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Re: Superintendents get $2,000 consulting fees to hobnob with vendors

What immediately struck me about this story is how many of the
superintendents listed are from districts which have experimented with school calendar
reforms, specifically, year-round schools. Interestingly, many of the promoters of
year-round school later become consultants who get as much as $2,000 a day as
year-round school consultants. The Florida Ethics Commission merely gave a
school board member a slap on the wrist for his conflict of interest as a
year-round school consultant. These consulting fees are bribery, pure and simple.

Billee Bussard

In a message dated 8/17/2004 8:29:53 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
kceh@airmail.net writes:

> Subj:[arn-l] Superintendents get $2,000 consulting fees to hobnob with
> vendors
> Date:8/17/2004 8:29:53 AM Eastern Daylight Time
> From:kceh@airmail.net
> Reply-to:arn-l@interversity.org
> To:arn-l@interversity.org
> Sent from the Internet
> Superintendents get $2,000 consulting fees to hobnob with vendors
> 07:24 PM CDT on Friday, July 23, 2004
> By SCOTT PARKS / The Dallas Morning News
> One in an occasional series.
> RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ˆ The Resort, perched on a sandy hillside and
> surrounded by purple-hued mountains, sat baking under the desert sun
> last week.
> Inside the luxury hotel on Frank Sinatra Drive, school superintendents
> from across the United States ˆ including the Dallas-Fort Worth area ˆ
> spent three days talking business with companies that want to sell their
> wares to school districts.
> Textbook publishers, food-service vendors, computer manufacturers and
> many other companies all want to increase their share of the lucrative
> educational market. The school superintendents came to California's
> desert to help them.
> In return, the superintendents got an all-expenses-paid trip and a
> $2,000 consulting fee.
> Business ethicists say the conference creates the appearance that
> companies and superintendents have formed an exclusive club with the
> potential to affect the contracts awarded by districts.
> Also Online
> 07/18: Superintendents get $2,000 consulting fees to hobnob with vendors
> <
> http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/education/stories/071804dnmetretreat.
> c430.html>
> 05/20: Moses to end financial ties with law firm used by DISD
> <
> http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/education/stories/052004dnmetboardmoses.
> ed8a.html>
> 05/08: Moses works as consultant for lawyers on DISD payroll
> <
> http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/education/stories/050804dnmetmoses.
> 203c8.html>
> "I find it troubling that money from the private sector is finding its
> way into superintendents' pockets," said Diane Swanson, a business
> professor and founding chair of the Ethics Initiative at Kansas State
> University. "There is something wrong with blurring that boundary with a
> cozy group of people who may not be operating at arm's length."
> The superintendents, dressed in colorful casual attire, arrived here
> from small districts (Whitefish Bay, Wis., with 3,000 students) and
> large (Clark County Schools in Las Vegas with about 280,000 students).
> They characterize themselves as tough-minded professionals who feel no
> obligation to buy from the companies that paid to bring them to this
> Palm-studded oasis.
> "If a company comes here to sell, it's here for the wrong reasons," said
> Doug Otto, superintendent of the Plano Independent School District. "If
> it's a good product, it stands on its own."
> Annette Griffin, superintendent of Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, said
> interacting with company executives gives her a chance to stay on the
> cutting edge of product developments that help students learn. She said
> she donates some of the money she earns to a scholarship fund.
> "I'm looking for the magic bullet," Dr. Griffin said during a brief
> interview in a meeting-room lobby overlooking the hotel pool.
> "This is the only organization I've found where companies come to us
> with new ideas and we have the opportunity to say how they can be
> structured to better serve children. We are not here to make the vendors
> feel good. We are brutally honest with them."
> Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Moses didn't travel to Rancho Mirage, but
> he was listed among the participants in last winter's conference in
> Oakland, Calif. So was his brother, Monte Moses, superintendent of
> Colorado's Cherry Creek School District.
> Dr. Moses, who resigned his job with the Dallas school district last
> week, was unavailable for comment on his consulting work.
> In some states, the law requires superintendents to disclose their
> sources of income on publicly available questionnaires. Texas does not
> require financial disclosure for superintendents.
