Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dr Semler Drops Out of the Race

Dr Richard Semler is no longer a candidate for Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Saturday, May. 24, 2008

Saturday May 24 2008

The two links above go to different stories.
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Richland superintendent out of state race

By Sara Schilling, Herald staff writer

The superintendent of Richland schools is dropping out of the race for the state's top education job to be with his wife as she deals with a health problem.

Rich Semler announced his decision Friday in an interview with the Herald......

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Who is left to run against the one who must not be named?

Anonymous said...

Another four years of nuts and fruitcake???

David Blomstrom said...

Wow, the SPI campaign seems to be self-destructing, doesn't it? The media and their three favored candidates have been focusing on the WASL and corrupt teachers union, leaving me to discuss all the issues they ignore.

Then it's revealed that Randy Dorn tried to influence the legislature to pad his retirement pension. Yeah, that's just the kind of guy we need looking out after children. Sheez, does this clown even have a campaign website?

Just two days later, we learn that Rich Semler has dropped out of the race.

A series of coincidences or some sort of conspiracy? You can read my initial thoughts at http://2008.seattle-mafia.org/News/May_24/.

Check back again, as I'll be adding more details to that page.

David Blomstrom
The SPI candidate who discusses the issues and has a track record...

Anonymous said...

I'd like to save this article as it lists the three private contractors who donated money for goodloe-johnson's going away bash in Charleston.

School contract recipients fund bash
$7,000 helped to pay for party in honor of outgoing schools chief

By Diette Courrégé (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Saturday, June 2, 2007



Three recipients of multimillion- dollar contracts with the Charleston County School District collectively contributed $7,000 for a farewell party for outgoing Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson.

The invitation-only party for 150 guests, mostly district employees and friends and family of Goodloe-Johnson, was Friday night at the Charleston Yacht Club. Goodloe-Johnson has accepted the top schools job in Seattle, and her last day in Charleston will be June 14.

The prime sponsor for the event, donating $6,000, was SSC Service Solutions, which provides custodial services for six of the eight constituent districts. Southern Management Group and Heery International, the two construction management firms for the district's building program, each contributed $500.

District Chief Financial Officer Don Kennedy said no district funds were used for the party, and most of the district's major contractors make donations to the district. School officials who work with the companies asked them to give money for the event, which was modeled after the farewell party held for Goodloe-Johnson's predecessor, Ron McWhirt. Contractors also donated money for his party, Kennedy said.

The board of trustees held a beach bash at the Charleston Yacht Club on July 26, 2003, for McWhirt's retirement.

Kennedy said the district doesn't solicit money from companies that could soon be submitting contract proposals to the district, and he didn't see the donations as a conflict. Representatives from the groups donating money couldn't be reached for comment.

School board member Arthur Ravenel Jr. was planning to attend the party until he was told Friday afternoon who paid for it.

"I'm distressed to hear that," he said. "I've changed my mind. I'm not going. I didn't know that. That's not good. That's bad business. It doesn't pass the smell test."

It's difficult for companies that do business with political entities to turn down requests for money for events, he said.

"That's putting the bite on people," he said.

At the yacht club Friday, partygoers mingled, ate from two buffets and drank cocktails while jazz music played. Men dressed in slacks and button-down shirts and women in skirts and dresses milled around the room that overlooked the nearby dock and harbor.

When asked about the party's sponsors while at the yacht club, Goodloe-Johnson seemed angry and spoke sternly.

She asked how The Post and Courier handled its coverage of McWhirt's farewell party in 2003 and whether the story had the same angle as this one.

She questioned why the focus wasn't instead the reason for the party.

"I'm not going to talk to you about it," she said. "I think that's tacky."

SSC Service Solutions has a $3.4 million contract with the district. The six-year contract has the possibility of being extended to 10 years.

Heery International is managing $242.7 million in building projects, and its program management fee for the five-year program is $8.6 million.

