Friday, August 14, 2015

"Mrng, Ms. Secretary!"

On May 26 of this year, several members of the Board of Education and I joined nearly one hundred other community members at a meeting at Central Office with the incoming Superintendent.  The meeting was sponsored by Families United for Education (FUE).  

At the time of the meeting, I was still in a state of disbelief.  Just a few weeks before, the Board had actually chosen a native Spanish speaking person of color, and the number one choice of teachers, as the next Superintendent.  

During the meeting, I was impressed not only with the testimonials addressed to the Superintendent—in English and in Spanish—but with his responses to them.  He seemed compassionate, intelligent, insightful, and conscious of the education context and climate he was entering.  I was also intrigued to learn he was the father of an kindergarten student.   

I left the meeting feeling hopeful. But because I have been teaching in the district for nearly thirty years, I tempered my hope with a healthy dose of reserve.  I have felt good about many past superintendents as well only to be sorely disappointed with their governance or their behavior. 

My hopeful outlook was partially validated on Monday, August 10, when I read the Superintendent's column in the daily newspaper.  He began by stating that his administration would be “vision-driven and data-informed,” instead of the other way around.  This I liked.  

He went on to say, however, that students "need to know that our interest is to afford them meaningful opportunities here in [the state], whether it’s in STEM, finance, manufacturing, the film industry or in a corporate setting.”  No mention of Art, History, Literature, Music, Dance, Theater, the Social Sciences, or any number of other occupations or non fiscal pursuits that do not rise out of a STEM-based national curriculum bent on an “education” whose sole purpose is to prepare students for college and career. That is, no mention of education for education’s sake.  It was clear the new Superintendent aligns himself with the “reformers” who believe education is little more than job training.

Near the end of his column the Superintendent mentioned the fact that he was interested in “re-imagining” the relationship between the district and the Public Education Department.  Little did we know how well that relationship had already been re-imagined.  In Tuesday’s paper we learned that the Superintendent not only has the state Secretary of Education's personal cell phone number on speed dial, but he uses his access to her phone to plot the professional demise of those in his own administration; in this case, the Chief Financial Officer who apparently was blowing the whistle on the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent regarding what appears to be, at least initially, a potentially shady IT business deal between the district and an individual recently fired from the Denver Public Schools for corruption and unethical behavior. 

The former Superintendent's means of expressing his displeasure of the Secretary of Education left much to be desired.  But at least he got the sentiment right:  the Secretary of Education is public enemy #1 of public education in our state.  The rapidly formed and apparent cozy relationship between the new Superintendent and the Secretary is disturbing.  It threatens to undermine and even destroy the trust teachers, parents, and students have established with him during his short tenure in our district.

I urge the Board to call an emergency meeting to look into this matter.  While convened, the Board might also look into the Superintendent's decision to promote the daughter of the President of the Board to the position of Assistant Superintendent.  This questionable action is especially suspect now that we have evidence the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent may have been encouraging a business relationship with an individual who was fired from DPS in part because of kickbacks and favors granted him by private enterprises—favors that apparently included a choice job for his father.  

Please do your best to restore or establish transparency, trust, respect, and professionalism to our district.  Your constituents deserve at least as much.  

1 comment:

Tom Wilson said...

Sound like typical way of doing business in NM, que no, Bernie?