Final Look At Most Recent Survey. 96 Percent Oppose Appointed State School Board

With 1,000 responses to our recent survey about an appointed vs. elected state school board, let’s take a final look at the numbers.

And the one that jumps off the page is that 96 percent will vote NO on amendment one to switch from an elected to an appointed state school board on March 3.

As might be expected from readers of this blog, the overwhelming majority are connected to public education.  Some 25 percent are retired educators, 24 percent work for a public school system, but are not teachers, and 26 percent are teachers.  That adds up to 75 percent.

(Which begs the question, why aren’t the groups who claim to represent various sectors of the education community telling people to vote NO?  And how in the world can the Alabama Association of School Boards actually be in favor of amendment one?  That is mind-blowing.)

One of the most interesting facts we found is that while it is Senator Del Marsh and his Republican supermajority friends who are backing this amendment, 43 percent of those who answered the survey say they are Republicans.  This compares to 35 percent who are Independents and 22 percent who are Democrats.  Are Marsh and his cronies that out of touch with their constituents?

But considering what happened in August when the state Republican executive committee met, that is a rhetorical question.  On Aug. 24 this 461-member committee met and passed a resolution opposing Marsh’s amendment 64 percent to 36 percent.

Other facts about survey takers: 65 percent were female, 85 percent were Caucasian and 37 percent were 36 to 55 years of age, while 41 percent were 56 to 70.

Why did they vote no?  Some 28 percent said they do not want to give up their right to vote and 65 percent said they do not trust the state  senate to  appoint people to the board who have the best interests of public education at heart.  (While the amendment says the governor will appoint nine members to this board, they must be confirmed by the state senate.  In other words, Marsh will handpick board members who will, in turn, pick a state superintendent.  In effect, Marsh would be the czar of Alabama’s public schools.)

And 92 percent of survey responses say they have “very little” confidence  in Marsh doing what is best for schools.

Given his track record on public education since becoming senate majority leader in 2011, this is hardly a surprise.  After all, he sponsored the Alabama Accountability Act in 2013 that has now diverted $155 million from the Education Trust Fund to give scholarships to private schools and the charter school act of 2015 which is governed by an APPOINTED state charter commission that has made a mess out of charter applications in both Washington County and Montgomery.

While supporters of amendment one are quick to say those who oppose it simply want to protect the “status quo” in Alabama schools, the survey says this is untrue as 65 percent believe education here is going in the wrong direction.

Why do they feel this way?  The fact that when asked to give the legislature a letter grade of A-F, 71 percent handed out either a D or an F is a strong indicator educators blame lawmakers for continuing to set education policy that is anything but helpful to public schools.  (Only one respondent out of 1,000 graded the legislature an A.)

I do not know what will happen on March 3.  But it is for certain that if amendment one passes, it will not be because of support from those who feel deeply about our schools.




George Wallace Was Right

For some of us who are long in the tooth, we can recall that when George Wallace ran for president as a third party candidate, he often said  “there was not a dime’s worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans.

And looking at Alabama today, it’s hard to argue with what he said.  For all intent and purposes, yesterdays Democrats are now today’s Republicans.

A quick history lesson explains.

After reconstruction, Bourbon Democrats took control of state politics.  They were the large landowners, mill and mine owners and anyone with substantial wealth.  They were the elites and proved it in 1901 by writing a state constitution that disenfranchised thousands and thousands of yeomen farmers and others they felt were not their equal.

Grandpa was three years old in1901.  But he and all his family and neighbors were just clogs in the Bourbon Democrat wheel.  They picked their cotton, sawed their lumber, raised their food, mined their coal and worked endless hours in textile mills.

The one thing they did not do was VOTE–unless they paid a poll tax of $1.50 a year because they did not own property.  And when you were a sharecropper, as grandpa was, and usually went deeper in debt from one season to another, $1.50 was a handsome price to pay..

Basically the constitution of 1901 said that those who did not own property were second class citizens and were not worthy of having a voice in who got elected to office.

(Grandpa served in World War I and it was only when the probate judge of Covington County gave him a waiver from the poll tax for his military service that he could vote.)