Southern Management Group is managing $241.5 million of building projects, and its program management fee for the five-year program is $8.8 million.

Reach Diette Courrégé at dcourrege@postandcourier.com or 937-5546.

Anonymous said...

June 19, 1996

Portland Public Schools Follow Seattle's Lead; Heery International Named Construction Program Manager; Heery Receives Second Major Northwest School Contract

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 19, 1996--Heery International Inc., a national design and construction management firm with offices in Seattle, Bellevue and Portland, has been selected by the Portland Public Schools to manage a major school building and remodeling program.

Confirmation of the contract with the Northwest's largest school system was made today by Heery Vice President and Northwest Regional Manager Barry Quinn.

The Northwest office of Heery International was selected earlier this year by Seattle Public Schools to oversee the first phase of its 19-school, $357 million school remodeling program.

The Portland building program, the product of a $197 million bond referendum, is already under way. Heery will manage work on 42 schools over a 7-year period. Its scope will vary from school to school. Project work will include some major seismic upgrades, as well as addressing less complex code compliance issues, energy-related modifications, water and indoor air quality improvements, and some deferred maintenance tasks.

dan dempsey said...

Wow!!!

I am not sure how we meandered on to the MG-J tread.

It seems none of this is referenced in the new Strategic Plan she presented to the School Board.
I will comment on the plan in my next posting.

Dan

Anonymous said...

This is just one of the ongoing investigations involving Erate fraud - I found this on Wikipedia, but it outlines the types of abuses that can occur in one district. The amounts of money involved are enormous.

In July 2005, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin published a series of articles claiming that the school district was using 2001 E-Rate funds inappropriately. E-Rate funds are monies collected from a federal excise tax on the use of telephones. Under an audit conducted by the organization that administers E-Rate funds, the district was found to have possibly used 460 PowerBook laptops inappropriately, since they were purchased as file servers but not all were still being used as such three years later. The Internal Audit Division made a recommendation to seek reimbursement for the funds, though this has not occurred is still under appeal. The audit stated there were "no exceptions" and "no competitive bidding violations" with the procurement process. According to teachers, the laptops were described as a "joke" and additional servers had to be purchased for file serving purposes. The computers were not connected to the Internet, and many computers were used merely as "glorified DVD players." [1]

The newspaper also stated that the district spent too much money on the laptops (a total of $2.4 million, or over $5,000 per laptop), and that there was nepotism involved in the selection of the contractor, which was the parent company of Meshworx; the brother of the district's technology coordinator worked for Meshworx. In response, the PUSD sued the newspaper alleging libel. The school district stated that there was "nothing wrong or improper with the purchase of the machines" and that the problem "was that the machines has 'client' workstation user software installed in addition to 'server' software."[2] Part of the controversy is the recent retirement [3] of the superintendent and the implication by the newspaper that this is related to the E-Rate audit. The school board initially opted for an internal review but has since ordered an independent investigation of the expenditures. The review is still underway. The articles have spurred a group of local residents to initiate a recall four out of the five members of the school board

Anonymous said...

Erate fraud settlement - I'll stop unless you want more....

This article explains that private contractors rigged and bribed officials to obtain lucrative erate contracts (Federal money) with school districts.

NEC Subsidiary Admits to E-Rate Fraud
By Roy Mark
May 28, 2004


A subsidiary of NEC America agreed Thursday afternoon to pay $20.6 million to settle criminal charges involving the company's participation in the federal E-Rate program, the nation's $2.25 billion initiative to help schools and libraries connect to the Internet.

Under the agreement reached in San Francisco, NEC Business Network Solutions (BNS) pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of antitrust violation. The company agreed to pay $15 million in fines and restitution in addition to providing $5.6 million in ongoing maintenance, equipment and services to school districts that are customers of BNS through the E-Rate program.

"We made mistakes with E-Rate. We've acknowledged and accepted responsibility for those mistakes, cooperated fully with the government, and taken action to ensure that these problems can't happen again," Gerald P. Kenney, general counsel of NEC America, said in a statement.