> The Dallas Morning News has examined employment contracts for
> superintendents in 26 of the largest school districts in Texas. Twenty
> of them, including the contracts of Drs. Otto and Moses, contain
> language that allows outside employment. Dr. Griffin's contract also
> allows her to take outside employment, said John Tepper, president of
> the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school board.
> Some contracts require superintendents to get school board approval
> before accepting consultancies. Others say the outside work cannot
> interfere with the superintendent's official duties.
> Pots of money
> Big dollars are at stake.
> Most people view school districts as places that educate children. But
> they also can be viewed as big pots of taxpayer money with plenty of
> companies trying to get their share. The annual operating budget for
> Dallas ISD is $1 billion.
> The U.S. Department of Education says the combined budgets for public
> school districts exceed $500 billion a year. Wal-Mart, the world's
> biggest retailer, is less than half that size. The gross domestic
> product of Argentina is less than $500 billion.
> A big chunk of a school district's budget goes for teacher and staff
> salaries. But another big chunk also goes for a multitude of contracts
> with private companies.
> Elfreda Massie, vice president of strategic relationships for Harcourt
> Achieve in Austin, came to The Resort to talk about her company's
> instructional materials and professional development programs for
> teachers. During one meeting, she told superintendents, "We are trying
> to take the market for products and services for English-language
> learners."
> Privately owned
> Educational Resource and Development Institute Inc., a privately owned
> company in Grand Island, Neb., brings superintendents and company
> executives together twice a year: a summer conference and a winter
> conference.
> ERDI is the brainchild of Mike Kneale, a former superintendent and
> motivational speaker. He founded the company 18 years ago and runs it
> with his son, Mike Jr.
> "The whole concept was to create a forum where educators can learn from
> the companies and vice versa," Mr. Kneale said. "We want to make
> products more appropriate for the school setting."
> ERDI literature lists 72 companies and more than 80 superintendents and
> other school leaders on its participant rolls. Some of them attended
> last week's conference. Another group will attend a second conference in
> Rancho Mirage this week.
> Because ERDI is not publicly traded, little information about its
> finances is available. For example, Mr. Kneale declined to discuss how
> he structures the fees he charges his client companies.
> He said he makes deals with competing companies in a market segment ˆ
> two or three textbook publishers, for example ˆ to blunt criticism that
> ERDI is working for one company over another or that a superintendent
> might be working for one company over another.
> "No exclusive deals," Mr. Kneale said.
> In addition to paying all expenses for superintendents to attend the
> conference, ERDI pays up to $400 to defray the expenses for a spouse,
> Mr. Kneale said. Each superintendent gets a flat $2,000 fee to attend. A
> "full participant" who attends both summer and winter meetings earns
> $4,000 a year in fees, he said.
> The corporate panels that form the backbone of ERDI operations ran
> Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
> They worked this way: Company representatives spent three hours in a
> hotel meeting room with five superintendents. Information revealed can
> be sensitive. The companies sometimes roll out new ideas for products.
> What is said in the room is supposed to stay in the room.
> The companies set the agenda. They can request the superintendents they
> want on their panel based on district size, geography or desire to gain
> more business in a certain district.
> Karen Mortensen, executive education consultant with Sagebrush Corp.,
> said membership in ERDI is well worth the fee. She said Sagebrush, which
> sells software and school library products, pays $22,000 a year to
> attend two conferences.
> "What we get is dedicated time with key school leaders from across the
> country," she said. "And we get to mingle with them and other reps in
> social settings. It would not be acceptable to be pushing product while
> I'm at ERDI. I would be building relationships."
> Ms. Massie, the Harcourt Achieve executive, was interim superintendent
> of public schools in Washington, D.C., until April. She said, "We use
> the superintendents like a focus group. It's a piece of our
> research-based approach to business."
> The agenda for Ms. Massie's session included "What's Keeping You Up At
> Night," "Federal Legislation Update 2004" and "Partnering With Your
> District."
> Carol Wolf, another Harcourt Achieve vice president, initiated a
> conversation with the superintendents on an issue not on the agenda.
> How, she asked, does a sales rep determine whom to contact first in a
> district? All bureaucracies are different, and superintendents in large
> districts are notorious for not taking most vendor phone calls.
