Saturday Leftovers

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One of the two finalists for the Newark superintendency, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, was fired by the Seattle School Board last month amidst allegations of financial misconduct in a district office. The Seattle Times called for her ouster. More details here.

Special Abbott Edition:

The Star-Ledger Editorial Board urges the Supreme Court to uphold the School Funding Reform Act (unfulfilled due to the Christie Administration’s school aid cuts) and not bow to political pressure.

NJ Spotlight profiles the 5 justices who will decide this latest Abbott v. Burke case.

Paul Tractenberg, founder of Education Law Center, charges that Gov. Christie is acting hypocritically by inserting politics into Abbott litigation and urging the Court to behave in an activist manner.

Bob Braun of the Star-Ledger argues that the State is asking the Justices to ignore a breach of the Constitution.

Senator Tom Kean
says that in a fiscal crisis there are “no sacred cows” and that fully funding the formula would mean cuts to hospitals, small businesses, and lack of infrastructure maintenance. “For my part, I believe we can do better than a system that only equates dollars with success.” He also makes the point that the Court’s focus on the Millionaire’s Tax is misguided because we’d still need another $1 billion to make up the shortfall to schools.

The Asbury Park Press
quotes lead attorney David Sciarra: “We need to stop talking about student achievement and money. It’s about adequate funding and working hard collaboratively to achieve performance in our schools. It’s both. And we need to reject anybody (that) tries to create a different world than that. We need an administration, frankly, committed to both.”

Gov. Christie says
he can ignore the Court’s verdict anyway.

And in other news,

Confusing poll analysis from New Jersey Newsroom, or maybe just confusing results from the recent Quinnipiac University poll. Voters “favor spending more on schools.” But “(o)n the philosophical point – is more money the best way to improve education – voters give an emphatic ‘’no.’”

Lakewood, NJ, where the public school board is mostly controlled by parents who send their kids to private yeshivas, has a hotly-contested school board election, reports the Asbury Park Press: 11 candidates for 3 seats. One slate says it represents “the senior community and the Orthodox community,” while an incumbent has two children in the district.

NJEA claims that 4 out of 10 teachers don’t get tenure (and the Press of Atlantic City prints it). Also, ” NJEA compiled the data to show that ineffective teachers are removed and that allegations that teachers never leave or get fired are untrue.”

Andy Rotherham writes in Time Magazine on America’s history of neglecting the role of teacher effectiveness in the classroom:

Last week, teachers unions and school reform groups in Illinois agreed on some policy changes there — including common sense reforms to teacher seniority rules. And the current emphasis on teacher evaluation because of Race to the Top will produce some new ideas and approaches, too. These are obvious and foundational steps that policymakers should take, but the reality is that because of years of inattention to teacher effectiveness, we still know relatively little about what makes a teacher great and how to build systems full of great teachers and high quality instruction. That frustrates policymakers — and it should terrify parents. But it’s also an enormous opportunity for a field that is ostensibly about learning to perhaps learn something itself.

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  • Melissa Westbrook, April 23, 2011 @ 9:49 pm Reply


    There are two education blogs in Seattle. I write for Save Seattle Schools and we cover the Seattle School district, state education and national trends.

    You should urge everyone you know to write to the Newark School Board (Board of Education) and ask them to firmly reject Maria Goodloe-Johnson.

    She was a disaster to our district and we are still feeling the repercussions even after she has gone.

    Where to start?

    – ethics issues – she was on the board of a company that received a fat contract from our district and yet she revealed it only AFTER the School Board approved the contract. She didn't resign from that board until months later.

    -even after our teachers' union agreement to a historic new assessment (which means they gave in to something new and totally different, not exactly pushback), they then voted 98% no confidence in her leadership abilities. Her answer to why, “Change is hard.” She made no effort to ever mend fences.

    – she claimed there were no “systems” in place in SPS when she came. Well, the only “systems” she beefed up was the superintendent's ability to control information. She had a edict that no one could tell members of the School Board anything without going through senior management. This lead to staff being unable to bring ethics issues to the Board.

    – multiple poor state audits with findings about her spending with district credit cards (she spent $7000 on a retirement party for 50 people) and everything from operations to facilities being found to be poorly managed.

    – hiding information from the Board that they should have been informed about like problems in the Small Business Works program that ultimately led to her downfall. Allowing facilities staff to break projects into smaller parts so that they wouldn't have to go to the Board for approval on spending.

    – she and a top deputy lying, for months, about a stat for college readiness for our seniors. She allowed people to believe it was 17% (it is really about 63%) and she allowed other elected officials to use it in speeches.

    I could go on.

    She comes from the Broad Superintendent Academy where they teach that the superintendent is some kind of king. Look at the complaints about another Broad Superintendent who just became the head of Chicago schools. Vote of no confidence by teachers? check. Alienation of parents? check. Working on your Blackberry while public testimony is going on during a Board meeting? Check.

    These people are a disaster. She will create churn and trouble in your district, I guarantee it.

    Do what you can to stop this or all I can say is the best of luck to you because you will need it.

  • Melissa Westbrook, April 23, 2011 @ 9:50 pm Reply

    If you want to read more about her, our Save Seattle Schools blog is,

    Search under “Pottergate” for details about the issue that brought her down. “Superintendent” or “Maria Goodloe-Johnson” for other stories about what she did and didn't do for our district. “Audit” for findings relating to her inability to manage the district.

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