Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell
Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell
BALTIMORE – The head of Prince George’s County Public Schools faced the Maryland State Board of Education Tuesday, the first time since a troubling state audit showed grade-fixing and policy violations allowed students to graduate without meeting state requirements.
At the hearing, state board members pressed Dr. Kevin Maxwell on the root causes of the findings and whether there has been a shift in culture in the school system.
“It seems like something is going on here,” said Maryland State Board of Education President Andrew Smarick. “I don’t want to go too far, but it seems like some signal, something is happening to suggest to schools, to teachers, to someone, ‘We gotta graduate these students irrespective of some of these rules we have.’ And that is what I have been grappling with here.”
Smarick noted some of the most outstanding audit findings — grade changes that could not be verified, late changes to student transcripts and students graduating despite more than 50 unexcused absences.
In response to questions about the driving forces behind the audit findings, Maxwell spoke about staff confusion on grade change forms, lack of automation, high staff turnover and people who were not clear on policies. He emphasized the audit found no intimidation or fraud by him or his staff.
After the hearing, FOX 5 asked him again about the underlying causes of the problems uncovered.
“The audit, I think, gave us a very good roadmap to the fact that there are some issues that need clarification, there are some procedures that need to be updated, there is a lot of training and there are some compliance issues,” Maxwell said.
At one point, a school board member asked whether emphasis on graduation rates by the state and federal government was to blame, but Maxwell did not agree that outside pressure was a factor.
Maxwell and his staff outlined their plan to correct what was found by the audit and the ways the school district is tightening up policies, putting more oversight in place and retraining staff.
Janna Parker, a Prince George’s County community member who attended the meeting, said the plan is a good first step, but feels what she did not see from Maxwell was accountability at the top.
“I think when you base any plan on not fully accepting accountability or placing the accountability on who and where it needs to be, it’s flawed plan,” Parker said.
When asked about Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent statement that some of what is going on in Prince George’s County Public Schools is criminal, Maxwell said he did not agree with the governor.
Smarick said the state board is now going to decide how and if the state will intervene in the school system and what is legally possible. He said there should be decisions made by the next meeting in February.
There could be another audit, and while there has been no public talk of the state taking over Prince George’s County Public Schools, it is something that’s happened in other states.
After the meeting on Tuesday, the state released graduation rates for districts across the state. Prince George’s County had a record high of 82.7 percent for 2017.
Both interim superintendent Verletta White and former superintendent Dallas Dance worked as consultants to travel twice a year to conferences where they and other school administrators from around the nation would meet privately in three hour sessions with executives of companies that produce education technology for school districts.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Once a rising star in education circles, Former Superintendent Dallas Dance faces perjury charges for failing to report consulting fees in the six figures, and to a lesser degree, Interim Superintendent Verletta White, never reported more modest fees she received on an yearly basis.
State Senator James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) says that double-dipping has to stop.
“She said it was an oversight over four years and each year she was supposed to report outside income, and we may have a legislative fix for that,” said Brochin, “Senator Jennings and I have put a piece of legislation in that we’ve just ordered that said from now on, any superintendent can’t have any outside income. I mean, my goodness, you’re got $259,000 a year, you get a car, you get a housing allowance, you get a credit card to go to lunch and breakfast with people all the time. I mean, ‘Enough!'”
Despite initial resistance by school administrators, Brochin insisted on an audit of some of the spending practices in the Baltimore County Schools system, and questions surround what access companies received due to dance and whites’ outside work.
Brochin says at the heart of the matter is a Chicago-based company called Education Research and Development Institute or ERDI, which offered free flights and easy money to administrators while charging tech companies to give them exclusive access to them.
“You can do a bronze membership for $5,000, a silver member ship for $8,000 or a gold membership for $10,000 and they’re guaranteeing sit downs, and I just thought it was a very unusual way of doing business,” said Brochin, “It didn’t pass the smell test for me.”
State senators will question White over those relationships in Annapolis on Friday raising concerns, which may extend well beyond a failure to report making money on the side.
