Education, Elections, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools

Rep. Andy Brenner—you have been called out!


via Janet Breneman

Columbus- October 3, 2016

Democratic candidate Janet Breneman, candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives 67th District, challenges incumbent Andy Brenner to a debate.

Janet Breneman, a progressive education and health advocate, challenging the seat of State Representative Andrew Brenner, says it’s time for citizens to break the stranglehold, which Brenner has held on voters.

“For too long voters have accepted the empty rhetoric of Andy Brenner- a lackluster mouthpiece of local conservatives- and now we are holding him accountable.”

Brenner further had the audacity to text me stating “I’m in a Republican District where the index is over 65%, why are you running against me?’

A recent position statement by media outlet Cleveland.Com notes the state wide concern regards the performance and costs of charter schools-and specifically lambastes Andy Brenner for referring to public education as “socialism”, a statement for which Brenner later apologized.

“It’s the teachers of this country, and public schools which provide the backbone for education in our great country”, adds Janet Breneman. “I challenge him to a debate on the topic, and I want the public to see whether he can rise to that challenge, or cower.

Further, I hereby now ask Andrew Brenner to return the campaign donations he accepted from ECOT founder, William Lager.

Ohio taxpayers are spending $108 million for only approximately 8,000 ECOT students to attend- which is significantly less than what ECOT said was their attendance figures, according to the Ohio Dept. of Education.

Janet Breneman may be reached at: or by phone



Education, Ohio, Public Schools, Schools, Uncategorized

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 2, Working the Middle-Man-Game like Pros

The Phantom of Phalen Learning Academies: Part 2, Working the Middle-Man-Game like Pros


***Note: Links are bold and faintly underscored***

When chain-style charters come into a new area, such as the Phalen Leadership Academy (or Learning—I have seen it written both ways) who are trying to wheedle their way into Cincinnati, they bring along all of their transient and temporary employee plans.

It is not a new ‘think-tank’ like the reformers like to taut, but rather a crew that has been trained to puppet the reform talk. This is why I wrote such a harsh statement in the first piece of this 3-part series, insisting that they (these businesses) are “cult-like”. It might seem like a million different battles with thousands of different names, but in reality it is all one greedy game, and the foundational pieces are all the same. The selling points are part of the training programs in a brain-washing manner.

June 13th, was a crucial meeting
for the Cincinnati Board of Education to “explore” the possibilities of opening an expansion charter(s) from the cluster of the PLAs in Indianapolis. The vote should not have even gone forth because the charter(s) are too new. PLA was in operation for only one year prior (2015-2016). This ‘newness’ detail does not surprise me. Tom Vander Ark, who is the original visionary of all of these privatization and personalization takeovers, was considered an education expert after he happed into a position as a suburban school superintendent. Only one school, in only one area (Federal Way, Washington), for only one single time slot of five years with no prior education-related experience or degree and Bill Gates deemed newbie Tom Vander Ark worthy of having enough knowledge to completely redo all education premises in the United States. Billions upon billions of dollars and two decades later, and Tom Vander Ark (having left Gates’ Foundation to make the millions on his own),  is still turning tricks and selling his bullshit in all forms and forums. Oh, and he is still using Gates’ and others’ money pots. Phalen charters are a sickening example of all of this.

These type of charters are notorious for rough starts while they move and jostle their own people all around. Transient environments are the last thing these community members seek. Stability is a rare commodity that children and their families from socio-financially disadvantaged areas need. But they will not reap that as a benefit from PLAs. One month (July 2015) before Phalen Leadership Academy was to open in Indiana, their reform pick (to the tune of a $100,000 MindTrust fellowship grant), was suddenly and without explanation, out of the picture. ““Yes, Marlon [Llewellyn] has done a great job during his fellowship year but will not be leading us forward as the school leader next year,” Phalen said in an email Thursday. Phalen has not responded to requests for further clarification as to why Llewellyn was removed. Llewellyn did not respond to a request for comment.” This was not a one-time fluke. Such are the broad patterns of such dysfunctional happenings with charter business startups.

“Findings: Our analyses show that charter schools had a higher principal turnover rate than traditional schools and very different principal transition patterns.” (Yongmei Ni, Min Sun, and Andrea Rorrer, Principal Turnover: Upheaval and Uncertainty in Charter Schools? Educational Administration Quarterly August 2015 51: 409-437, first published on June 26, 2014)
A Hechinger Report article stated “…nearly 30 percent of principals who lead troubled schools quit every year. By Year 3, more than half of all principals leave their jobs.”  Add this in with the fact that turnover rate is much higher in charters and one spells ‘disaster’.

