This is part 2 in a 2 part series about the Superintendent Search in Birmingham, Alabama. In part one I outlined all of the meetings, votes and public discussions surrounding this search. You can read part 1 here.
After five years of researching the education reform movement I have learned that when things happen that defy common sense, like this superintendent selection process in Birmingham, there is usually a hidden agenda being executed by people that wish to profit off of our public schools.
The buzz being created by ‘leaked’ information is that Lisa Herring, from SC., is the ‘chosen’ one. It has been said that someone on the BOE told the team contracted to do the search the name of the person they wanted and then told them to put four weak candidates around them.
Putting these two pieces of information together I set out to figure out what exactly was going on.
I started by looking at the four candidates (Dr. Gadson has withdrawn himself from the search process.)
The one that appears to be everyone’s favorite has only been Deputy Superintendent for a year. The position was created for her last fall because her contract was not up, but they no longer needed her services. As one board member in her system stated, they were trying to ‘fire her nicely’. This candidate has interviewed for the Superintendent job in Birmingham before and was not selected. Now we are to believe that the AASB looks over 47 applications, a pool I can only assume is mostly new names, and chooses her. Without input from anyone on our board. I find that a difficult thing to wrap my head around. Her system has a small ‘choice’ program with only 200+ students attending charter schools.
A second finalist was an elementary school principal for years in a rural district, and then he became Superintendent of a suburban district that has 11 schools and around 5,000 students. Birmingham City Schools has 42 schools and over 22,000 students. There was also an allegation that he cut a deal with another Superintendent to hire his mother if he hired the Superintendent’s son.
The third finalist has interviewed for the Birmingham Superintendent position at the same time as the first finalist, but did not make it as far in the hiring process. Remarkably enough, she is from the district that Witherspoon went to when he was urged to leave us. What are the chances that Witherspoon goes to a district, we then interview someone from that district to fill his position, do not select that person, and then the AASB picks that very same person a second time? Repeating what I said concerning the first finalist, they did this without input from the Birmingham BOE? Hard to imagine.
That leaves the fourth finalist, Dr. Brundage. At first glance, ignoring the chatter we hear about the first finalist being ‘the one’, he seems to be the only ‘clean’ candidate. He appears to have no negative press, has at least some experience as an Assistant Superintendent, and comes from a system that is similar in size to Birmingham with the same level of poverty. He started out as a math teacher at Putnam City High School, became an administrator at Rockdale in 2001, and in 2014 he was made an Assistant Superintendent.
Brundage has a B.S. in Education and Mathematics from Georgia Southern University; a Masters of Education from Georgia College and State University, and a Doctorate in Education from Argosy University Sarasota.
On paper, I felt, Brundage was the strongest, so it made no sense to me how they were going to pick anyone else. But the talk about the first finalist continued. Several board members were even quite comfortable openly discussing how much they liked her and implying they would vote for her.
I began looking a little deeper into Brundage. , I thought about his Doctorate from Argosy in Sarasota. That sure is a long way from Atlanta and Brundage’s entire career has been in Georgia. Makes you wonder if he didn’t get his degree online. Argosy, after all, is a for-profit University aggressively promoting online learning, too aggressively it seems. Did the AASB actually pick someone that earned a doctorate online for the final 5 versus ignoring someone like Dr. Alexander, a BCS employee that received his three degrees from ASU, Tuskegee, and University of Alabama? The AASB wouldn’t put him in the top 5 for Birmingham, yet they recommended him to Barbour County for their Superintendent position, and they ended up hiring him!!!
So, how DID the AASB pick these five? No one knows. They will not even tell the Birmingham Board members that hired them to do the search!
But I digress….
Next, I looked at the district Brundage works in now, Rockdale County Schools. It has an extensive ‘choice’ program, including virtual schools. When I think of virtual schools I think of former Rep. Mike Hubbard and the kickbacks he was convicted of taking from Edgenuity, an organization specializing in online learning. Sure enough, cross-referencing Rockdale County Schools and Edgenuity I find that they do have a pretty cozy relationship, Rockdale using their products pretty extensively.
The thing about these reformers is the more connections you have with education providers (Like Edgenuity) the more valuable you are.
Brundage seems to be of greater value than the first applicant. I believe it is easy to see that Dr. Brundage is actually ‘the chosen one’.
Still not convinced? Here’s a picture of the sign in book for the BCS central office. Look whose name is right there in the middle. Dr. Brundage. He signed in with Mr. Covey from Alagasco. Who did they see? Bob Morgan. I understand Bob is a friend of BOE Member Brian Giattina. Bob Morgan handles all of the real estate for BCS. Selling the surplus schools especially. For those that are in the know about Charter Schools, this is no surprise. Open a charter school and you get some property really cheap, OR rent some property to Charter Schools and earn a ton of money. Charter schools, property deals, and gentrification. The three go hand in hand.
I traced back the relationships and organizations that were involved in the hiring of the Superintendent in Huntsville, Casey Wardynski. I found that they worked on placing him in that seat for at least two years. That’s what these folks do. They have a plan to profit off of our kids…a plan that we are not supposed to know about until it’s too late.
Well, Williams, Brown, Giattina, Watson, Alexander, and Woodfin, we figured you out. This is your last chance to separate yourself from this debacle. Denounce this process and insist it be restarted. Giattina, Brown, and Alexander all need to step down from the selection committee and we need to start fresh. We still have time.
Question is, are we going to do anything about it or are we just going to look the other way? I believe we can stop them. But, we HAVE to be willing to ACT.
We recently learned that all of that talk about Skype interviews was not true. They are not skyping interviews tomorrow….the four candidates will actually be there, and they haven’t even gotten it approved!!! At this point the board is afraid to meet…they don’t want all of these things to be confirmed in front of the public, and they don’t want to vote on accepting the five finalists names because then board members will have a chance to add names to the process.
Tomorrow is an important day for the students of Birmingham. If we continue to stay silent these folks will continue tearing our school system apart and engaging in, what I believe to be, illegal acts as a board. We must stand for our students tomorrow. If you are outraged about Alagasco, the BCA, Alabama Light and Power, and other organizations leading our schools through immoral and corrupt board members, then please join us at 8:00 AM at the Board of Education, 2015 Park Place North. We want the applicants to know, the moment they pull up, that we do not, and will not, accept this corrupt process.
Stop saying ‘someone needs to do something about this’ and be the one to actually do it. Take A Stand