“I had never seen so many no-bid contracts and the problem and the reason I don’t think we’re finished with this dilemma is some of these no-bid contracts were in direct relationship to the meetings that ERDI facilitated between the technology companies and the former superintendent and the current superintendent,” said Brochin.
House leaders from Baltimore County also plan to question White in two weeks, and they, like their Senate counterparts, are expected to question the school board’s ability or lack of it in providing oversight as the outside work and no-bid contracts unfolded.
Ardra O’Neal involved in criminal undertaking of defrauding employees while working closely with employers in malicious undertaking.
PGCPS system and the Culture of pay to play as a training ground for Many Counties in Maryland and payoff of lawyers to derail proceedings
Board of Education for Prince George’s County has in the last several years engaged in an organized scheme to defraud the public as part of the culture of pay to play working closely with THE O’NEAL LAW FIRM, LLP; THATCHER LAW FIRM; SULLIVAN, TALBOTT & BATT; BRYAN CHAPMAN; RMA & ASSOCIATES, LLC; ROBERT E. CAPPELL; HARDNETT & ASSOCIATES; BRADFORD ASSOCIATES; PESSIN KATZ LAW, P.A.; MARYLAND STATE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION; ASSOCIATION OF SUPERVISORY & ADMINISTRATIVE SCHOOL; MARYLAND STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION; C. SUKARI HARDNETT, LLC and other co-conspirators have engaged in an ongoing willful endeavor to engage in criminal undertaking while defrauding Plaintiffs in a variety of settings which is ongoing both criminal and civil activities throughout Maryland, Washington DC and virginia (DMV).
That, these illegal actions are being coordinated through a number of unethical events in conspiracy with other parties in Maryland, Virginia and in Washington DC and involve public corruption fueled by the Kleptocracy regimes on several levels with epicenter being in Prince George’s County Maryland and Washington DC.
These illegal activities are ongoing in nature as part of racketeering activity organized by the Thatcher Law Firm on behalf of the Board of Education for Prince George’s County after receiving more than $5 million dollars starting during the tenure of Dr. William Hite Jr. These illegal schemes have other participants starting with the Maryland office of the Attorney General, Maryland State Department of Education, Prince George’s County office of the county Executive and the AFSCME International Union et al.
UNION CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
There is a strong coordination starting with former employees of prince George’s county education association (PGCEA) union. The many former senior officers starting with Christian Rhodes, current director of Labor relations and others in the other unions with ties to Maryland state Education Association (MSEA), have created a conflicts of interests so strong that it’s grounding educational outcomes in the Prince George’s County.
To make the matters worse, the Chairman of the board who is brother in law to County Executive Rushern Baker works for the mother-ship National Education Association (NEA). In this kind of situation, any grievance brought about will certainly will not work due to concealment of the issues. As a result, hundreds of students and staff are impacted. Many of the senior union officials are simply lining up their pockets as the staff and children in the county suffer real damages.
In addition, besides being the President of PGCEA, Hon. Theresa Mitchell Dudley also serves in the Democratic Central committee for Prince George’s county. Does the later role also create a strong conflict of interest with the county? How does serving the teachers and Democratic Central committee for Prince George’s county serve the interest of teachers?
(more to come)
BOYCOTT THESE LAW-FIRMS AND ORGANIZATIONS OPERATING IN MARYLAND INVOLVED IN MAJOR FRAUD
THE O’NEAL LAW FIRM, LLP;
THATCHER LAW FIRM;
SULLIVAN, TALBOTT & BATT;
RAOUF ABDULLAH & RMA & ASSOCIATES, LLC;
ROBERT E. CAPPELL;
HARDNETT & ASSOCIATES;
PESSIN KATZ LAW, P.A.;
MARYLAND STATE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION;
ASSOCIATION OF SUPERVISORY & ADMINISTRATIVE SCHOOL;
MARYLAND STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION;
C. SUKARI HARDNETT, LLC
CALIFORNIA CASUALTY INDEMNITY EXCHANGE
MARYLAND OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY OFFICE OF THE COUNTY EXCUTIVE
ROGER THOMAS AND The Law Office of Roger C. Thomas, Esquire
AFSCME International Union
ACE-AFSCME LOCAL 2250
Linda Hitt Thatcher is the managing member of the Thatcher Law Firm, LLC in Greenbelt, Maryland – The firm received more than $5 million dollars which has been used to pay off lawyers over the years under the table.
state prosecutors are investigating former Baltimore County school superintendent Dallas Dance and his relationship with a company that did business with the school system.