Now the Republican supermajority in the Alabama legislature has adopted the Bourbon Democrat philosophy and has put an amendment on the ballot March 3 that will disenfranchise people across the state by taking away their right to vote for members of the state school board.

That’s right.

Just like the 1901 constitution did to grandpa, the Bourbon Republicans want to make me a second class citizen.  They want to hand pick our state school board because they obviously don’t think I–and every other citizen in this state–have enough sense to go to the ballot box and cast an informed vote.

They believe they are smarter than the average citizens of Alabama.  We should only been seen and not heard.  We should put our fate in the hands of these modern day elites.

And here is my message to them.  When I vote NO to amendment one on March 3, I will simply say, “Grandpa, this one is for you.”




Where Are The Naysayers When It Is Good News?

When NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) scores recently were unkind to Alabama, the naysayers were quick to crawl out from under their rocks and scream about the sky falling.  A perfect example is this rubbish from the Alabama Policy Institute that tried to convince us that even though Mississippi only has six charter schools in the entire state, “school choice” is the sole reason for their improvement in NAEP scores.

But when the latest report on school report cards contained substantial good news, the naysayers were strangely quiet.

In the 2017-18 school year, we got school grades for 1,303 K-12 schools.  Of these, 201 got an A and only 39 got an F.  So, 15.4 percent of all state schools were A-rated, compared to 2.9 percent being F-rated.

Compare this to the 2018-19 grades when 1,315 wee graded.  This time 269 (20.4 percent) got an A and only 24 (1.8 percent) scored F.

Last year we had 15 school systems that were rated as A, this jumped to 25 systems this year.

So any way you cut it, on the A-F grading system, Alabama schools made significant improvement.

Of course, when your agenda is political and not education, you keep your mouth shut when the narrative does not support your position.  Which is just another way of saying that you show your true colors.

And never forget that the same folks pushing negative news, while ignoring good news, are the same ones who want us to go from an elected state school board to an appointed one.

Accountability Act And High School Football

There are presently seven scholarship granting organizations (SGOs) giving out scholarships to private schools through the Alabama Accountability Act.  They make quarterly reports and the one that covers July, August, September of 2019 has just been released.  Since this report covers the start of a new school year, it is especially insightful.

Particularly since we are now having high school football playoffs.

While it is seldom discussed publicly, especially by those who support this legislation, it is no secret that some private schools make good use of  AAA scholarships to boost their athletic programs.

Heading into the second week of football playoffs, there are 16 private schools still in competition in all seven football classifications.  The just-released SGO reports show nine of these have scholarships.  A grand total of 377 to be exact.

The biggest benefactor is McGill-Toolen in Mobile with 108.  Next is Faith Academy, also in Mobile with 77.  Montgomery Catholic Prep has 63, St. John Paul Catholic of Huntsville has 58 and Mobile Christian has 38.

Of the nine schools with scholarships, their overall record this season is 84 wins and 14 losses.  In fact, four of them are undefeated as of this date.

As we all recall, when this legislation was passed in 2013 we were told its primary purpose was to help students stuck in struggling schools by their zip codes.  No one said a word about touchdowns.

Editor’s note: The new quarterly reports show a total of 5,006 scholarships were awarded this school year, a sizeable jump from 3,685 in the same quarter last year.  Of these, only 33.5 percent went to students “zoned” for failing schools.  A total of $11.1 million was spent on these scholarships.

This program has now diverted more than $155 million from the Education Trust Fund since 2013.  And is the primary reason 25 local school boards have passed resolutions calling for repeal of this legislation.

What Happens When We Put Too Much Emphasis On Test Scores

Editor’s note:  Paul Thomas is a professor of education at Furman University in Greenville, SC.  He taught high school English in rural South Carolina before moving to higher education.  A contributor to many education journals, his work is always grounded by his experiences in the class room.

In this article, which is much more lengthy and “deeper” than most we publish, What is the relationship among NAEP scores, educational policy and classroom practice? he stresses how self-serving politicians and the media often misinterpret test results and make claims that can not be substantiated.