BNS was accused of defrauding the San Francisco Unified School District and several other school districts around the country through rigged bids and bribery. According to a civil lawsuit filed in 2001, BNS was part of a scheme to convince the school districts to purchase more equipment than they needed.

Kenney said the corruption primarily involved a small E-Rate sales team within BNS, which was subsequently dissolved.

"E-Rate was a very small, very new part of BNS business," Kenney said. "These bids and contracts were the company's first major foray into this type of federal contracting, and the sales team was inexperienced with this type of complex procurement. But that's no excuse for bad judgment or the failure of our internal controls to identify problems."

Anonymous said...

4/20/2006

The charges stem from alleged fraudulent applications for funding under the E-Rate program that former technology director Cynthia K. Ayer submitted on behalf of Bamberg County School District One in South Carolina, the Justice Department said. The E-Rate program, administered by the private Universal Service Administrative Co., has come under fire in the U.S. Congress in recent years after numerous reports of fraud and abuse.

The federal grand jury in Columbia, South Carolina, returned a 12-count indictment against Ayer Wednesday. The charges include 10 counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud.

Between April 1999 and February 2003, Ayer used her position as the school district's technology director to award technology contracts to her company, Go Between Communications, according to the indictment. Ayer is charged with submitting fraudulent applications for E-Rate funding of more than $3.5 million without a competitive bidding process. Ayer fraudulently obtained $468,496 in E-Rate payments, the indictment said.

Including the charges against Ayer, 11 people and 10 companies have been charged as part of the Justice Department Antitrust Division's ongoing investigation into fraud and anticompetitive conduct in the E-Rate program, the Justice Department said. Six companies and three people have either pleaded guilty, agreed to plead guilty or have entered civil settlements. The defendants have agreed to pay criminal fines and restitution totaling more than $40 million

Anonymous said...

3/22/2008

A former education consultant from California has been sentenced to serve seven and a half years in prison for rigging bids and defrauding a U.S. government program designed to help schools and libraries in poor areas connect to the Internet, the U.S. Department of Justice announced last week.

Judy N. Green, of Temecula, California, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. A jury therefound her guilty on 22 counts of fraud, bid rigging and conspiracy to commit wire fraud relating to technology projects funded by the E-Rate program. Green served as a consultant for E-Rate programs in Arkansas, California, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

In September, Green was convicted of using schemes to defraud the E-Rate program of funds by inflating the cost of equipment and services in order to pay for ineligible equipment and services, the DOJ said. Green also misrepresented schools' ability and willingness to pay their portions of the cost of the projects, the DOJ said.

Green also rigged the bids on projects in favor of vendors who had relationships with her, according to the DOJ. Green's fraud and bid-rigging schemes involved more than 25 projects from 1998 to 2003, the DOJ said.

Anonymous said...

This is an exercise, I don't envy the position of tech coordinator in my district. You are mostly responsible, but always underfunded. School is business and textbook selection is no less than choosing a service provider.

If your school's internet service is paid for with erate funds, then it has to go through a filtering service.

This is another version of the same thing:

http://www.esd112.org/edtech/
Here's an interesting example - ESD 112 (Vancouver) is in the business of selling instructional technology courtesy of erate.

"Now you can purchase your instructional technology equipment from DigitalEdge, THE place to go for competitive pricing. We bid only on the highest quality products, based on the features and specifications desired and expressed by school district technology directors and AV specialists.

All products are marketed and sold by reputable and stable companies who offer the best value for the dollar, exclusively to schools. You purchase products directly from the vendor; but going through DigitalEdge assures you the best price.

Educational Service District 112 is proud to extend these prices to our colleagues in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

Did We Mention Savings?
In Washington State alone, almost $16 million worth of products were sold through this bid in 2007––saving the districts approximately 17% on their instructional technology purchase. Let the buying begin!"

