Great Oaks Charter Charging $100 A Seat To Hear Joel Klein Talk About Education

Great Oaks Charter School, Joel Klein

I really had to crack up when I saw this.  For those of you who have never heard of Joel Klein, he is the former New York City Chancellor of Schools and currently sits as the Chief Executive Officer for Amplify.  Amplify has been in the news quite a bit lately as the company tanked in spectacular fashion and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch dropped Amplify like a bad habit.  Klein likes to claim credit for reforming NYC schools, but he was appointed as Chancellor without the credentials necessary for that role and no classroom experience.  His huge offering from Amplify?  A tablet that caught fire and only one state bought it in mass quantities.

This isn’t his first rodeo in Delaware.  He spoke at a Vision 2015 gig back in 2010, also a gotta pay to get in event.  Weeks prior to that, the New York Times reported Klein chickened out from speaking during a protest by parents.  Why were the parents upset?  New York Times wrote:

The upheaval began after Mr. Klein, among others on the stage, said that despite the drop in this year’s scores after the state recalibrated its standardized exams, students citywide were still making substantial progress, based on graduation rates and other data.

Say, didn’t we hear something very similar this month in Delaware when the Smarter Balanced Assessment results were released?  But I digress…

What is Klein’s connections with Greak Oaks?  Because we know there is always a connection in the corporate education reform game.  He knows the Great Oaks founder, Michael Duffy, very well.  Duffy ran the NYC Charter School Office from 2007-2010 when Klein was Chancellor.  And Duffy probably knows Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman pretty well, because they both worked under former Massachusetts Governor William Weld back in the 1990s.  I bring up Herdman because Rodel is really promoting this gig.

Great Oaks is a charter chain with schools in NYC and Newark, NJ.  They opened a charter in Wilmington last month.  What is Great Oaks all about?  Technology in the classroom, personalized learning, and modeling themselves after a failed chain of schools from Sweden.  In an article for The Spectator, Duffy wrote:

On my most recent visit to the UK, I visited a school in Twickenham run by the innovative Swedish network of schools known as Kunskapsskolan (‘knowledge school’). Their approach is to tailor education to each child, with goals set between the student, a tutor and the child’s parents.

I wrote about this huge school voucher privatization failure in Sweden last year.  And take a wild guess which school chain was at the top of the list of these failed schools?  Kunskapsskolan!

Klein is coming to town to promote his book, Lessons of Hope.  It is all about his time as NYC Chancellor.  I wonder who wrote this description of the book on Amazon?

Lessons of Hope is Klein’s inside account of his eight-year mission of improvement: demanding accountability, eliminating political favoritism, and battling a powerful teachers union that seemed determined to protect a status quo that didn’t work for kids. Klein’s initiatives resulted in more school choice, higher graduation rates, and improved test scores. The New York City model is now seen as a national standard for meaningful school reform. But the journey was not easy. Klein faced resistance and conflict at every turn.

And what of Klein’s connections with our very own Delaware Governor Jack Markell?  We know they have met before and even though Klein and Markell never email each other, at least through official state channels, it’s obvious they have the same ideals.  As Markell publicly stated during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, “I have no problem with business executives running for office, after all, I am one.”  And apparently running the schools for one of the largest cities in the country thrives on that same business executive mentality.  But Klein left his role (it was rumored then Mayor Bloomberg was about to boot him out), and went to start up Amplify.  And even though Amplify is in the midst of financial controversy, the Delaware Department of Education seems to have no problem handing them money.  Between Amplify and their former name of Wireless Generation, Delaware taxpayers through the DOE have given this company $11,530,850.00 since Fiscal Year 2011 and it doesn’t look like that is going to stop anytime soon since many schools are currently using Amplify’s latest testing products.

Back to Great Oaks, this new charter school in the Community Education Building in Wilmington, is run by Kia Childs who was a leader at Mastery Charter Schools and Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School.  Touting the school as bringing kids to success by using tutors, Duffy talks about the school here:

In a very odd coincidence, both Great Oaks and Freire opened up shop in Wilmington this year.  They are both charter chains.  They are both backed by some serious cash.  And neither of them show up as schools on Delaware Online Checkbook.  Is it because they are new schools?  Nope.  Delaware Design Lab High School is listed.  So how can you find out how much money these schools are paying out?  To do that, you have to actually go to “Dept of Education continued” to find Great Oaks Charter School and Freire.  I guess that answer’s this question concerning Delaware Online Checkbook, DOE, and Great Oaks.  How convenient…

But in the case of Klein’s not-so-cheap visit to Great Oaks, interested attendees have to pay the piper to hear him talk about a book about himself.  But don’t worry educators, it’s only $25 for you!  Should a public school be able to charge outrageous prices to hear a guy stroke his ego?  And where are the proceeds going? In Klein’s pocket or into the classroom to help the children of the school?  This event is to “celebrate the launch of our school”, but it sounds like what should be a free and public event is for the Richy Rich crowd.

Fellow blogger Kilroy was not happy about Klein’s first visit to Delaware back in 2010 during another Rodel sponsored event when the tickets were only $50.00.  How will he react now that the price has doubled in five years?  You don’t have to pay $100 to hear Klein pimp his book though.  You can watch it here, if you have the stomach for it:

Hey, did you see that sign behind him?  Is that the Aspen Institute?  The same corporate education reform “fellowship” “think-tank” Markell, Herdman and soon to be former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy all belong to?  Yes, they all pal around together, our little destroyers of public education!

News Journal Disgustingly Butchers My Letter To The Editor

News Journal

I submitted an editorial letter to several Delaware media a week ago.  Entitled “Opt Out Ends The Madness Of High-Stakes Testing”, it appeared in the Delaware State News, Delaware Liberal, and The News Journal.  Delaware Liberal wrote everything I wrote, and Delaware State News wrote just about everything, except a part about the News Journal continuing to get House Bill 50 wrong.  I can understand that, don’t bash the competition.  No issue there.