“Annually, the media, public, and political leaders over-react and misrepresent the release of SAT and ACT scores from across the US. Most notably, despite years of warnings from the College Board against the practice, many persist in ranking states by average state scores, ignoring that vastly different populations are being incorrectly compared.

These media, public, and political reactions to SAT and ACT scores are premature and superficial, but the one recurring conclusion that would be fair to emphasize is that, as with all standardized test data, the most persistent correlation to these scores includes the socio-economic status of the students’ families as well as the educational attainment of their parents.

Over many decades of test scores, in fact, educational policy and classroom practices have changed many times, and the consistency of those policies and practices have been significantly lacking and almost entirely unexamined.

For example, when test scores fell in California in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the media, public, and political leaders all blamed the state’s shift to whole language as the official reading policy.

This was a compelling narrative that proved to be premature and superficial—relying on the most basic assumptions of correlation. A more careful analysis exposed two powerful facts: California test scores were far more likely to have dropped because of drastic cuts to educational funding and a significant influx of English language learners and (here is a very important point) even as whole language was the official reading policy of the state, few teachers were implementing whole language in their classrooms.

This last point cannot be emphasized enough: throughout the history of public education, because teaching is mostly a disempowered profession, one recurring phenomenon is that teachers often shut their doors and teach—claiming their professional autonomy by resisting official policy.

November 2019 has brought us a similar and expected round of making outlandish and unsupported claims about NAEP data. With the trend downward in reading scores since 2017, this round is characterized by the sky-is-falling political histrionics and hollow fist pounding that NAEP scores have proven policies a success or a failure (depending on the agenda).

If we slip back in time just a couple decades, when the George W. Bush administration heralded the “Texas miracle” as a template for No Child Left Behind, we witnessed a transition from state-based educational accountability to federal accountability. But this moment in political history also raised the stakes on scientifically based educational policy and practice.”

Specifically, the National Reading Panel was charged with identifying the highest quality research in effective reading programs and practices. But while the NRP touted its findings as scientific, many, including a member of the panel itself, discredited the quality of the findings as well as accurately cautioning against political misuse of the findings to drive policy.

Here is where our trip back in history may sound familiar during this current season of NAEP hand wringing. Secretary of Education (2005-2009), Margaret Spellings announced that a jump of seven points in NAEP reading scores from 1999-2005 was proof No Child Left Behind was working. The problem, however, was in the details:

When Secretary Spellings announced that test scores were proving NCLB a success, Gerald Bracey and Stephen Krashen exposed one of two possible problems with the data. Spellings either did not understand basic statistics or was misleading for political gain. Krashen detailed the deception or ineptitude by showing that the gain Spellings noted did occur from 1999 to 2005, a change of seven points. But he also revealed that the scores rose as follows: 1999 = 212; 2000 = 213; 2002 = 219; 2003 = 218 ; 2005 = 219. The jump Spellings used to promote NCLB and Reading First occurred from 2000 to 2002, before the implementation of Reading First. Krashen notes even more problems with claiming success for NCLB and Reading First, including:

“Bracey (2006) also notes that it is very unlikely that many Reading First children were included in the NAEP assessments in 2004 (and even 2005). NAEP is given to nine year olds, but RF is directed at grade three and lower. Many RF programs did not begin until late in 2003; in fact, Bracey notes that the application package for RF was not available until April, 2002.”

Jump to 2019 NAEP data release to hear Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos shout that the sky is falling and public education needs more school choice—without a shred of scientific evidence making causal relationships of any kind among test data, educational policy, and classroom practice.

But an even better example has been unmasked by Gary Rubinstein who discredits Louisiana’s Chief of Change John White proclaiming his educational policy changes caused the state’s NAEP gain in math:

So while, yes, Louisiana’s 8th grade math NAEP in 2017 was 267 and their 8th grade math NAEP in 2019 was 272 which was a five point gain in that two year period and while that was the highest gain over that two year period for any state, if you go back instead to their scores from 2007, way before their reform effort happened, you will find that in the 12 year period from 2007 to 2019, Louisiana did not lead the nation in 8th grade NAEP gains.  In fact, Louisiana went DOWN from a scale score of 272.39 in 2007 to a scale score of 271.64 in 2019 on that test.  