> "How do you figure out who are the decision-makers?" Ms. Wolf asked.
> "In my job, I never purchase anything," said Carlos Garcia,
> superintendent of the 8,000-square-mile Clark County School District in
> Las Vegas. "But when you're a superintendent in a small district, you do
> it all."
> 'No play at all'
> Superintendents might participate in four or five corporate panels
> during the three-day conference, which would mean 12 to 15 hours of work.
> "There is no play at all," Mr. Kneale said.
> Dr. Otto of Plano and Dr. Griffin of Carrollton-Farmers Branch both said
> they took vacation time for the Rancho Mirage conference, which opened
> last Sunday with a "superintendents only" meeting, followed by an
> evening reception with live orchestra music.
> The fact that ERDI pays the superintendents' expenses and consulting
> fees ˆ and that the money doesn't come directly from school district
> vendors ˆ is an important distinction, said Drs. Otto and Griffin.
> "ERDI assigns us to the corporate panels, and we have no say in what
> company we are meeting with," Dr. Otto said.
> But the distinction is lost on some business ethicists.
> "The superintendents must be careful that ERDI is not just acting as a
> shield for companies that want access to them," said Dr. W. Michael
> Hoffman, executive director of the Center for Business Ethics at Bentley
> College in Waltham, Mass. "Ultimately, they are serving the companies
> that are paying the guy to put on the conferences."
> Oversight
> Business ethicists say school board oversight is critical to keeping
> school superintendents within safe boundaries.
> No one knows how much superintendents tell their trustees about their
> after-hours consulting activities or how many questions trustees ask
> about them.
> Dr. James Campbell Quick, of the University of Texas at Arlington,
> likens superintendents to tennis players and school board members to
> umpires.
> "Everyone needs someone to make their line calls," he said. "Aggressive,
> healthy players will get close to the line and need help remembering
> where the boundaries are. The board's responsibility is to ask enough
> questions to determine what game the superintendent is playing."
> The News interviewed Mr. Tepper, the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school
> board president, and Mary Beth King, president of the board in Plano,
> about their superintendents' participation in ERDI.
> Ms. King and Mr. Tepper said they do not know how much ERDI pays their
> superintendents or how the fees are calculated.
> "Quite frankly, we don't ask," Mr. Tepper said.
> Both school board presidents said they feel well briefed about ERDI and
> understand its program. They expressed confidence in their
> superintendents and said they had no reason to believe personal
> relationships with ERDI companies influence decision-making on contract
> awards.
> "I know my superintendent [Dr. Otto] and I know his ethics," Ms. King
> said. "I do not perceive this as a problem."
> Mr. Tepper agreed. "I don't think there is a conflict of interest or the
> appearance of one and that is because she [Dr. Griffin] has been very
> forthright with us about the ERDI situation," he said.
> "I don't think Dr. Griffin can be bought for what they [ERDI] are
> paying."
> E-mail sparks@dallasnews.com
> 2004 winter and summer participants
> Education Research & Development Institute documents obtained by The
> Dallas Morning News list the following school leaders as having
> participated in it's programs.
> Arlene Ackerman, San Francisco Unified School District
> Anthony Amato, New Orleans Public Schools
> Brian Benzel, Spokane (Wash.) Public Schools
> Ken Bird Westside (Neb.) Community Schools
> Ed Brand, Sweetwater Union (Calif.) High School District
> Ken Burnley, Detroit Public Schools
> Billy Cannaday Jr., Chesterfield County (Va.) Public Schools
> Rudy Castruita, San Diego Office of Education
> Gerald Dawkins, Saginaw (Mich.) City Schools
> Ken Dragseth, Edina (Minn.) Public Schools
> Debra Duvall, Mesa (Ariz.) School District
> Jim Easton, Lafayette Parish (La.) Public Schools
> Mark Edwards, Henrico County (Va.) Public Schools
> Barbara Erwin, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Unified
> Greg Firn, Milford (Conn.) Public Schools
> Steve Farrar, Lincoln Unified (Stockton, Calif.)
