Interim Education Achievement Authority Chancellor Veronica Conforme is off to a banging start. Just two and a half months after taking over from disgraced John Covington, Conforme oversaw the EAA’s sending out of deceptive letters recruiting students into the state’s district for poor-performing schools. The letters, masquerading as official student assignment notices, went to parents (and some non-parents!) in at least seven districts outside of the EAA. This includes the Detroit Public Schools with whom the EAA has a “Memorandum of Understanding” that prohibits this sort of student poaching from each others districts.
After revelations of the deceptive letters came out over the holiday weekend, Conforme has now apologized for them:
With the new academic year starting today, some parents in Detroit and neighboring suburbs were surprised over the weekend to receive letters saying their child had been assigned to the state reform district for low-performing schools.
Veronica Conforme, interim chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority, apologized Monday for the letters, which critics called misleading and a misguided attempt to boost enrollment.
The notices are titled “Confirmation of 2014-2015 School Assignment” and have a welcome message. It’s unclear how many were sent out. Along with Detroit, parents in Pleasant Ridge, Ferndale, Grosse Pointe, Southfield and other nearby communities reported receiving them.
“It’s absolutely inappropriate. It’s misleading,” said Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, a Detroit resident and Democratic state House candidate. She received a letter, even though her son is 21. “Parents might think their child is already enrolled in that (EAA) school.”
Still unknown is how the EAA administration obtained the names and addresses of families outside of their school district to send the letters to.
The EAA posted this apology on their website:
If you received a letter about enrollment to an EAA School
A note to parents and prospective parents:
If you received a recent letter that had a subject line “Confirmation of School Assignment” we would like to take this opportunity to clarify some information.
Our intention was to ensure that our currently enrolled families have the information they need to continue their enrollment and that those in close radius of EAA schools become familiar with our innovative programs. If you believe you received this letter in error, please disregard.
We are proud of our schools and believe they offer parents an exciting new direction for their children’s education. However, the letter did not make it clear enough to parents that their local EAA school is just one of several educational options available to them. We apologize for any confusion the letter may have caused.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the office of our Chief Operating Officer at (313)263-9808.
Conforme describes the battle for students between districts created by the proliferation of for-profit charter schools as “a healthy competition” and implied that all school districts are engaging in this sort of unethical activity:
It’s a healthy competition. I think all systems, including the EAA, we have gotten a little overzealous on this. I think it’s probably a time to engage in a conversation and get together and ratchet it down a little bit.
The fact is that not all school districts are involved in this sort of inappropriate behavior. That was done by the EAA alone.
Given the EAA’s history of waste, obfuscation, and inappropriate behaviors of all sorts, Conforme seems to be continuing down the path laid out by her predecessor.