This looks like a cooperative and done very professionally, but you can also see how non-profits can expose school districts to abuse.

Anonymous said...

April 2008 minutes -

Digital Edge is moving ahead with changes of some of the bidding and procurement procedures as well as expansion of the cooperative. Excellent guidance has been provided from other purchasing cooperatives and the lessons learned will be used to benefit the program.

.....

The Washington State Auditor has announced new guidelines for federal competitive procurement standards. Marnie Allen, Attorney, Facilities Planning, has written a position paper on behalf of AESD which will be used in opposition to the new guidelines.

Terry Bergeson, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, will be asked to support ESDs.

Anonymous said...

This was from RoguePundit (2004) an article that described ESD abuses -

A couple days ago, I blogged about the ongoing fraud investigation in the Union-Baker Education Service District (ESD) in Northeastern Oregon. The suspicion was that administrators had allegedly submitted inflated attendance statistics, resulting in the ESD getting more education money from the state and feds. Turns out that the problems at Union-Baker run much deeper.

Heads are about to roll at the Union-Baker Education Service District.

The ESD board took steps Wednesday to secure the resignations of three of its top administrators, including Superintendent Ed Schumacher, and terminate the ESD's contract with its top consultant

...

The board took its steps because of the results of an investigative audit conducted by the CPA firm of Dickey & Tremper of Pendleton. The audit reveals problems with public contracting, bidding, credit card use, travel expenses and student attendance in programs and the reporting of it, the Family Medical Leave Act and additional days paid for vacation.

The audit was conducted in conjunction with an Oregon State Police investigation. The investigation was started after the Education Workforce Development Committee, a citizens' group, presented information about the ESD to the OSP.


The article also listed a couple other educators being put on administrative leave, the termination of a consultant, and a drive to recall three ESD board members there. The audit that uncovered all the above is what triggered the state and feds to get involved.

Believe it or not, this ESD actually owns $145,000 airplane that it bought last year. It's now going to sell the plane because the ESD folks that knew how to fly it are losing their jobs.

From this link:

The Oregon State Police investigation was called for by Union County District Attorney Martin Birnbaum after he received information from members of the Education/Workforce Development Committee, a self-appointed watchdog group with members in Baker and Union counties. The audit was conducted as part of the investigation.

To give you an idea of how loose the management was...

To help correct fraudulent reporting of student attendance numbers as detailed in the audit, (Superintendent) Schumacher has moved referral and enrollment forms to the administrative office at Island City. They had been housed at the district's Professional/Technical/Alternative Education Center at Island City. Mann worked at that office.

Mann was the vocational technical director...looks like there was no external oversight of his record keeping. Here are some other management changes driven by the audit.

• Public contracting — A process is in place to ensure that the district obtains a minimum of three quotes for projects ranging from $5,000 to $75,000. Projects of more than $75,000 require the district to seek formal written bids. The district also must ensure that only licensed and bonded contractors are used.

• Extra days and overtime pay — All contract extensions of more than 10 days require board approval. Overtime must have prior approval and documentation of the days or hours worked. District policy calls for, when possible, employees to take comp time at a time-and-a-half rate rather than to be paid for extra hours worked.

• Travel reimbursement — Staff will be required to submit monthly mileage reimbursement statements to be paid. Mileage may never exceed the actual number of miles traveled and must be job-related.

• UBESD cell phone use — Cell phones will be provided to directors upon request and to staff as recommended by directors. They may be used for business purposes only.


Ridiculously sloppy government contracting, loose overtime rules, lack of oversight over travel reimbursement and cell phone use, and the attendance record keeping...nobody was watching the store. Through inflated attendance statistics, the district got an extra $425,000 in education funding over the last three years. Wonder how much of it they wasted through their sloppy management?

The state has said it will seek to recoup any overpayments of state school funding made as a result of fraudulent reporting of student enrollment.

