Monday, December 16, 2013

St. Louis Public Radio Story on the Nicastro Scandal

Dale Singer has a nice story up at the newly merged St. Louis Public Radio/Beacon site on the Nicastro controversy.  There's a lot in there, so please read the whole thing, but here are a few highlights:

Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal says that Nicastro has not been honest during her time at DESE:
“My total issue,” she said, “has been her not being transparent and telling the truth. She tells school board members one thing and she tells senators and representatives something else. Since I serve in both capacities, I’m hearing both sides.”
Specifically, Chappelle-Nadal complained that when Normandy absorbed the Wellston school district in 2010, she was told that the district would not lose accreditation for at least three years. The district lost accreditation two years later, leading to the student transfers that have resulted in serious financial problems and questions about whether the district can survive.
“When you make a commitment,” Chappelle-Nadal said, “you stick to your commitment. The one thing I will never ever ever ever tolerate is an administrator who misrepresents the truth and makes misstatements and outright lies.
It doesn't look like the controversy is going away any time soon.  The Kansas City School District filed suit to prevent the state's breakup of their school district, stating that Nicastro has been working "covertly to orchestrate a breakup of (the district) into charter schools."

And Tom Schweich has asked for documents to investigate Nicastro's decision to change wording on DESE's cost estimate (or lack thereof).  There are reasons, however, to be skeptical about the chances of Schweich taking any action that would negatively impact Sinqeufield's agenda. Many reasons.

Mike Jones, a senior policy adviser to Charlie Dooley and the vice president of the state board of education, had a jaw-dropping quote:
“But the process of making the sausage is a different issue. I’m big on accountability. I think transparency is fairly overrated. Transparency is a liberal fetish. It’s way overemphasized.”
 His full quote is a little more nuanced and contains some interesting observations:
“On one side you have the education reform establishment. There is a small group of people who want it to work for all children, then there are two other groups: libertarians, who live in a fantasy world and don’t believe in public education, and corporate interests, who see education as a cash cow.
“Then you have the education establishment. They are genuinely concerned about the education of kids, except they collectively seem to lack the will to fundamentally change the way we deliver public education. They have lost the moral high ground.”
It sounds like Jones is thoughtful about this issue, but I have a feeling the transparency quote is not going to go over very well and will lead to future headaches.

Finally, I wanted to make sure to flag this important tidbit:
Sinquefield has declined repeated requests for an interview on his stand on education issues.
Rex spends millions to bend state policy to his will, relying on slick advertising campaigns and predetermined "reports" from stink tanks rather than comprehensive, honest debate.  So it figures that he would not want to answer questions about his true views.  

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