This means that in that 12 year period, they are 33rd in ‘growth’ (is it even fair to call negative growth ‘growth’?).  The issue was that from 2007 to 2015, Louisiana ranked second to last on ‘growth’ in 8th grade math.  Failing to mention that relevant detail when bragging about your growth from 2017 to 2019 is very sneaky.

The media and public join right in with this political playbook that has persisted since the early 1980s: Claim that public education is failing, blame an ever-changing cause for that failure (low standards, public schools as monopolies, teacher quality, etc.), promote reform and change that includes “scientific evidence” and “research,” and then make unscientific claims of success (or yet more failure) based on simplistic correlation and while offering no credible or complex research to support those claims.

Here is the problem, then: What is the relationship among NAEP scores, educational policy, and classroom practice?

There are only a couple of fair responses.

First, 2019 NAEP data replicate a historical fact of standardized testing in the US—the strongest and most persistent correlations to that data are with the socio-economic status of the students, their families, and the states. When students or average state data do not conform to that norm, these are outliers that may or may not provide evidence for replication or scaling up. However, you must consider the next point as well.

Second, as Rubinstein shows, the best way to draw causal relationship among NAEP data, educational policy, and classroom practices is to use longitudinal data; I would recommend at least 20 years (reaching back to NCLB), but 30 years would add in a larger section of the accountability era that began in the 1980s but was in wide application across almost all states by the 1990s.

The longitudinal data would next have to be aligned with the current educational policy in math and reading for each state correlated with each round of NAEP testing.

As Bracey and Krashen cautioned, that correlation would have to accurately align when the policy is implemented with enough time to claim that the change impacted the sample of students taking NAEP.

But that isn’t all, even as complex and overwhelming as this process demands.

We must address the lesson from the so-called whole language collapse in California by documenting whether or not classroom practice implemented state policy with some measurable level of fidelity.

This process is a herculean task, and no one has had the time to examine 2019 NAEP data in any credible way to make valid causal claims about the scores and the impact of educational policy and classroom practice.

What seems fair, however, to acknowledge is that there is no decade over the past 100 years when the media, public, and political leaders deemed test scores successful, regardless of the myriad of changes to policies and practices.

Over the history of public education, also, before and after the accountability era began, student achievement in the US has been mostly a reflection of socio-economic factors, and less about student effort, teacher quality, or any educational policies or practices.

If NAEP data mean anything, and I am prone to say they are much ado about nothing, we simply do not know what that is because we have chosen political rhetoric over the scientific process and research that could give us the answers”.

North Carolina Mother Sheds Light On Alabama Charter School Mess

Editor’s note:  Alyson Ford is a mother in the Charlotte, NC area.  It wasn’t long after she enrolled one of her sons in a charter school that she began to feel something was amiss.  Soon she was attending board meetings of the school and digging into financial records.  What she found was disturbing and even led to conversations with the FBI.

What does this have to do with Alabama?  Many of the players Alyson has uncovered are involved with American Charter Development of Springville, Utah.  This company is heavily involved with both LEAD Academy in Montgomery and Woodland Prep in Washington County and has close ties to Soner Tarim.

Here is Alyson’s story:

“I have two boys.  One has only attended charter schools. The other has attended traditional public schools, as well as charter schools.

My son enrolled at Lakeside Charter Academy in November 2017, during their rebranding and name change from Thunderbird Preparatory Academy. He stayed through the 2018-2019 school year (4th grade). My stepson began at Lakeside in January 2018, for 4th grade. We withdrew him at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

We chose the charter school route for several reasons. The biggest being that one son has a severe peanut allergy. The thought of him  eating lunch in a cafeteria, surrounded by peanut butter sandwiches was terrifying.  Our district schools are much larger than charters as well. We liked the idea of smaller schools for our boys. We like the sense of community offered at many charter schools.

We were aware of the negative press since Thunderbird opened in 2014. I studied the North Carolina Charter School Advisory Board meeting minutesl. The school was frequently in trouble and on the verge of having their charter revoked.

We toured the school and found the interim principal amazing. She was the reason we took the leap of faith. We were cautiously optimistic when enrolling at Lakeside Charter Academy (formerly Thunderbird Prep).