The article went on to say that “ Looking broadly at the effect of principal turnover on student learning, a researcher from Mount Holyoke College studied 12 years of data from North Carolina public schools. They found that when principals leave, student achievement generally declines for two years.” So these commonplace leadership attrition rates are a huge realistic risk for Cincinnati. It is a dangerous dance of one fancy faux step forward and several irreparable steps backwards.

Principals are not the only temporary hires of MindTrust. Teachers are pulled from TFA (Teach For America) and TNTP (The New Teacher Project). For more background see this article; the author, Doug Martin, has been fighting MindTrust’s ways and writing about such in Indiana for a long time.  A study out of Vanderbilt University lays teacher turnover out in a comprehensive manner: “Using multi-nomial logistic regression, we found the odds of a charter school teacher leaving the profession versus staying in the same school are 132% greater than those of a traditional public school teacher. The odds of a charter school teacher moving schools are 76% greater. Our analysis confirms that much of the explanation of this “turnover gap” lies in differences in the types of teachers that charter schools and traditional public schools hire.” (Italic emphasis mine)

This “type of teacher” is one who has had no previous classroom experience, with extremely abbreviated training times, and whom are promised yet other roles in reform if they meet the contingency of teaching in one of these startup urban situations. Ads are perpetually run. When we, the Badass Teachers Association, lobbied in DC in 2015, we were startled at how very many Representatives’ and Senators’ Education Aides were directly from TFA. Dr. Mitchell Robinson writes: “Teach for America uses its teaching program as a direct line into legislative assistant positions through the Capital Hill Fellows Program.” This is no coincidence on TFA & reformers’ parts. It is intentional through and through. For these fellowship teachers, entrance wages are ridiculously low, the newness pressures are exasperatingly high, and the non-union positions are precariously unprotected. The reward is that they can move on. Teaching is temporary. Never mind the tire tracks on the children’s backs.

Is this the environment that best serves America’s most vulnerable students?

Now, as a final consideration about the atrocious attrition rates associated with opening new charters, please consider the language in THIS CONTRACT. It is the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF PROPOSED INNOVATION NETWORK SCHOOL AGREEMENT BETWEEN PHALEN LEADERSHIP ACADEMY-INDIANA, INC. AND IPS [Indiana Public Schools] FOR OPERATION OF GEORGE FISHER AS INNOVATION NETWORK SCHOOL. This one sentence leapt out at me:

“In addition, given the importance of having staff experienced in implementing the Project: RESTORE model, if staff turnover exceeds 75 percent in any year, IPS may terminate the agreement.”

Am I the only one totally perturbed and disturbed by that number?? So, in actuality it is A-OKAY……for just shy of three-quarters of the entire school staff from top down and middle to middle, to turnover, creating chaos and churn. Never mind the time and energy resources to replace. Don’t worry about the training aspects, TFA and TNTP can carry that all off in five weeks. Don’t fret about the folks being from the community itself; they will be complete passers-by, stopping in for a brief stay and then headed out to the next time and place. Game board pieces with their marching orders.



50 Days Worth of Blogs About ‘Tornadic’ Tom Vander Ark: Day 11

U is for Union


UNIONS are something for which Tom Vander Ark has, and probably never had, any USE!!

UNIONS are something of which Tom Vander Ark has no UNDERSTANDING.

UNIONS are those over which Tom Vander Ark continually USURPS authority.

UNIONS are those which Tom Vander Ark perpetually UNDERMINES their importance.

I am glad I did not commit to 50 days in a row, but just rather 50 days worth of writings exposing Tom Vander Ark. I (WE) have had the most wretched week here in Youngstown, Ohio. And though I have not yet found the direct link (oh, and I will) all of my upset is related to exactly everything I have been writing about in this marathon blog series. Youngstown education was in a wicked whirlwind manner spun out as the MODEL CITY for which other Ohio school districts will be controlled by ALEC legislation. “This act also removes procedural and funding barriers to charter school success.” That would be the UNIONS!

