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Re: Superintendents get $2,000 consulting fees to hobnob with vendors
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- Subject: Re: Superintendents get $2,000 consulting fees to hobnob with vendors
- From: Bussardre@aol.com
- Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2004 23:13:12 EDT
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.
In a message dated 8/17/2004 8:29:53 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
> Subj:[arn-l] Superintendents get $2,000 consulting fees to hobnob with
> Date:8/17/2004 8:29:53 AM Eastern Daylight Time
> 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
> 05/20: Moses to end financial ties with law firm used by DISD
> 05/08: Moses works as consultant for lawyers on DISD payroll
> "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
> 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
> 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
> 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."
> 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
> "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
> "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
> E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
> 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
> 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
> 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