At past meetings, board members were critical of PGCPS and Baltimore City schools for abusing the “Bridge” loophole, students doing “projects” as a substitute for passing the state tests. It is appropriate for special education students.
State wide 11% of graduates have used it. In Prince George’s County, 24% of graduates have used it.
9:00 a.m.CALL MEETING TO ORDER Andrew R. Smarick, President
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
9:01 a.m.CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS Andrew R. Smarick, President
• Approval of Minutes of December 4 and 5, 2017 • Personnel • Budget Adjustments, December 2017
9:05 a.m.PUBLIC COMMENT
9:35 a.m. INFORMATION AND DISCUSSION
• Update on U.S. Department of Education’s Feedback on ESSA Plan • Prince Georges County Audit Response
10:50 a.m. BREAK
11:05 a.m. ACTION
• 2017-2018 Identification of “Comprehensive Needs” Schools for
Purpose of Awarding Quality Teacher Stipends
11:20 a.m. INFORMATION AND DISCUSSION
• Baltimore City Schools Update • State Board Reports and Planning
• Committee Updates • Kirwan Commission • Policy Review • Additional Reports
• Review Tentative Items for February 26-27, 2018 Meeting • Bridge Accountability Recommendations • Early Childhood • Educational Testing Service (ETS) • Legislative Update • Graduation Rates • Definitions for “At-Risk” • Superintendent’s Report
• Regulatory Actions
• Board Member Updates/Comments
12:30 p.m. ADJOURN TO EXECUTIVE SESSION
2:00 p.m. RECOGNITION
• Maryland Secondary School Assistant Principal of the Year
2:15 p.m. INFORMATION AND DISCUSSION
• Superintendent’s Report
• Report on Graduation Cohort Data
– Responses to State Board’s Bridge & Graduation Questions
– Financial Literacy
– ESSA Participation Rate
3:00 p.m. ACTION
• Regulations • COMAR 13A.03.02 Graduation Requirements for Public High Schools in MD
(ADOPTION) • COMAR 13A.03.04 Test Administration and Data-Reporting Policies and Procedures
(AMEND–PERMISSION TO PUBLISH) • COMAR 13A.12.01.04 Options for Obtaining Initial Maryland Certification
(AMEND–PERMISSION TO PUBLISH) • COMAR 13A.12.01.05 General Requirements for Professional Certificates
(AMEND–PERMISSION TO PUBLISH) • COMAR 13A.12.01.08-1 Adjunct Certificate
(NEW–PERMISSION TO PUBLISH) • COMAR 13A.12.03.04 Pupil Personnel Worker
(AMEND–PERMISSION TO PUBLISH)
Activist and committee co-chair for Progressive Maryland, Krystal Oriadha
Capitol Heights, MD – Activist and committee co-chair for Progressive Maryland, Krystal Oriadha will formally announce her Democratic candidacy for Prince George’s County Council District 7 at her Campaign Kick-Off event on Sunday, January 28, 2018 from 3PM-5PM located at Uniqek Banquet Hall 3130 Branch Avenue, Temple Hills, MD. Krystal will be speaking at 4PM.
District 7 is located on the western central portion of the county and much of it borders the Southeast and Northeast quadrants of the Washington, D.C. In addition to the town of Capitol Heights, the district consists of Seat Pleasant, District Heights, Marlow Heights, Hillcrest Heights, Suitland, Temple Hills, and portions of Forestville and Oxon Hill.
District 7 is 91 percent Black, according to the American Community Survey from 2011-2015. The incumbent in the seat is Karen Toles (D). She has held the position since 2009 and, by law, cannot by law run for a third term.