We have been sold. Tom must have danced a jig as another one of his “TomMARTS” is going to get built. I will address this specifically in another blog with examples of exactly what I mean, but he probably will not personally appear on the scene. For the sake of his PR Upkeep, Youngstown is far too poor to prove to be one of his ‘supposed successes’. Indeed Youngstown is THE most impoverished city in Ohio!

I am vested in this city, born and raised on the west side of the rust belt. I do not want one single dollar bill to go to Tom Vander Ark from here. NOT ONE! I am so sick about this HB70 that I hardly know where to even begin. Tonight though… as NEA RA is getting underway in a couple of days. (with Badass Teachers Association in full representation) and, as my spirits were lifted somewhat yesterday by watching a WONDERFUL movie about Woody Guthrie, I feel led to stay with one singular aspect of all of this. UNIONS are still highly respected in Youngstown. We still carry the punch and fight gumption of the Steel Belt Era.

HB70 is taken directly from the cues of the model legislation bill from ALEC for charters. Only there has been so much negative light shed on all of Tom Vander Ark’s FAILURES in education experiments, that they have chosen to use his word COMMUNITY schools instead of CHARTERS. Any way you label it, Tom’s TOP-DOWN contorted “business model” FOR-PROFIT (but called non-profit) PRIVATIZED (though they hide behind the word PUBLIC) CORPORATIZED (though they will say Community-involved) schools complete with a 6-digit CEO and several 6-digit salaried consultants now will sink their sucking fangs into the neck of MY CITY and insert their money-siphoning tubing into the Heart of Youngstown!

One of the most-used sets of words in HB70 is “collective bargaining”. I did not count, but it might be the most frequently used words. This is how TomMARTs work. Legally freeze the UNION, annihilate their power, oh and do it quickly (this bill made all rounds politically in under 12 hours save for Gov. John ALEC FOUNDER Kasich’s signature, expected in the next two days.)

Here Tom is flipping out about Unions (he is upset big time at NEPC and NEA!):

“Finally, the report gets to the real point—there are (OMG!) for-profit companies involved in online learning. The real purpose of this hit piece is to block K12, Connections, and other private organizations from serving students. As John Bailey pointed out, this ‘keep the private sector out” strategy has successfully blocked the participating of private sector participating in education to a greater extent than in any other area of public delivery.”

Remember we discussed Sam Walton’s way to build and what he thought was the largest profit-line…was employee costs. With the Union silenced, this new CEO to come to Youngstown will have 100% fire/hire power. This is how TomMARTs are rolled out! Here was a comment in response to a Diane Ravitch blog where she talked about the “getting rid of teachers.”

“Anti-union ed reformer Tom Vander Ark relayed his message to school districts on August 18, 2011, at a presentation at Georgetown U.

  1. He said, ‘Give me two more weeks a year and two more hours a day and you can subtract two teachers.’”

    and another response:

    “*Effectively, the goal is to not have teachers anymore.*

    For the simple reason that paying teachers interferes with profit. The dismantling of public schools isn’t about educating kids – like all privatization schemes, it’s about companies like Pearson and K12 Inc making as much much money as possible while the opening to do so exists.”

In a review of Tom’s book, one had this to say: “The bottom line is that, although Vander Ark makes a few good points, and although he informs readers (in a scattershot fashion) about some interesting and innovative new approaches to education, “Getting Smart” is not a systematic or objective assessment of what we know or what we need. Instead, it is a self-serving marketing brochure for Vander Ark’s businesses and the industry associations to which they belong. Furthermore, Vander Ark promotes an anti-union legislative agenda that would deprofessionalize teaching and throw away the American tradition of local school control (for better or worse) in order to allow the big textbook companies and their education technology subsidiaries to profit more fully from the enormous public education market.”

When I first read this interview with BILL GATES, I had all of my Vander Ark research open in a search bar. I got confused for a second. These words are NOT BILL GATES words at all. He is just repeating what Tom Vander Ark has relayed to him or told him. I swear I can see Tom’s fingertips back where Bill’s tonsils would be.

“Gates: It’s not easy. School boards have a lot of power, so they have to be convinced. Unions have a lot of power, so teachers have to see the models that are working, because although change may be scary, they want to be part of a successful model. So we need more pilot programs, more dialogue, to get all the entities, government, school boards, unions, moving towards a more intensive education process.”

It is a BILL and TOM commercial! Read the whole article if you have time…Anthony Cody gives refute to Gates words (with Tom manning the dummy) in a powerful way.