Do you suppose anybody will be able to recover the money wasted through other elements of the sloppy oversight (including that airplane investment)? How will this impact the students and all the honest educators in that ESD? And let's hope this type of waste isn't happening in other ESDs around the state.

Education dollars are precious here in Oregon. The folks at Union-Baker sure didn't treat them that way.

UPDATE: This article notes there's going to be a second audit of the situation.

But the state, it turns out, was directly involved in a separate transaction that steered hundreds of thousands of tax dollars a year to the Union-Baker ESD via a different source — contracts awarded to the ESD to teach incarcerated youths and help them assimilate into society.

A secretary of state audit will determine how much was steered to the district.

But a 2001 Department of Justice opinion said state school fund dollars cannot legally be used for youth transitional services, said Vickie Fleming, deputy state schools superintendent.

The affected contracts were suspended on June 30, she said.


The article also notes that the airplane that the LaGrande Observer said was purchased here was instead leased, and that lease was what sparked residents' interest in the UBESD in the first place. Lease or buy...I'm not sure which is true at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Seattle Times (2003)

They have trouble at home, or trouble with alcohol and drugs. They have learning difficulties, get pregnant or have to earn money to help their families.

Jeremy Finley, 17, who dropped out at age 13, is not unusual. He ran away from home, got in trouble with the law and was drawn to street life. And school didn't help, he said. It was frustrating, didn't seem useful, and he was embarrassed when he fell behind.

He figured he was smart enough to survive on the street.

"But to tell the truth, I wasn't," he says. He's now working with a case manager at Yo! Seattle, an organization that works with dropouts, and is looking for a job.

Those who work with dropouts agree that school policies and attitudes are part of the problem.

In King County, the juvenile court interviewed 3,000 students with attendance problems and asked them to chose from 28 reasons that they skipped school.

"They all told us, without a doubt, that their number-one reason why they skipped school was that they were discouraged about being behind," said Kaki Dimock, the court's at-risk youth programs manager.

In its report released last week, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) reviewed national research and concluded that schools can make changes to reduce the dropout rate.

"There are a lot of places that don't seem to want to keep kids in school if they want to leave, especially if they are disruptive," said Pete Bylsma, director of research and evaluation for OSPI and co-author of the new report.

Many people blame the students, he said, but "I think the evidence is that the school system plays some role in creating an environment that may be conducive to letting students drop out."

Many students eventually get a degree of some sort, through a General Educational Development (GED) credential or vocational program, for example. By age 24, 86 percent of Americans have at least a high-school diploma or the equivalent, according to the National Research Council.

But that's at a higher cost to everyone than if they'd completed school on time in the first place.



Underreporting the drop out rate is the same as overinflating attendance and it results in the same thing, increased funding.

The next superintendent should eliminate ESDs altogether. It adds another fiscal layer of abuse. This is Bergerson's management team and provides OSPI unwarranted control over the state's school system.

Anonymous said...

May 15, 2008
TDN.com
Lower Columbia

Four years ago, the state teachers' union tried to replace Terry Bergeson as superintendent of public instruction by enticing a well-liked and well-known former superintendent to come out of retirement and run again.

But Bergeson defeated Judith Billings handily in the general election.

The union is trying a more subtle ouster campaign this time around. A few weeks ago, the Washington Education Association sent a confidential memo to each of its local leaders with instructions about how they can play their part in defeating Bergeson, their former president.

In a copy obtained by The Associated Press, local union leaders are told to convene a meeting and get their membership to pass a resolution evaluating Bergeson's job performance.

A "sample" two-page statement was included in the document. It focuses on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, its impact on graduation rates and the unfairness of the test to special education students, those learning English and members of minority groups.

The confidential memo makes a literary reference, comparing Bergeson to the villain in the Harry Potter series of children's books.

"For those of you who have been saying, 'When is WEA going to do something about she who shall not be named?' ... this is your chance to work it ... to put your favorite organizing bag 'o tricks to the test," the document says.