When I sent the email to Delaware media, I asked if there was any way they could get it in prior to Thursday.  I sent it on a Sunday though, so I didn’t know if that would be possible.  I get that.  It was in Delaware State News and Delaware Liberal on Thursday.  I was a bit bummed the News Journal didn’t put it in at all, but I also knew Matt Albright would be at the Parent Strike press conference on Thursday.  To my surprise, it did show up Friday on Delawareonline.  I didn’t really read it, thinking it would show what I sent to them and what others had posted.  It showed up in their actual newspaper yesterday.

So how did I find out they messed up?  Of all places, the Rodel Foundation.  Or more specific, their blog.  I’ve actually found their “daily news” section of their blog to cover a lot of articles in one place.  I never see my stuff in there, nor would I expect to.  Lo and behold, I see my editorial covered in their “daily news” on Friday with the headline, and “opinion by Kevin Ohlandt, blogger” (come on Paul, you can’t put the words Exceptional Delaware, or parent, or even human being? Blogger?).  My radar went way up.  This is an editorial slamming the DOE and Smarter Balanced and really getting aggressive in wanting every parent in the state to opt their child out.  Why would Rodel of all places be providing a link to it?  Curiosity got the best of me, and I read what showed up in the News Journal.

I’m going to do a compare and contrast here…blue is the original parts in Delaware Liberal posted Thursday which had everything I mailed to Delaware media a week ago (with one exception and that was the part about also filing federal violations since I sent it to them Wednesday night, a few hours after I filed those), and red is the News Journal.

This “school report card” is nothing more than Federal mandate PLUS the many layers of complexity the DOE added to it. 

This “school report card” is nothing more than Federal mandate.

See how they took out the whole part about the DOE adding to it and making it look like the whole school report card is “Federal mandate”?  Very crafty…

This week, we will hear about the creation of 10 new so-called “Focus Schools” and 4 “Focus Plus Schools”.  The DOE will attempt to sell this as yet another way of “fixing” these high-need schools.  The truth is, these labels are punitive in nature and are just another step before they become “Priority Schools”.  We all know how that went a year ago.

The DOE will attempt to sell this as yet another way of “fixing” these high-need schools. The truth is, these labels are punitive in nature and are just another step before they become “Priority Schools.”

By taking out the part about the DOE adding stuff, it makes it look like the Federal mandate will be sold by the DOE wanting to “fix” the high-needs schools.  It’s an editorial, so of course it’s going to have opinion.  And we do all know how it went a year ago, not very well!

The transparency around Regulation 103 and the “school report card” is suspect at best. I filed a large complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice over several issues, and a complaint over FOIA violations with the DOE. As well, for the second time this year, I filed a complaint over FOIA violations with the DOE.  The first complaint showed the DOE overcharging me nearly $7,000. It seems the DOE wants accountability for everyone but themselves.  

The transparency around Regulation 103 and the “school report card” is suspect at best. I filed a large complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice over several issues, and a complaint over FOIA violations with the DOE. The first complaint showed the DOE overcharging me nearly $7,000.

Keep in mind that Albright was at the Parent Strike press conference AND the State Board of Education meeting.   He heard me list my complaints against the DOE and the State Board of Education twice.  How much was written about a State agency getting five state complaints and two federal complaints?  One of those being on OCR complaint?  Not one word.  In fact, Albright didn’t write at all about anything with Regulation 103, even though that was obviously the highlight of the whole board meeting.  But in the above, we get what looks to be confusion with my complaints, like I’m not too sure what I’m doing.  We obviously can’t be slamming the DOE too hard in News Journal letters.  Especially when it comes to controversial issues on accountability for schools but the DOE never owns up to what they do, never!

This was the one that REALLY did it for me though…watch what they do…

The DOE would have us blame the teachers in these schools.  How about we blame the DOE and Governor Markell?  Instead of focusing on the true needs of students, such as smaller classrooms and more special education training, our schools continue the failed experiment of Smarter Balanced.

The DOE would have us blame the teachers in these schools. How about we blame the DOE and Gov. Markell instead of focusing on the true needs of students.

Trying to make me look like a bad guy, like I would rather focus on DOE and Markell than focus on what students really need.  That’s pretty low.  And I’m sure Dr. Paul Herdman was probably like “Holy crap, did you see what Ohlandt wrote in the News Journal.  We have to get this out there!”  But it is worlds away from what I actually wrote.  Actually, it’s a universe away.  Yes, I am critical of their articles and editorials.  I won’t deny that.  But I don’t CHANGE what they write.  I don’t combine parts of sentences to make them look bad.  I’m pretty certain at this point I won’t be writing any more letters to the News Journal.  They have published some and given me some mentions over opt-out, and I appreciate that.  But I can’t condone this.  Either this was a really bad copy editor, or this was intentional.  Knowing the articles the News Journal writes, their allegiance to Rodel and the Delaware Business Roundtable, and their continual ass-kissing with the DOE and Governor Markell, I can’t help but assume it’s the latter.  I’m sure they were arrogant enough to think I would only send it to the almighty News Journal and no one else would know.  But guess what chumps, you screwed up.

To read what I actually wrote, please go to Delaware State News and Delaware Liberal at the below links.

If you want to get unbiased, good education news, please check out your local newspaper, or check out Avi’s great stuff on Newsworks.  I’m really sick of the dog and pony show the News Journal keeps putting on.  This is a newspaper that will sell their soul to Rodel and Markell and all their corporate education reform buddies, but when everyday people try to get their point across they edit it and change intent.  Maybe I should opt out of reading the News Journal altogether…