Given the school’s past I vowed to be very involved and attend board meetings. I was especially curious about the EB5 investors involved with the school. Even though I repeatedly asked questions regarding this I never received much clarity. Sadly, the more I attended board meetings the more unanswered questions I had.

I became quite suspicious of what I was being told.  I continued asking questions and researching all involved parties/companies. I didn’t like what I was finding.

I had a feeling these businessmen from Utah weren’t wanting to educate my boys out of the goodness of their heart. There had to be a monetary motivator. Where could money be coming from given the depressingly low enrollment that has plagued the school for most of its existence and years of missed rent payments?

I took a trip to the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds office where I reviewed the sales history of the property, as well as work permits.

The property was initially purchased on May 5, 2014 by Provo Land Exchange, LLC for $1,300,000.

Six months later ALA Anthem Enterprises, LLC another Mike Morley enity (he founded American Charter Development and is a former legislator in Utah) became the property owner in a dollar free transaction. According to the work permits it appears that about two million dollars was spent on construction costs.

On June 18, 2015 ALA Anthem sold the land and buildings to Vertex iii, LLC for $7,650,000. Quite the whopping return on a minimal investment. I say minimal because three million dollars came from EB5 investors from China. It would appear that ACD and the Morley family wasn’t out any of their own money for the initial purchase and construction of this small school.

A curious side note about Vertex iii, LLC is the name of the registered agent; Jared Haddock. Upon further review of Mr. Haddock it appears that he is the President of the Alumni Association of the Board of Directors at Utah State University Eastern. Coincidentally Mike Morley is the Vice President of the same board.

June 30, 2017 Vertex iii, LLC sold their property to AEP Charter Thunderbird for $9,225,000.

This next sale occurred during our time at the school. On December 21,2018 Lakeside Charter Holdings, LLC purchased the school for $9.5 million.  What I find quite odd is that during this time Taft Morley, COO of American Charter Development, was also the chairman of the board of directors at Lakeside Charter. He knows the schools financial struggles better than anyone. Why would he want his company, ACD, to purchase a failing school for such an inflated price? The assessed value of the land at this time was $3,315,300. This doesn’t seem like a wise business move.

If I was a betting person I would say most, if not all, of these sales are bogus and only on record to drive up the cost of rent paid to ACD via tax dollar money.

Upon review of various contracts ACD schools have with their tenants it appears that if the school fails to make payments ACD then has the authority to take over as the managing body of said school. I believe this is what happened at Lakeside. The school was set up for financial failure and completely incapable of meeting the astronomical rent demands thus opening the door for ACD to take over.

As my concerns arose I wanted to understand how this school went from max enrollment to barely staying open.  It always came back to finances and the board of directors. The ethically questionable finances were alarming.  In fact, I received a call from two FBI agents at the Charlotte Field Office. At the completion of the face to face interview I was told that it appeared there was fraud regarding Lakeside Charter Academy.”

Oh the webs we weave under the guise of helping children.

Survey Respondents Strongly Reject Appointed School Board

With the first 700 responses to our latest survey now in, it’s time to see what folks are saying about the March 3 vote to change from an elected state school board to an appointed one.

Some 95 percent say they will vote NO on this amendment.  (When we asked the same question in a July survey, 89 percent said no.)

If this constitutional amendment passes, the governor will appoint nine members to a commission known as the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education.  Members will serve a six-year term and can not serve more than two terms.  One member will be appointed from each of the present school board districts.  They will appoint a secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education.

However, all appointments by the governor must be confirmed by the state senate.  So in reality, the senate will call the shots.

Alabama had an appointed board until voters passed an amendment in 1969 to switch from appointed to elected.  Consensus was that an appointed board only answered to the appointing authority (governor) and local voters and school systems had little input into education policy.

Obviously those who answered the survey are not interested in returning to a system once considered “failing.”

But before digging deeper, let’s look at who responded.

As might be expected, these 700 have close ties to public education.  Retired educators made up 29 percent of responses, teachers were 30 percent and those who work for public school systems, but are not teachers, were 30 percent.   And 53 percent have either children or grandchildren in public schools.

