Broad Academy Graduates On The March to Charters

by Carol Hentschel, LWV Palm Beach
revolution-30590_1280 (1) Carol told me that in his application for Superintendent in Palm Beach County, Robert Avossa spoke of his passion for public education.  He did not suggest he would turn Palm Beach into a charter school district.  Now, this is exactly what he wants the Florida legislature to do.  Fulton District Schools in Georgia, where Avossa was Superintendent, became a charter district under his watch.  Carol says she has a wonderful blues CD by BB King performing at San Quentin prison.  He sings ” Nobody loves me but my mother , and she could be jiving me too”.
I called the Fulton District Schools and was told that “a charter district was not a district of charters”.  The district was exempt from state regulations governing public schools, but it managed the schools and hired the faculty.  It did not  turn schools over to charter management companies, and students attended their locally zoned schools.  We are looking closely at this distinction.  We should be wary, because Avossa is a Broad Academy graduate.  This is a hand picked group of school reformers, and Carol tells you more about them.
The Broad Academy, funded by school reform supporter and California real estate magnate Eli Broad (rhymes with “toad”), recruits and trains people in the ‘art of educational reform’.  Eli Broad and his foundation believe that public schools should be run like a business.  One of the tenets of his philosophy is to produce system change by “investing in a disruptive force”.  Continual reorganizations, firing of staff, and experimentation to create chaos or “churn” is believed to be productive and beneficial, as it weakens the ability of communities to resist change.  A hallmark of the Broad style of leadership is closing existing schools rather than attempting to improve them, increasing class size, and opening charter schools.  (Business-Managed Education- Eli & Edyth Broad  and The Eli Broad Foundation Philosophy)
Florida has several superintendents who are Broad Academy graduates.
  • Robert Runcie: Broward County
  • Robert Avossa: Palm Beach
  • Barbara Jenkins: Orange County

Since 2002, the Broad Foundation has funded two executive development programs in The Broad Center (TBC) aimed at getting its alumni into positions to promote an agenda of choice, competition, deregulation, accountability, and data based decision making through charter schools, high stakes standardized testing for students and merit pay for teachers. In 2012, the two programs were merged, and a shift in focus was described in The Washington Post by Valerie Strauss.  The new strategy “moved away from individual leadership development and career paths to an approach that seeks to have greater impact through a stronger focus on transformational leaders, driving people to reform-ready locations, and accelerating reforms across {TBC’s} network.”  The experience level of applicants was reduced to attract more entrepreneurial candidates.

The power and influence is increased because Broad graduates tend to hire other Broad graduates. Enrollees  come from business, the military, government, as well as the education sector.  Not all Broad graduates believe they have been indoctrinated into a specific ideology, and an Education Week article offers their different perspectives on the training in the Broad Academy.  Yet, they head districts in cities with strong reform agendas.

Broad trained executive graduates called “Fellows” hold leadership positions in the following districts:  New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., New Orleans, Philadelphia, Detroit, Green Bay, Boston, Durham, Providence, Houston, Dallas, Oakland and many more.  In 50 cities across 28 states, over 50% of all large urban superintendent openings were filled by Broad Academy graduates.  Critics argue that they use corporate management techniques to consolidate power, weaken teachers job protection, cut parents out of decision making, and introduce unproven reform measures.
At one time Broad’s influence was greatly enhanced when the annual $1 million Broad prize was awarded to a chosen school districts.    Miami-Dade won the Broad Urban District prize in 2012.  Orange County, Florida shared the prize in 2014.  Several months ago Broad suspended the prize because he was frustrated with the slow progress in raising academic achievement.  He is continuing a prize for charter school companies.  The foundation is studying a portfolio model in which different types of management systems are created that include so called independent schools that compete for students and must demonstrate results.  The New Orleans Achievement District is one such example.
Parents Across America  blogger Sue Peters, Seattle, WA, reported- ” The Broad Superintendent Academy has been tarnished.  She lists Broad Academy graduates who failed for somewhat similar reasons: top down management resulting in no confidence votes, questionable audits and accountability data, and large numbers of schools closed.  Examples include:
  • La Vonne Sheffield Class of 2002-resigned: Rockford, Ill.
  • Maria Goodloe- Johnson (Broad Class 2003) -fired: Seattle, Wa.
  • Mathew H Malone (Broad Class 2003) former superintendent of Swampscott, MA. -resigned
  • Deborah Sims (Broad class 2005) resigned: Antioch, CA
  • Chicago inherited Rochester, New York’s controversial and unpopular school superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard (Broad Superintendent Academy class 2007).  He was then fired and went to work for Cross and Joftus Consulting.
 We will follow up with a report on charter school districts in Georgia.  Local leagues need to be aware.
Posted in Charter Schools, Reform.

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