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Est. April 5, 2002
November 19, 2015 - Issue 630

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Connecting the Dots
Cartel Public Education
Privatization Surrogates
Part II

"These Broad bottom feeders are supported
by a bevy of Cartel-related consultants
whom they reward handsomely with grants,
speaking fees, and contracts after they
ascend to the superintendent’s office."

The most effective Cartel surrogates, in facilitating public school privatization, have been the Broad-trained and influenced superintendents (hereafter referred to as Broadies). Strategically placed throughout the nation, they have enriched the Cartel, and many have, and are, supplementing their substantial salaries with income derived from nefarious financial schemes. In the truest sense of the word, they are bottom feeders who have preyed on the most vulnerable school districts and children in public education.

Although they are majority and minority, Broadies of color are at the point of the spear of the Broad strategy to privatize public schools, turn them into corporate charters, run them like a business, and staff them with non-union oriented teachers trained by Teach for America (TFA). These Broad bottom feeders are supported by a bevy of Cartel-related consultants whom they reward handsomely with grants, speaking fees, and contracts after they ascend to the superintendent’s office. Several of these consultants profited from Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million grant to the Newark Public Schools in 2010 headed by a Broadie. (Dale Russakoff discusses them in her recent book, The Prize, 2015.)

Broad Superintendents of Color as “Bottom Feeders”

As noted in an earlier column, Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett is the most notorious Broadie in the group. Serving as superintendent of the Cleveland, Ohio Public Schools, as chief academic auditor of the Detroit Education Authority, and finally as senior education advisor and CEO of the Chicago Public Schools where she had one of her biggest scores, setting up a ten percent kickback from $25 million of sole source contracts she awarded to her friends and co-conspirators. Referred to by a Chicago columnist as the female Nino Brown, after the Wesley Snipes drug kingpin character in the movie, New Jack City, Byrd-Bennett began a criminal enterprise of bribes and other illegal acts in Cleveland, moved her operation to Detroit, and then on to Chicago. She was aided by her handpicked, two-person crew that started with her in Cleveland and traveled the circuit - covering her back - until they all crashed and burned in the windy city.

But most disturbing about the Byrd-Bennett saga is the damage she has done to low-income students of color as a superintendent or high-level school district administrator. Her actions paralleled those of her close colleagues, the late Dr. Arlene Ackerman, former superintendent of the Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Philadelphia Public Schools, and the late Dr. Beverly Hall, former superintendent of the Newark and Atlanta Public Schools. The three of them also wielded considerable power and influence in the National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE), the nation’s largest organization of professional African American educators, where they worked diligently to entice NABSE members to join them in their efforts. NABSE has also become a recruiting ground for the Cartel and major book and testing companies for black superintendents who are deployed to market their wares.

These three Broadies, who served more than a combined forty years at the helm of major school districts, gave billions of dollars in software, computer, and training contracts to Cartel allies while peeling off significant dollars for themselves. These bottom feeders claimed to have improved students’ academic outcomes in the districts they led, but after their departures, it was revealed that those declarations were exaggerated at best and fraudulent at worst. During their years at the helm of some of America’s largest school districts, their records indicated that they closed, renewed, and/or repurposed more than 1,000 schools which often served as community hubs, replacing them with charter schools that performed no better than the traditional public schools they replaced. They also developed mentees to spread the Broad agenda to other districts by facilitating their placement in leadership roles.

For example, Arlene Ackerman assisted two of her Broad mentees in Philadelphia in taking over the Trenton, New Jersey Public Schools in 2012. Dr. Francisco Duran was appointed superintendent and brought in his Philadelphia colleague, Lucy Feria, as assistant superintendent. Both had worked with Ackerman to close large numbers of Philadelphia’s traditional public schools, rapidly expand corporate charter schools, and to downsize the teaching staff.

During his first Trenton town hall meeting, Duran announced that he embraced charter schools and had worked well with them. This was surprising to many in the audience as most felt that Trenton was already being overrun by charters. However, Duran’s charter enthusiasm was tamped down by the local teachers’ union president who was connected to parents, the local community, and the Mayor who appointed the school board. Duran distributed tens of millions of dollars in contracts to Cartel allies, but he was stymied in his charter initiatives. Nonetheless, he was successful in reducing the salaries and benefits of para-professionals which was unexpected since he started his career as a para-professional and regularly boasted of that fact to community groups, which initially endeared him to the district’s support staff.

After a frustrating two years in office and being checked by the union president on most of his privatization plans, Duran applied to be superintendent of the Ann Arundel County, Maryland Public Schools in 2014, a school system ten times larger than Trenton’s. He made it to the final three candidates, and Trenton’s education and community leaders were preparing a going away for a celebration. When the Ann Arundel school board and local and political leaders became aware that Duran was a Broadie, he was the first finalist to be dismissed. Severely disappointed, he doubled down on applying for jobs to get out of Trenton before the district’s fiscal problems collapsed on him and undermined his marketability. Finally, in the fall of this year, he secured a third-level appointment as chief academic officer in the Fairfax, Virginia Public Schools.

His Philadelphia sidekick, Lucy Feria, has succeeded him as interim superintendent and is actively campaigning for the job. However, her aggressive pro-charter initiatives in Philadelphia, which resulted in hundreds of teachers losing their jobs, are barriers to her appointment to the permanent position.

Dr. Ackerman is still having a Broad impact from the grave. Sadly, these Broad superintendents of color have collectively undermined the education of more than six million, low-income children of color during their tenures. Like William Ellison, a wealthy South Carolina free black plantation owner during the Civil War, who voluntarily grew food to feed a Confederate army that rejected his sons as soldiers, they willingly carry out the Cartel’s privatization program. Selected for their cultural, racial, and ethnic affinity with the student populations and parents of Cartel-targeted urban districts, these bottom feeders have no difficulty in exploiting their own for professional and personal gain. Next is an examination of other Cartel superintendents and the spokespersons for the Cartel agenda. Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has appeared on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and National Public Radio’s The Connection to discuss public school privatization, and he has lectured to parent, teacher, and union groups throughout the nation. Contact Dr. Farrell. 

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