When it comes to political affiliation, 37 percent are Republicans, 37 percent are Independents and 26 percent are Democrats.  Females were 64 percent of those who took the survey, 83 percent were Caucasian, 38 percent were from age 36 to 55 and 40 percent were from 56 to 70.

Why did those who will vote no do so?  Some 23 percent say they do not want to give up their right to vote, while 70 percent say they do not trust the state senate to make good choices about who should be appointed to the state school board.

This distrust of the legislature is intense.  When asked to give the legislature a letter grade of A-F, 71 percent handed out Ds and Fs.  Only 21 percent gave them a C.  And distrust of senate majority leader Del Marsh is even more intense.  Some 93 percent say they have very little confidence in Marsh to do what is best for public schools.

No doubt this comes from his record since taking control of the senate in 2011.  For example, he was the sponsor of the Alabama Accountability Act which has now diverted more than $150 million from the Education Trust Fund to give scholarships to students attending private schools, he sponsored the charter school law of 2015 which has led to major problems with charter schools in Montgomery and Washington County and he supported the 2012 law giving a letter grade to schools which is considered worthless by most educators.

While critics of our public schools claim educators are simply wanting to protect the “status quo,” this survey says that is not the case.  For example, 61 percent believe education is going in the wrong direction.  But they place the blame for this on education policy passed by the legislature, not on educators.

Take aways:

As we have pointed out before, the vote on March 3 is really more about how the public feels about the legislature and their too-often misguided attempts to pass unreasonable education policy, than it is about whether we should have an elected or an appointed school board.  The disconnect between those in the statehouse and those in classrooms is about as wide as the Grand Canyon.

As long as this is the case, we will never have meaningful progress in Alabama.  Until some folks on goat hill decide to try to build some bridges instead of burning them, the 700,000 students in our public schools will be the ones who pay the price.

A great number of those who will vote no on this amendment are the very people critics of public schools claim to represent.  White, female and Republican.  There are 27 Republican senators in Alabama.  None of them are female.  All 27 voted to support Del Marsh’s call for an appointed school board.

There are more female voters in Alabama than male.  It appears that the Republican supermajority is largely out of sync with this voting bloc.


Once Again, Alabama Policy Institute Gets It Wrong

Former state senator Phil Williams of Gadsden is Director of Policy Strategy for the Alabama Policy Institute.  He recently sent an article to state media pounding his chest about how Alabama has fallen behind Mississippi on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores.

Unfortunately, most of what he said was fiction, rather than fact.

For example, he exclaims, “School choice is evil they said!  Well, Mississippi has put in new choice measures and other reforms in leadership and approach in education with, obviously, strong effect.”

The only thing obvious about this statement is that Williams made no attempt to find out what has really happened in Mississippi.

So, I sent Williams’ article to Nancy Loome, executive director of the Parents Campaign in Jackson, MS and asked for her thoughts.  (The Parents Campaign is a non-profit that has done amazing work in Mississippi to help the legislature understand what is really important to move education forward.)

Here is what she told me:

Ha! Crediting school choice with Mississippi’s gains is absolutely laughable, and it is incredibly offensive to the PUBLIC school teachers who worked so hard to move their students forward. We have the most restrictive charter school law in the country. Because of that, we have authorized only six charter schools in the four years our state has allowed them (less than a quarter of one percent of Mississippi public school students are enrolled in charter schools), and their performance has not been stellar..

Our only voucher program is for children with special needs. It serves very few children and none of them participate in NAEP.

Mississippi’s gains are due to targeted funding for teacher training in LETRS (research-based literacy instruction methodology) and for literacy coaches in grades K-3. The gains track directly with spending in early-grade literacy instruction.”

In other words, Williams has absolutely no clue what he is talking about.  His suggestion that charter schools account for Mississippi’s success is like saying a football team began winning because they changed their water boy.

As to be expected, the once senator goes on to attack and blame the Alabama Education Association, the elected state school board and universities that train teachers.

Williams’ implication in all of this is that somehow the challenges of Alabama education lie solely at the feet of liberal Democrats who only want to keep the status quo.