Krystal is against corruption in politics which is why she is advocating for fair elections that would take money out of politics which is a big part of the problem. In her effort to run for public office, She has out-raised all of her competitors, and has the highest bank account balance. She accomplished this without accepting ANY money from developer or the unions.
Krystal is an ACTIVIST! Not just another politician. She is running to help uplift the voice of our community, not to be just another elected official.
As a member of the County Council, Krystal will fight to improve our education system, economic development, and overall quality of life. She will champion community schools, living wages, access to jobs, ending food deserts with community gardens and co-ops, healthcare, and criminal justice reform.
She believes that for too long, we have seen our neighborhoods developed only for many residents to be pushed out so others can reap the benefits. We have watched as the education system has failed our children and teachers have not been provided the support and respect they deserve for shaping the minds of our future.
“We must all take responsibility and share the burden of building a community we can be proud of. That is part of the reason I am running. We need to step up and DEMAND BETTER for ourselves and DO BETTER for our community!” Krystal said.
Krystal has dedicated her life to helping others and has over a decade of experience in political activism. She has worked with Human Resources Achievement Program (HRAP) as the Communications Director focused on breaking the pipeline from school to prison. She spent over 5 years with Leaders of Tomorrow mentoring and coaching our youth to help shape the minds of the next generation. Krystal is an executive member of local activist organizations such as Brothers and Sisters for Action (BASFA) fighting for justice, education, and immigration. She is also the co-chair for Progressive MD Prince George’s Chapter focused on criminal justice and bail reform.
“Activists don’t just talk about changing the world, they don’t even just change the world themselves, they motivate a generation to change it with them!” Krystal said.
Presently, Krystal is running against B.J. Paige, founder of the non-profit Boys 2 Bowties, political activists Bruce Branch, former AFRO columnist, Juan Stewart, a data scientist for the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, located in Bethesda, Md., a solar power entrepreneur and former county council aide Rodney Streeter and Darryl Miller who on Jan. 4, 2012, was sentenced to two years of supervised probation, ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, and serve 300 hours of community service by the Anne Arundel Circuit Court for violation of campaign finance laws for using campaign funds for personal use. The primary is June 26 and the winner will be on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election.
Krystal is building a grassroots campaign, because she believes in the power of the people. She knows that when we come together to build a movement, nothing can stand in our way. That is why Krystal is asking for your vote and support to improve the quality of life in our community.
Krystal earned her BBA in International Business with a concentration in Marketing at Howard University, Washington, DC, and her MBA at Amberton University, Garland, TX.
Join Krystal’s Campaign Kick-Off event on Sunday, January 28, 2018 from 3PM-5PM located at Uniqek Banquet Hall 3130 Branch Avenue, Temple Hills, MD. To RSVP, contact Alicia@VoteKrystalOriadha.com.
For more information, please visit her website at VoteKrystalOriadha.com.
Krystal Oriadha Will be competing with among others Darryl Miller (seen here) who on Jan. 4, 2012, was sentenced to two years of supervised probation, ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, and serve 300 hours of community service by the Anne Arundel Circuit Court for violation of campaign finance laws for using campaign funds for personal use, several other candidates will also be running for County council District 7. Mr. Miller has strong ties to cartels currently operating in Maryland including in the Maryland legislature. >>>Read more >>> Read more
Mr. Juwan Blocker candidate for District 3 (in purple tie) standing next to Mr. Arun Puracken candidate for District 9.
We finally have a former student Board member familiar with the inner workings of power Running for Board of Education. This is the way to go Mr. Juwan Blocker. Education matters and it is the key to life. It should matter now more than ever.
Mr. Juwan Blocker’s school board campaign launch was more lit than some delegate, Senate, and Council campaign launches within the County. More than 60 people showed up. There is lots of love and support from the community and the board members themselves starting with Mr. Edward Burroughs III and Ms. Raaheela Ahmed our “rebellious, fearless leaders”.
