Education — December 4, 2013 at 7:00 am

Educ. Achievement Authority spokesperson in damage control mode over resignation of EMU College of Ed. Dean from EAA board


Methinks thou dost protest too much

Yesterday, I broke the news that Eastern Michigan University (EMU) College of Education Dean Jann Joseph had resigned her position on the board of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), the state-run school district comprised of Michigan’s lowest-performing schools. The EAA is in the spotlight of late because they have given state legislators on the House Education Committee who are inquiring into their activities the run-around, forcing them to file Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain the most basic information. Let me repeat: they are forcing state legislators on the Education Committee to file FOIA requests to get information. More on that in my interview with state House Rep. Ellen Cogen-Lipton HERE.

There is also activity in the state legislature to further expand the EAA.

Senate Democrats held a news conference Tuesday to announce their opposition to EAA expansion, with Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor) calling the EAA “a complete disaster from the moment they opened their doors.”

Hopgood and Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods) have fought with EAA officials over access to records, and have posted an archive of documents they have received online.

Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) cited media reports saying EAA enrollment numbers dropped by almost 25 percent as a reason the agency should not be expanded.

“The shortcomings of the EAA are well documented. From flawed accounting practices to a lack of results in the classroom, the EAA has made many promises of getting better, but has failed to deliver,” Johnson said.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) said Tuesday that action could be taken soon to expand the EAA after meetings with Gov. Rick Snyder’s office and Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Township), chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Early in the day yesterday, EAA spokesperson Terry Abbott made this comment on my post from Monday:

This report is false. Eastern Michigan University reports the Dean is being replaced on the EAA board, that this is not a resignation. Here is the statement from Eastern Michigan verifying that this report is false:

It is important to note that it is incorrect to characterize the replacement of College of Education dean Jann Joseph on the EAA Board as a resignation. The dean is being replaced on the board by provost and executive vice president of academic and student affairs Kim Schatzel in a routine procedure, with president Susan Martin having made a formal recommendation to the board of regents in November and a board vote to occur at the regular regents meeting on Dec. 10.

Walter Kraft
Vice President for Communications
Eastern Michigan University

I asked Mr. Abbott for confirmation of this statement since I was unable to find it anywhere publicly. He was unable to provide confirmation. However, he did take to Twitter to rebut my piece which stated that Dean Joseph had resigned:

He’s also been tweeting to journalists who wrote stories about the EAA this week:

Yesterday afternoon, I contacted one of the organizers of the protest that occurred at yesterday’s EAA board meeting, Professor Steve Camron from EMU’s College of Education. I asked him for his comments on the statement by Mr. Kraft who characterized Dean Joseph’s resignation as a non-resignation, a “routine procedure”.

Dr. Camron informed me that he had just left a meeting with Dean Joseph. “She says that her resignation was mutually agreed upon last weekend with [EMU] President [Susan] Martin,” he said, “Not as suggested in the statement from Walter Kraft. I think it’s important that we have a Dean who acted on principle, who acted on behalf of her College and the students who graduate from EMU. The faculty of the College of Education appreciate that our Dean took this action and it is a reflection of her strong moral character.

Here is the resignation letter that Dean Joseph sent on November 25th to Carol Goss, the Chair of the EAA Board:

Hello Carol,

Please accept my resignation from the EAA Board of Directors effective November 30. As you know the escalating conversations about the EAA has been impacting my college in so far as teachers and school districts boycotting our students. My faculty are also deeply engaged in this conversation from a social justice perspective. I am caught between the untenable position of being a Dean of the faculty and serving on the board.

EMU has selected another representative to serve beginning December 1.

Best wishes,

Jann Joseph
Dean, College of Education
Eastern Michigan University

Characterize that statement how you will, but it is very much a resignation. This isn’t someone who sees her departure as, as Mr. Abbott and Mr. Kraft characterize it, a “routine procedure”.

A spokesperson for EMU, Geoff Larcom, was also spinning this as a “business as usual” move despite Dean Joseph’s resignation letter. From a piece in the Detroit News that published last evening:

I can’t read Jann’s mind, but this process was not a resignation, where she came to us,” Larcom said. “She was notified in November that she’d be replaced. It is a routine procedure to replace a board member. Jann replaced Regent Jim Stapleton on the EAA board, and now she is being replaced by Kim Schatzel.”

Interestingly, after spending time yesterday to get out President Kraft’s message that this was “routine” and not a resignation, Mr. Abbott declined to go on the record for the Detroit News piece:

Asked about the change on the board, EAA spokesman Terry Abbott replied in an email: “Since it was an EMU decision, I think it’s appropriate to leave the comment with them. We look forward to working with the new board member as the Education Achievement Authority continues its relationship with Eastern Michigan University and the commitment to serve our children.”

I find it puzzling that they aren’t just willing to accept that a leader in the education community disagrees with them or, at the very least, finds herself in such an awkward position that she can no longer effectively do both jobs simultaneously. With so much evidence that their program is failing students and may, in fact, be in violation of state and federal law with respect to their treatment of special needs students, I suppose that they are feeling beleaguered and defensive. They’d find people less skeptical, perhaps, if they were more open, including with state legislators, about the operations of the EAA and prove that their claims of student performance improvements are legitimate so that everyone can look at the data in a dispassionate way.

On the other hand, maybe that’s exactly what they are trying to avoid.