Detroit, Education — February 26, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Columbia, SC parents ask why disgraced former EAA Chancellor John Covington is a finalist to run their schools


As I reported earlier this month disgraced former Chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority John Covington is a finalist to be the superintendent of the Richland 1 school district in South Carolina. At the end of that piece I implored them not to do it.

It appears that some parents in Columbia are starting to ask some hard questions about Covington (as well as another of the three finalists):

Two of the three finalists to lead Richland 1 schools have been dogged by controversy in their careers, prompting some parents to question why they would emerge as top contenders to lead the 24,000-student district. […]

Once the finalists’ names were made public, it didn’t take long for Richland 1 parents to do the research and turn up a thicket of blistering news accounts detailing the professional woes of Covington, whose district schools lost accreditation following his tenure, and Witherspoon, who survived two board attempts to fire him before resigning last year from Birmingham schools. […]

“Really, you had 77 people and you spent our money to hire a search firm and these are the people you came up with?” Townes Denemark, a parent of two children at Brennen Elementary, said this week.

Cody Smith and his wife, Carrie, are among a group of parents at A.C. Moore Elementary who researched beyond biographies on the district web site and emerged concerned about Covington, too.

“It’s concerning for us as parents that you have a field of 77 and he is one of the final three,” Smith said. “It sends a black cloud over all three of them.” […]

Covington, particularly, was criticized for his early exit from his Kansas City contract in 2011. Covington abruptly resigned to take a lucrative job in Detroit, where he supervised 38 low-performing schools under a state-funded entity, the Education Achievement Authority.

In Kansas City, the community had embraced Covington’s decision to close 40 percent of its schools, reduce the workforce by a third, and group students by skill level rather than grade.

But his sudden departure left many feeling betrayed. The Kansas City Star wrote an opinion piece titled: “Trust John Covington? We don’t in KC.”

Shortly after Covington’s departure, and the school and workforce reductions, the Kansas City school district lost accreditation.

Covington left the Detroit post in June, saying he needed to care for his ailing mother, but the Detroit News also reported concerns about excessive travel spending at the authority. Covington has since founded an institute for student-centered teaching and learning, although as of yet there is no presence on the world wide web.

I am thrilled to see these sorts of questions being asked before the final decision is made. If any parents in the Richland 1 school district would like more information about what John Covington has done in Michigan, drop me a line. I’d be happy to share what I know.