> Mike Flanagan, executive director, Michigan Association of School
> Administrators
> Karen Forys, Northshore (Wash.) School District
> Alton Frailey, Cincinnati Public Schools
> John Fryer, Duval County (Fla.) Public Schools
> George Garcia, Boulder Valley (Colo.) Public School District
> Carlos Garcia, Clark County (Nev.) School District
> David Gordon, Elk Grove (Calif.) Unified School District
> Peter Gorman, Tustin (Calif.) Unified School District
> Carmen Granto, Niagara Falls (N.Y.) City School District
> Terry Grier, Guilford County (N.C.) Schools
> Annette Griffin, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD
> Barb Grohe, Kent (Wash.) Public Schools
> Bill Habermehl, Orange County (Calif.) Department of Education
> Jim Hager, Washoe County (Nev.) School District
> Joe Hairston, Baltimore County (Md.) Schools
> Beverly Hall, Atlanta Public Schools
> Bill Harrison, Cumberland (N.C.) County Schools
> Patricia Harvey, St. Paul (Minn.) Public Schools
> Howard Hinesley, Pinellas County (Fla.) School District
> Peter Horoschak, South Orange-Maplewood (N.J.) School District
> Sandy Husk, Clarksville-Montgomery Schools
> Carol Johnson, Memphis Public Schools
> John Kriekard, Paradise Valley (Ariz.) School District
> Nadine Kujawa, Aldine ISD
> Michael Lannon, St. Lucie (Fla.) County Public Schools
> Pam Lannon, Lake County (Fla.) Schools
> Mary Leiker, Kentwood (Mich.) Public Schools
> Earl Lennard, Hillsborough County (Fla.) School District
> Dave Long, Riverside County (Calif.) Office of Education
> Ben Marlin, Collier County (Fla.) District School Board
> Elfreda Massie, District of Columbia Public Schools (former interim)
> Larry Maw, San Marcos (Calif.) Unified School District
> Max McGee, Wilmette (Ill.) School District
> Bill McKinney, Region IV Education Service Center (Houston)
> Frank McKinzie, Elmwood Park (Ill.) School District
> Gail McKinzie, Indian Prairie (Ill.) School District
> Ray McMullen, Department of Defense Education Activity
> Maggie Mejia, Sacramento (Calif.) City Unified School District
> Leonard Merrell, Katy ISD
> Hector Montenegro, Ysleta ISD
> Mike Moses, Dallas ISD
> Monte Moses, Cherry Creek (Colo.) School District
> Jim Murphy, executive director, New Jersey Association of School
> Administrators
> Connie Neale, School District U-46 (Ill.)
> Ruben Olivarez, San Antonio ISD
> Doug Otto, Plano ISD
> Stan Paz, Tucson (Ariz.) Unified School District
> Dennis Peterson, Minnetonka (Minn.) School District
> Lane Plugge, Iowa City Community School District
> Gerrita Postlewait, Horry County (S.C.) Schools
> Jim Rickabaugh, Whitefish Bay (Wis.) School District
> Stewart Roberson, Hanover County (Va.) Public Schools
> Stan Scheer, Littleton (Colo.) Public Schools
> Rick Schneider, Pasadena ISD
> Darlene Schottle, School District Five (Mont.)
> Althea Serrant, U.S. Department of Education, Region 2
> John Simpson, Norfolk (Va.) Public Schools
> Kevin Singer, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD (recently left to lead Manheim
> Township (Pa.) School District)
> Dennis Smith, Placentia Yorba-Linda (Calif.) Unified
> Keith Sockwell, Northwest ISD
> Tony Stansberry, Lee‚s Summit (Mo.) School District
> Jim Surratt, Klein ISD
> John Thompson, Pittsburgh (Pa.) Public Schools
> Frank Till, Broward County (Fla.) Public Schools
> Doris Walker, Clover Park (Wash.) School District
> Gene White, Washington Township (Ind.) Metropolitan School District
> Robert G. Witten, Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit 16 (Pa.)
> Alvin Wilbanks, Gwinnett County (Ga.) School District
> Clayton Wilcox, East Baton Rouge Parish (La.) Public Schools
> Joseph Wise, Christina (Del.) School District
> SOURCE: ERDI documents