Tom and Bill, both need to study their union history. Maybe we could sic the ghost of Woody Guthrie on both of them? I think I will send them both some lyrics of some super special songs.

Elitists have no use for unions. Why would one need democracy when you have the power of money or in Tom’s case the deceitful persuasiveness of CHARM.

Aside from the history and humanitarian side of the unions Bill and Tom BOTH need to read this lesson and study this bassackwards effect from what they propagandize that they are doing economically! Oh silly me, they most probably did study this chart and are working to swing that profit pendulum.

I could just scream at reading Tom’s lists over and over again in his posts. He just tweaks them here and there and regurgitates them for years upon years in his host of online places. But I hope that Tom Vander Ark will be experiencing the full-blown noise of a BAT SWARM very, very soon. And when he does, perhaps he will read all of these. And if he does…. perhaps this might be kind of like speaking his language.

Tom, here are ten MYTHS and FACTS about UNIONS:

Union Maid
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

There once was a union maid, she never was afraid
Of goons and ginks and company finks and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.
She went to the union hall when a meeting it was called,
And when the Legion boys come ’round
She always stood her ground.

Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
I’m sticking to the union, I’m sticking to the union.
Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
I’m sticking to the union ’til the day I die.

Please NEVER STOP SINGING Becca RItchie ^0^ !

Drama, Education, Ohio, Opt out, Public Schools, Schools

A Tribute to My Mother, a Teacher – Stephanie Grant Duke, by Wendy S Duke.

11 plus

My British mother bombed the 11 Plus Exam she had to take as a child. She was very ill that day, but as the test was super important, she went in but her fever took away her focus. The consequence was that she could not enter the track that led to university. Instead, she found herself assigned to secretary school. At age 16 she began working as a secretary in London, but the dream of college never died. Years later, having married her American penpal, she became a US citizen who used her secretarial skills to move from BF Goodrich to the University of Akron, where suddenly — she was able to further her education at no cost. She earned her BA and MA and became a teacher, first at Hoban High School and then on to the life of an adjunct at both Kent State and U of A. Not bad for a girl who was tested and found not good enough at age eleven.

My mother would be appalled at what is happening in US education today. She fled a society built upon rigid class distinctions. When she arrived in the US in 1950, she found a country with a flourishing public school system. Yes, there was tracking in the high schools: college prep, business, and general ed (trades), but students for the most part were learning their subjects in the same building, participating in the same student activities, attending the same football games and dances. Social mixing could and did happen. Unless of course you were of another race. I firmly believe that my mother’s strong activism in support of civil rights for people of all colors and genders stemmed in part from growing up in the numbingly rigid British class system.

Over the past two years, as eduction “reform” policies have hit Ohio teachers in the gut, I have come home from school wishing I could call up my mom to vent. What would she say if I told her that teachers in my once distinguished school now have to teach from scripts? That all the creative and highly intelligent teachers in my building are not free to select their own reading materials. That the passion for learning has been beaten down with endless testing and data collection.

My mom used to love listening to my stories about the latest amazing arts integration project, about our staff professional development road trips to the art museum or the House of Blues or to NASA in West Virginia. She was so proud of what the school represented — a place where talents could flourish along with the arts and sciences. She would, I am sure, see through the farce of “Common Core State Standards” — a common curriculum for the commoners while the billionaires’ children are steeped in the arts and humanities offered by the best private schools.

jan 14`

She would decry the abandonment of inner city students, the new racial divides brought about by de facto segregation along with the failing and closing of public schools. I can just imagine her reading about Eva Moskowitz and her brand of “success” in schooling. The relentless drill for the test and constant control of every thought and movement would make her launch into quotes from Huxley and Orwell. The dystopian future is now. And the scariest thought of all is who will be left that can remember the days when teachers taught with passion? Who will remember when students entered school to learn and grow as human beings? As it is now, education has become an assembly line of students as widgets on their way to career and college readiness from day one of pre-school.

With great love and respect, I thank my mother Stephanie Grant Duke: teacher, activist, and life-long reader and writer. Like her, I will not give in to the forces of conformity and control. We as a society will turn this thing around or else there will be no one left to think an original creative thought.


Note: Wendy S Duke has left an indelible impact in the Akron Arts, but sadly she (directly related to this insane testing environment) is leaving the teaching profession. She is, in conjunction with this early retirement, starting The Center for Applied Drama & Autism.