“You cannot expect Juwan Blocker to do everything. But please do what you can to help him along the way he’s a man on a mission, but he does need some help,” said Barry O’Connell of the Maryland politics on Facebook.
we encourage more teachers, youth leaders and others to step up to run for various political offices and lead the way forward in Maryland. This is one way to shake up the state and the county Leadership in order to make a difference in the future.
Candidates in 2018 races stand a great chance if they go door to door and create a revolutionary push for the county.
Nominate a Leader to be Featured in Education Matters
Do you know a leader in your community supporting our schools and making a difference in the lives of children both in and out of school? We are seeking nominations for individuals to be highlighted in our Leadership Spotlight segment. Nominees could be principals, superintendents, teachers, teacher assistants, guidance counselors, parents, students, business leaders, community volunteers, afterschool providers, and more.
Here are Some pictures from Juwan Blocker’s Campaign Kickoff/Fundraiser for PGCPS Board of Education on Thursday January 25th, 2018 event.
former Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance
Gov. Larry Hogan expressed concern Thursday about the indictment of former Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance, whom he believes “was apparently taking bribes.”
But Dance was not charged with taking bribes. He was indicted on four counts of perjury.
The indictment, handed down Tuesday by a Baltimore County grand jury, alleges Dance failed to disclose nearly $147,000 in pay he received for private consulting with several companies and school districts beginning in 2012. Dance was required to report the pay on financial disclosure forms he filled out annually.
The charges allege Dance negotiated a no-bid contract between the school system and Chicago-based SUPES Academy in 2012 while he was earning approximately $90,000 from the company without telling the school system.
“I’m outraged at the discovery the previous superintendent was apparently taking bribes and not disclosing this money, and making decisions with hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money and he’s got these indictments, I guess he’s still got a court case to go forward,” Hogan said at a press conference.
When Hogan’s spokesman was asked to clarify the statement later in the day, Douglass Mayer said: “Mr. Dance was paid by a vendor, didn’t disclose it, and then gave the same contractor a no-bid contract. You do the math.”
At the press conference, Hogan went on to say he is concerned by the fact that interim Baltimore County school superintendent Verletta White is “also taking money from the same people and also not disclosing it.”
White is expected to meet with Baltimore County’s state senators Friday morning to answer questions about the school system’s purchasing rules. Hogan said he was glad she would be asked to “answer some pointed questions.”
White, who was the chief academic officer under Dance, was a consultant for Education Research & Development Institute for several years. She did not report the income, which was about $3,000 a year, on her forms. She said this fall that the failing was a mistake and she would correct the form. She agreed she will not take any outside compensation and will limit her travel to trips the board approves in advance.
Hogan said the developments in Baltimore County, as well as a scandal over grade-fixing in Prince George’s County schools, highlight the importance of a legislative package he proposed to improve school officials’ accountability to state leaders.
“Some of this is criminal behavior and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it,” Hogan said. “We’re going to push our multiple accountability measures. We provide all the money and then we don’t have any real authority. We’re having some real problems.”
The governor suggested that he had heard the Baltimore County school board was considering giving information to the Maryland State Prosecutor who brought the case against Dance. Several county board members either didn’t respond to requests for comment or said they weren’t aware of what Hogan was talking about.
Dance is alleged to have falsely stated on financial disclosure forms filed with the county school district that he earned no additional income personally or through his consulting company, Deliberate Excellence, in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
In December 2012, the Baltimore County school board awarded SUPES Academy a $875,000 no-bid contract to train principals in the county school system. Ten months later, Dance took a job with the same company to train Chicago public school principals. Between Nov. 2012 and Nov. 2013, SUPES paid $90,000 to Deliberate Excellence, according to the indictment.
From the moment Dallas Dance launched his digital overhaul of Baltimore County public schools in 2012, the former superintendent recommended hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to education technology firms from across the nation.
Many of the purchases were made without competitive bidding.
Discovery Education’s no-bid contract is worth $10 million. DreamBox Learning and Curriculum Associates both have no-bid deals worth $3.2 million. And Code To The Future has a nearly $1 million no-bid contract.
Other than being Baltimore County school contractors, the four companies share another common feature: They are clients of Education Research & Development Institute.