Again, he is wrong.

At this moment we are surveying people across the state in regards to the vote on March 3 as to whether we should switch from an elected school board to an appointed board.

More than 600 people have now responded.  Some 38 percent identify themselves as Republicans and 38 percent say they are Independent.  Exactly the opposite of who Williams wants to blame.

And 57 percent believe our education is going in the wrong direction.  So, they are not clinging to whatever the heck Williams thinks the status quo is.

But get this.  Why are we not progressing?  Because no one has faith or confidence in the legislature that Williams was a part of for eight years.  When asked to give the legislature a letter grade, 73 percent handed out either a D or F.  Only 20 percent gave them a C.

As to Williams’ plea to switch from an elected board to one that is appointed (like we had 50 years ago that was deemed to be failing). 97 percent say they will vote NO on this amendment.

Why are they voting no?  Some 72 percent say they do not trust the state senate to appoint the state school board.  In addition, 96 percent say they have very little confidence in senate majority leader Del Marsh to act in the best interest of our schools.

(Under the proposed amendment, the governor will appoint members to the state board—but they must be confirmed by the state senate which Marsh runs with an iron hand.)

Rather than continuing to bellow about what he obviously knows nothing about, Phil Williams would be well-served to go spend four hours as a teacher’s aide in a high poverty classroom to get a taste of the real world.  Who knows, he might even figure out why all those republican teachers don’t like the legislature where he used to serve.

He would certainly find it far different than the fantasy world in which he now lives.

Former LEAD Academy Teacher Speaks Out

The voice on the other end of the phone line was polite, filled with the conviction of youth and disappointed that all people claiming to want the best for children are not sincere.

I’d heard the same voice hundreds of times before.  Young people who had planned all their life to work with children, who had been “called” to do so.  Voices full of both enthusiasm and innocence.  Their mission was to save the world one child at a time.  To give love and care and lots of hugs.

And so it was with the young lady I was talking to.

Except, she took a job at Montgomery’s LEAD Academy charter school and within a few weeks came to the jarring conclusion that what she faced each day was NOT what schools should be.  A place were promises were not kept, administration was haphazard at best and money seemed to drive every decision.

She had a master’s degree and taught in a private school in Birmingham before joining LEAD.  Why a charter school I asked.  “Because I heard they offer more freedom to teachers,” she replied.

That was not what she found.  And only weeks after going to work, she left behind a school she believes is not doing a good job of educating their students and one she would not recommend as a work place for another teacher.

She taught kindergarten and was so dedicated to her new job that she communed daily from Birmingham.  She was interviewed by now dismissed principal Nicole Ivey and hired by the school’s board in June.  She spent $650 on classroom supplies, but was not reimbursed after being told she would be.  She was told she needed teaching “centers” in her room–but got no funding for them.  Her paycheck for August was a week and one half late and about $1,200 less than she thought it would be.  She got the remainder of her August check in September.

She did not get a contract until Sept. 27.  To her surprise, it stated that she would be an “at will” employee, someone who could be terminated at any time.  She did not sign it and resigned three days later.  She was the second of five teachers to leave, along with the school nurse and special education director.  When she left, all remaining teachers except one, were first year, including one with no education degree or certification

Two of her students also left.

The climate at the school?  “Extremely chaotic,” she said.  “Teachers got little support from the administration which was primarily LEAD board chair Charlotte Meadows and consultant Soner Tariim.  “It was not a pleasant place to work,” she told me, “there was a feeling of discomfort and Soner Tarim was rude to teachers.”

Meadows would visit classrooms and tell faculty what to do.   Who did she report to I asked.  This brought a laugh.  “We were constantly told different things by different people.” she said.

Finally the chaos and broken promises and lack of a clear chain of command were too much.  She resigned.

Amazingly, when I talked to her she was not bitter.  (Young people are like that you know.)  But she was definitely disappointed that her motivation to help children in any way possible was obviously not the motivation for why this school began.

She is now looking for another teaching job.  She will find one I’m sure.  Let’s pray her dream of helping children still burns bright, which I think it does, and that at her next stop she will find administrators with the same desire.