Detroit, Education, Michigan Republicans — February 21, 2014 at 7:06 am

An EAA grab bag: no vote yet in House, EAA supporter(s) rush to the defense of Nolan principal, and more


Just a few odds and ends from the world of the Education Achievement Authority, Gov. Rick Snyder’s failed education experiment with Detroit students. First, although a vote had been predicted yesterday, various reporting suggests that Republicans in the House and Senate are still struggling to come to an agreement on what the expansion of the EAA should look like. Some House Republicans, for example, want the local Intermediate School Districts (ISDs) to have a bigger role. That component of the expansion legislation was removed in the Senate version who want to skip over ISDs and not allow them the “right of first refusal”. So much for local control which they hold in such high esteem in other situations.

At the end of the day, the conflict over the legislation is mainly between Republicans with the Democrats sitting on the sidelines without much voice and frustrated that legislation that they have proposed to help solve some of our most vexing problems in education can’t even get a hearing in Republican Lisa Lyons’ House Education Committee. In an election year, there’s little hope that democracy will overcome partisan politics and Lyons certainly doesn’t want anything that puts the Democrats in a positive light to happen. Politics over children is a terrible way to run a state.

The take home message in all of this is that you should continue to let your legislators know how you feel. Lisa Lyons notwithstanding, this is really not a partisan issue and there are plenty of Republicans who actually DO feel that local control is important, that an untested, unproven teaching model is NOT the best approach at fixing the problems in our urban schools, and they can see that the management of the EAA has gone off the rails in how they are treating both students and the teachers on the front lines. What’s equally important is for business groups, education administrators, and other organizations to weigh in on this. When these groups speak, they do so with a more powerful voice than individuals and it helps to move the debate when they do.

It’s clear that my reporting here IS making a difference. When the Republican Speaker of the House tweets that he wants to post a rebuttal on Eclectablog, you know that people are paying attention:

To quote the kids: as if. Obviously they won’t be getting space on this site. They’ve got the full resources of any number of organizations like Students First and the Mackinac Center behind them, organizations who pay people to refute messages they disagree with. Here at Eclectablog, we’re primarily reader-supported and my readers don’t support us so that we can be a mouthpiece for the Republicans.

The interview I posted yesterday with an EAA Teacher of the Year who eventually quit finally brought at least one pro-EAA person out of the woodwork. In the interview, Nolan elementary and middle school principal Angela Underwood is shown (again) to have nothing but disdain for all but a select few of her teachers. One commenter, using three different names all from the same IP address, dropped comments on the post insulting me and insulting superstar former EAA teacher Kim Jurczak. Normally when commenters start name-calling, I pull their comments and ban them. In this instance, though, they showed their true colors so I left their comments up to be suitably ridiculed by others (which they were.)

There are even folks down in Kansas City paying attention to what’s happening here judging by the comments on that post. EAA Chancellor John Covington left Kansas City schools to come to Michigan, leaving behind a disaster that resulted in the Kansas City school district losing its accreditation. EAA district administrator and Nolan principal Angela Underwood also came from Kansas City.

Finally, let’s take a trip back in time to a post I did in August of 2011. During that time, stuff was really hitting the fan in Kansas City and the Kansas City Star published an op-ed titled “Trust John Covington? We don’t in KC”. It had this to say:

Superintendent John Covington owes the Kansas City School District and the city an apology.

In an abrupt resignation Wednesday that shocked the community and his own board, the Kansas City superintendent offered no reason for breaking his contract.

But now it appears he resigned to take another job as chancellor of Michigan’s Education Achievement System in Michigan.

As a result, it’s abundantly clear that Covington has misled his board and the public about his intentions.

He certainly owed his bosses, his staff and this supportive community the courtesy of discussing his intention to seek employment elsewhere.

Covington, apparently with his Plan B in hand, showed no effort to resolve differences, demonstrating an outrageous lack of regard for this community that supported his dramatic changes and reforms.

With the school year so new and plans just launched to expand a new learning approach in 10 schools, a departure now could distract teachers and jeopardize the district’s chances at remaining accredited.

Covington’s unwillingness to resolve differences offers a poor lesson for students and shows disrespect for a community that has wholeheartedly supported him in his short tenure.

His hasty departure should alarm his next employer.

It’s a shame we didn’t. The fault for that, in my opinion, lies primarily with Republican governor Rick Snyder. He appointed Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts who headed up the EAA Board who brought Covington on board.

I’ve heard from people who were involved in the hiring of John Covington that he was the only candidate that they interviewed. His contract was apparently already drafted without any prior discussion by the EAA board and, after this interview, they hired him on the spot.

Apparently due diligence was not deemed necessary.