The Chicago-based firm, also called ERDI, sets up private, three-hour meetings at conferences between its corporate clients and its paid roster of consulting superintendents — which for years has included Dance and interim superintendent Verletta White.
The no-bid contracts and consulting jobs are expected to draw questions from Baltimore County’s state senators Friday when they meet with White to discuss the district’s ongoing audit of technology purchases.
Concerns about the consulting work have intensified since a Baltimore County grand jury charged Dance on Tuesday with four counts of perjury for failing to disclose what the Maryland State Prosecutor’s office said was nearly $147,000 of income he earned as a private consultant. Some of the pay came from ERDI.
White was also a paid ERDI consultant for four years and failed to disclose the payments, The Baltimore Sun reported in November. She acknowledged to The Sun being paid nearly $3,000 per year to attend ERDI’s private sessions with education technology companies in various cities. She has not been charged with any crime.
An ethics complaint has been filed against her by a county parent who believes White violated rules that require school officials to report outside income to assure the public that their financial affairs do not present conflicts of interest.
The ethics panel twice reprimanded Dance for failing to disclose other consulting work.
Sen. James Brochin, a Democrat campaigning to be county executive, said legislators are concerned that school administrators, including White, may have met company officials at ERDI conferences who then sought contracts with the school system. He said he believes there is a need for an independent examination of those issues.
“We are being dragged down by the circumstances of what Dr. Dance did,” Brochin said. The county “is still under a cloud” because of the way the school district is conducting business.
Several ethics experts interviewed by The Sun say such consulting work advising companies that could bid on or seek out contracts is problematic.
“At a minimum there’s an appearance of conflict of interest. In reality, it probably is a conflict of interest,” said Diane Swanson, founding chairwoman of the Business Ethics Education Initiative at Kansas State University. “Obviously, the private sector has the goal of more profit and that goal is not the same, I hope, as the educational system in the public sector.”
Dance has not returned calls seeking comment. White has apologized for not reporting her ERDI income, vowed to amend her financial disclosure forms and said she would no longer attend the company’s conferences.
The no-bid contracts have become an issue on the campaign trail as candidates run for the county’s first-ever school board election this year.
Candidate Lily Rowe specifically questioned Code To The Future’s deal.
“They’re not the only vendor on God’s green earth who could have implemented it,” Rowe said. “The board was not given any other alternative to consider.”
The school system in May 2016 posted an online notice alerting the public that it intended to enter into a contract with Code To The Future to teach students “how to write code to create video games and stories, in addition to learning storyboarding, project management, and presentation skills.” The public was given two weeks to comment on the announcement. Officials had not previously notified taxpayers or other vendors that it wanted to hire a company to do such work.
On June 14, 2016, the Baltimore County school board awarded a four-year, $987,000 contract to Code To The Future.
In a statetment Thursday, Mychael Dickerson, the school system’s chief of staff, said Code To The Future is the only company that offers the programming purchased by the school system.
During his five-year tenure, Dance traveled all over the nation — from New Orleans to New York, Miami to San Diego — to attend ERDI conferences and to give speeches touting his initiative to give all students in Baltimore County laptops.
On Feb. 10, 2017, Dance attended a three-hour meeting where DreamBox officials discussed their interactive mathematics products at an ERDI conference in New Orleans. Five months later, on July 13, the Baltimore County school board approved a three-year, $1.8 million extension to DreamBox’s existing no-bid contract, increasing it to $3.2 million.
“The impact that DreamBox has had on student achievement and teacher success in Baltimore County Public Schools speaks for itself. At every step of the way, throughout five years of trials and pilot programs across the district, DreamBox met or exceeded the goals that BCPS set out for teacher engagement and student progress,” the company said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun.
At the same New Orleans conference, Dance participated in a Feb. 11 panel session featuring Curriculum Associates, a Massachusetts technology company that has held a no-bid contract with Baltimore County since April 2014.
The contract started as a $100,000 three-year deal.
On June 13, five months after Dance sat on the ERDI panel with the firm, the Baltimore County school board approved a $2 million expansion of Curriculum Associates’ no-bid contract, increasing the total to $3.2 million.
