will have a closed meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday to discuss possible disciplinary action for Superintendent Mike Miles, who was found in an investigation to have violated district policy and worked to publicly disparage the board. No vote will be taken after the closed meeting.
The board is expected to meet on Sept. 30 to vote on any disciplinary action. It’s the same date that Miles will receive his evaluation.
Also on Thursday, the board will hold its regular meeting at 6 p.m.
Trustees met in closed session and open session on Thursday to discuss the investigation.
Board President Eric Cowan said Friday that any punishment could range from a written reprimand to termination. [emphasis mine]
Of course, here in Jersey, superintendents who wage public media wars against their boards are saved from termination by Cerf. Maybe the commissioner hasn't heard that it's generally not considered good practice for a superintendent to publicly beat up his or her employers...

And so it goes for the graduates of Eli Broad's little book club. His superintendents, you see, don't have to bother with rules and transparency and all that other fuss: those are annoyances designed for the little people. No, his graduates are made men: they've got each others' backs. If another superintendency doesn't open up, I'm sure there will be another consultancy somewhere else.

It's how they roll.

It's good to be my friend, capiche?


Jonah Lalls said...

Good thing Marcia Lyles in JC has the Fulop Board to back her.

Michael Fiorillo said...

Extending the metaphor, they're made men (and women), and it's the kids, teachers and schools that get whacked.