WEA spokesman Rich Wood confirmed that the union had sent such a document to its local leaders and added that 35 locals have already passed resolutions and the process continues.

WEA President Mary Lindquist said the union would be working hard to get new leadership at the state Education Department.

"We did not support Dr. Bergeson four years ago. There was a high level of concern about her leadership at that time. In the past four years, that concern has only become heightened," Lindquist said.

A second strategy apparently involves encouraging more than one person to run against the three-term incumbent, in hopes of splitting the primary vote enough to force the top two candidates into the general election. This would give the WEA and other critics more time to make their case against Bergeson.

The 12-year incumbent said she tried her best not to run for re-election this year. She searched for another candidate, who "didn't carry the same baggage," but came up empty.

That's something she has in common with her opponents.

Rich Semler, who has the WEA's endorsement, said he has never had any aspirations for elected office. He was getting ready to retire as superintendent of the Richland School District and didn't need a new job.

Randy Dorn, who briefly entered the race for superintendent in 1996 but dropped out when Bergeson decided to run, said he put off announcing his campaign this time because he was hoping someone else would step forward. Even though he didn't get the WEA's endorsement, he said the union has encouraged him to stay in the race.

Bergeson said it's a job nobody wants because the challenges are great and the criticism is loud.

Both Semler and Dorn are adding to the volume this year, which will mostly be about the WASL.

Bergeson said it's a lot easier to target something like a test as the root of all evil, than to suggest solutions to the bigger issues the state's education system faces, such as school finance reform.

"I understand why teachers are frustrated," Bergeson said. But she notes that she didn't pass No Child Left Behind, the federal law that mandates statewide testing in nearly every grade.

The biggest challenge of the next few years is going to be fixing the way the state pays for education, says Bergeson.

Property tax revenues are down, fuel costs are skyrocketing and health care expenses continue to rise. School districts across the state are cutting their budgets and laying off teachers.

The state gets about $500,000 in federal dollars for meeting the requirements of No Child Left Behind. Bergeson said now is not the time to take a brave political stance and jeopardize that money.

She hopes a new administration in Washington, D.C., will be ready to revise No Child Left Behind in a meaningful way.

Dorn, a former legislator, teacher and principal, is executive director of the Public School Employees of Washington, which represents about 26,000 school workers who are not teachers. He argues that Bergeson's unwavering commitment to the WASL has lost her the respect of educators, parents and other government officials.

While the superintendent of public instruction does not have the authority to abolish the WASL, the schools chief can guide lawmakers and the governor toward that action, Dorn said.

Gov. Chris Gregoire continues to support the reading and writing parts of WASL as a graduation requirement, but has agreed to delay the science requirement and eventually replace the math WASL with end-of-course exams.

Her opponent for re-election, Republican Dino Rossi, "agrees that the WASL is a flawed test, but he supports the need for a standardized test that establishes clear standards and demands accountability," said campaign spokeswoman Jill Strait.

Semler would also like to say goodbye to the WASL, arguing that it costs too much, takes weeks away from regular class work and isn't a good way to diagnose how students are doing.

Semler has been superintendent of the 10,000-student Richland School District in Eastern Washington for nearly 11 years.

Two other minor candidates have also joined the race: Don Hansler, a retired teacher who ran for governor four years ago and got 1 percent of the vote, and David Blomstrom, who has run unsuccessfully for Seattle school board three times and twice before for superintendent of public instruction.

With five people in the race, there's a good chance the nonpartisan election will go beyond the primary. If none of the candidates captures an outright majority of the vote in the primary, the top two finishers advance to the general election.

Anonymous said...

Bergerson is quibbling about $500,000 the state gets for qualifying under NCLB. This is peanuts compared to the money that goes to private consulting fees, vendors, and erate budget items - tens of millions at least.

Good example of omitting important information and redirecting focus. Bergerson also fails to address the increasing drop out rates of students (why the current numbers of graduating seniors are inflated?)