Curriculum Associates officials said the company’s relationship with the school district began before Dance became superintendent in 2012.
“As a result of our programs’ proven results to drive student gains in the district, BCPS has continued to expand their annual contract year after year to include additional services,” said Charlotte Fixler, communications director for Curriculum Associates.
The ERDI panel “was a focus group opportunity to solicit feedback about new products, ensuring our development efforts line up with educator needs and best serve students,” she said in a statement. “There were no additional meetings with Mr. Dance and members of Curriculum Associates team at the ERDI Conference.”
Such sessions give companies the opportunity to meet with five superintendents for three hours to receive “honest, candid insight and feedback that clients typically incorporate to upgrade their products and services to modify their marketing plans,” according to ERDI’s website. “In addition to the panel session, the conferences include different social events to help clients truly harness the power of networking with these top educational leaders.”
An ERDI spokeswoman said in a statement Thursday that the company is proud of its work “gathering candid evaluation and analyses from educators and education leaders across the country to better inform research and development of tools that can help children succeed in the classroom.” She also said the company does not know whether its client companies have contracts with the districts of consulting superintendents.
Dance and White and other school executives also traveled to several conferences hosted by ERDI and one of its clients, Discovery Education, a division of Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications.
Discovery Education’s no-bid, $4 million contract to provide “streaming content,” “techbooks,” and professional development was originally awarded in December 2013. It was increased by $6 million on Sept. 27, 2016.
Since then the company hosted Dance and White and other officials to various dinners across the nation: at a rooftop hotel in Miami, at a steakhouse in San Diego and at a top restaurant in Vancouver, British Columbia, according to school system and company records.
The company’s invitation to a “rooftop social” in downtown Miami came with a disclaimer from Discovery Education. “Please consult your ethics officials to ensure no local laws, or school district rules prevent your acceptance of costs or promotional materials associated with this event.”
White said she attended only briefly. “I popped in,” she said, adding that she followed ethics rules governing travel.
Prince George’s County police say five teenagers are responsible for a string of robberies targeting cab drivers, including a shooting that left one driver critically injured.
The teens charged are linked to two separate robbery sprees, police said Thursday.
Malik Samuels and Robert Walker, both 17, are charged with the attempted murder of a cab driver.
Police say the cab driver went to the 9000 block of Ballard Lane in Clinton, Maryland, to pick up a fare at 2:35 a.m. Wednesday. When he arrived, the suspects approached him. The teens demanded money and then shot the victim, according to police.
Violent Night in Prince George’s Leaves 1 Dead, 1 Injured
Neighbors found the man lying in the street.
“All of a sudden we heard four or five shots. I got up and look out of the window and then I saw the guy lying on the ground,” said Ronald Currie, a neighbor who called 911.
As Currie looked from his window, he said he saw an act of kindness when it was needed the most.
“He brought a blanket and covered him up with the blanket. It all kind of happened at the same time,” Currie said of the neighbor who came to the aid of the victim.
The victim was taken to the hospital in critical but stable condition.
Two hours later, a cab driver expecting to pick up a customer in the area of Woodlawn Boulevard and Torington Place in Largo encountered the teens.
Both boys got into his cab and demanded money and the car. Police say the teens got away with the cab, and the driver was not hurt.
Three other teens are facing charges in a string of similar robberies. Police say the suspects targeted cab and ride-share drivers during the week of Jan. 15.
In each crime, police say one of the suspects posed as a customer and rode in the victim’s car before the crime was committed.
Jose Ponce-Coreas, 19; Demonte Johnson, 16; and Christian Tejada, 18, have admitted their involvement in the crimes, according to police. All three remain in police custody.
Several out-of-state school districts are now asking questions about their leaders consulting for company at heart of Chicago Public Schools bribery scandal which includes Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS).
The corruption investigation that led to disgraced former Chicago schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett pleading guilty to wire fraud has had fallout across the nation.
On April 28, 2017, Byrd-Bennett, 66, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison.
On August 28, 2017, Byrd-Bennett began serving her sentence at Federal Prison Camp, Alderson, nicknamed “Camp Cupcake”, in West Virginia. This came after pleading guilty Oct. 13 and admitting she rigged $23 million of CPS contracts for The SUPES Academy and a sister company, Synesi Associates, in anticipation of getting a 10 percent kickback.
Byrd-Bennett previously was a paid consultant for SUPES, which provides training for school principals and other educators. The case is connected to the Public corruption currently in progress in Baltimore County with former Superintendent of Schools Dallas Dance and Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS).
Byrd-Bennett before being sentenced said she would cooperate with prosecutors in the case, in which Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, the two companies’ owners, had pleaded not guilty at the time.
According to interviews and records reviewed by the Better Government Association and Catalyst-Chicago:
SUPES gave a paid consulting position to Baltimore County, Maryland, schools Supt. Dallas Dance in 2013, months after his school board awarded the company a $875,000 no-bid contract. Following the initial news reports about Byrd-Bennett and SUPES, the Baltimore County schools’ ethics commission investigated and determined that Dance had violated district policy by not getting permission from his school board before accepting the consulting work — which involved training CPS principals.
Also prompted by news coverage regarding Byrd-Bennett, school board members in Iowa City, Iowa, have questioned Supt. Stephen Murley’s ties to SUPES. The Iowa City school board brought in Synesi to do a $60,000 “operations review” in October 2011 following a bidding process of sorts. The next year, Murley started working for SUPES, also training CPS principals. Murley says the arrangement poses no conflict of interest for him because his district permits him to do “speaking engagements.”
In St. Louis, the school board awarded a $125,000 contract for principal training to SUPES in 2012 through a bidding process. Soon after, St. Louis schools Supt. Kelvin Adams started doing consulting work for SUPES in Chicago, working on principal training for CPS. Earlier, in 2011, the St. Louis district had awarded a $16,500 no-bid deal to Synesi, the SUPES sister company. After being asked by a reporter about the deals and Adams’ consulting work, Rick Sullivan, the St. Louis school board president, has now asked an independent attorney to review the district’s contracts with the companies. But Sullivan says he believes Adams is a man of “integrity” and didn’t do anything wrong.
Does it lead to a give and take? Does it lead to a certain kind of coziness with these companies that does not serve the school district well?
-Samuel E. Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, at Columbia University
Other school districts that hired SUPES and had officials consulting for the company include:
Huntsville, Alabama, where the school system gave a $300,000 no-bid contract to SUPES in 2011 — two years before a top district official was hired by the firm as a consultant to CPS and Rochester, N.Y.
Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), Maryland, where the school system awarded a $175,000 contract to SUPES in 2012 before two district officials were hired as CPS consultants by SUPES.
Washoe County, Nevada, where the school system awarded a $300,000 contract to SUPES in 2011 before a top school official was hired as a CPS consultant by the firm.
How much the school officials were paid as consultants in those districts isn’t clear except in Huntsville, where a schools spokeswoman says SUPES paid the district official more than $26,000.
In each case, the school officials from those six out-of-state districts who worked on the side as consultants for SUPES worked for the company as part of its no-bid CPS deal engineered by Byrd-Bennett. None has been accused of any crime.
But the ties are still troubling and should raise questions for students and taxpayers alike, says Samuel E. Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, at Columbia University.
“Does this sidetrack superintendents so they take their eyes off the ball?” he says. “Does it lead to a give and take? Does it lead to a certain kind of coziness with these companies that does not serve the school district well?”
Unlike with those out-of-state districts and despite Byrd-Bennett’s admitted arrangement with SUPES, CPS’ ethics policy bars its employees from having any financial interest in a company that has a contract with the district.
Morton Sherman of the American Association of School Superintendents says he doesn’t see anything wrong with top school administrators working for private companies after leaving their posts. But Sherman says school officials should not work for a company while still in a leadership position with a school district, particularly if that company has a contract with the district.
“I would be very wary about that,” Sherman says.
This report was first written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Sarah Karp and by Catalyst-Chicago’s Melissa Sanchez.