tppf's pie chart
First, the good news
The national grassroots movement has taken off!  Using this website as a national
headquarters of sorts gave birth to a movement that has taken off beyond anyone's
wildest dreams, including mine.  We're well past $50 billion in annual transparency; the
challenge at this point is obtaining actual financials for dollars spent for non-Texas
district, an ongoing project of mine.  For example, I've been waiting for the Florida DOE to
come up with "total expenditures/all funds" numbers for their districts for over a year now.

The ripple effect
Also encouraging is that we've been able to watch the ripple effect.  Here in Texas, when
one school district comes online in a county, the others follow suit.  What seems to be at
play is human nature, a fear by superintendents and trustees that if checks are put online
the villagers will attack the admin. building in the dead of night with pitchforks and
lanterns.  Then that first brave district in an area steps forward and when neighboring
districts observe that nothing terrible happens, this frees them up to do the same thing.  
One of the most remarkable examples of the ripple effect has been what I call the
Antonio Triple Crown, where three major districts came online the same week last year.  

In fact, it's all good news
When I started compiling my rosters -- literally from scratch, with the names of two Texas
districts -- on October 1, 2006, the entire national roster took up perhaps three square
inches of screen space.  There are so many districts now that I've had to spread them
across three pages.  

With so many organizations suddenly having discovered public school transparency in
the form of online check registers this past year -- and welcome aboard to you all --  
because many of them are not in direct heart-to-heart contact with school districts there's
already a wealth of misinformation being published and circulated.  In some cases it's
sloppy research, but in most the organizations appear to be circulating the same old
information from state to state, forgetting that because this is a true grassroots
movement the data is fluid, not static.

TEXAS DISTRICTS ARE NOT REQUIRED BY LAW to post their check registers online if
they don't make the 65% spending goal by 2008-09; they may do so as an option (see
code below in greybar) if they want to receive 3 extra points on the Schools FIRST scoring
(continued from above)
I had come alone to visit the
district, and was surrounded by
cops with real bullets in their
guns, all because even though I'd
telephoned, faxed and emailed
ahead of time to let both the
superintendent and the PR guy
know I was coming the supe
apparently hadn't liked my taking  
pictures of his misleading
signage on the front door and
main foyer wall showing his
district had a "Recognized"
(second-highest) rating from our
state DOE -- when in fact the
district had not been "Recognized"
for several years and indeed the
state commissioner had just
announced two days earlier that
Announcing the
Happy New Year, America!
Lots of good news to report :
Over half our states have at least one school district with its
check register online -- what a way to ring in 2009!
By Peyton Wolcott
Tuesday, December 30, 2008 / 6:04 a.m.
Like, for example, Connie and
Joan could have instead tried
to find and personally inventory
that still-missing $1.6 million
of original art purchased by her
predecessors Ken Burnley and
William Coleman from the
Sherry Washington Gallery?  
The same art her DPS board's
been asking about since

Perhaps had they "just said
no" to a ritzy edu-conference
invite and instead stayed home
and worked, the DPS board
would have been happier with
Connie and Joan and they'd
both still have a job.

After Teresa Gueyser, the DPS
board attorney, was hastily
appointed as Connie's
temporary successor, it was
learned that Teresa has had
legal issues of her own.

May God bless Detroit.
Veteran educator Donna
Garner:  "Nothing will ever
replace direct systematic
instruction from a
well-qualified teacher to a
student.  Test prep and
glitzy curricula do not bring
about long-term learning."
The ink's not even written yet
on his
capo de capos  Rod
Blagojevich's   letter of
resignation, yet Chicago
Public Schools supe
Duncan is expected to be
named later today by his long-time
pickup basketball companion,
Barack Obama, as the
new secretary of education.
While my favorite option would be to get
rid of No Child Left Behind and all other
fed dollars then dissolve the entire US
DOE, that's likely not an option for
Arne.  Here's hoping he will at least
institute tighter internal controls over
fraud and waste than he was able to
manage in Chi-Land under
Boss Daley
 (see my Dec. 10 commentary below).  
        Given that as head of
Chicagoland schools Arne Duncan was
only two degrees removed from Illinois
governor Rod Blagojevich, and Rod's
about to be  out of a job, will Arne
appoint Rod as his Undersecretary of
Education, to come to DC and fix things
more way better there, too?
Q: Is it oxymoronic or merely
overly optimistic, idealistic and
hopeful to expect some-
one from Chicago to get rid of US
public ed corruption?
Q:  Will Arne try to bring his
Chi-Land Schools pay-for-
grades and gay high school
schemes to all of America?
Allen's followed up on
DMN reporter
Stahl's news last spring
that Dallas ISD leaders
board prez
Jack Lowe
are getting
millions in contracts
from the district.  Turns
TD Industries, one
of Jack's businesses
(he also chairs
is billing taxpayers
for what appears at first
glance to be the public
schools' equivalent of
those high-priced
hammers and toilet
seats we're always
hearing about at the
Defense Department. In
one specific example,
TDI billed DISD $9,912
for a fire alarm installa-
tion at a Samuel HS
portable (above) that
likely should have cost
at most "$3,000."  "The
Silent Knight model
5700 fire alarm panel
retails for $755.98,"
reports Allen.  More at
his website:
Question:  Are such
transactions indicative
of business people tied
to public schools being
public servants -- or
I care a lot about our district
and am proud of several of
our accomplishments
during the 2 years I was on
the Board.....I happily spent
hundreds of hours working
on the bond committee
and...I am pleased that we
improved somewhat the
transparency of district
operations. I hope you will
continue to work toward
providing a high quality
education, creating a
positive environment for our
students and employees,
and doing these using as
few tax dollars as possible.

In departing, I offer some
comments and advice.
Accept or reject as you see

To the Board.
Beware. I believe you are
moving in a dangerous
direction. When a majority
of Board members believe
their role is simply to
approve what the admini-
stration presents, there is a

When the Board
approves an
incommplete budget
and the administration
resists fixing it, there are
problems. When I, as a
member of the public, will
have faster and easier
access to district
information than I do as a
Board member, there is a

When Board
members want to
spend the $250k
after the two
refunding bonds passed
instead of reducing the $1.7
million deficit, there
is a problem.

When Board
members think it is
better for TEA to take
over the District
than it
is to make the difficult
financial choices to keep
the District solvent, there is
a problem.

See the pattern?

Diligence is needed,
not complacency.

This said, I do wish you all
health, peace, and the
courage to do what you
know is right.
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Copyright 1999-2008 Peyton Wolcott

"Walk softly
and carry a big stick."
-- Teddy Roosevelt

"Trust but verify."
-- Ronald Reagan
Just because you can
doesn't mean you should.
H o w   w e   t a k e  b a c k   o u r   c h i l d r e n ' s    e d u c a t i o n:    o n e   p e r s o n ,  o n e   q u e s t i o n ,   o n e   s c h o o l   a t   a   t i m e.
Contact Legal
About  Press
Wiki  Q & A
School News Links
Reviews: 2007  2006
Edu-Monopoly Education,Inc  Fin.Exigency ERDI
Technology   TX supe travel/meals   Credit cards
u-Conferences  TASA MidWinter Vendor golf 1  2  3
AZ  CA  Kansas  MD  OH  OK
TX: Ed.Comm. Edgewood 1 2 3 4 5
Cleburne  Katy  Llano   Bremond
Lobbyists  Pearson $1.423B
Akin Gump/Areva/Libya
DC lobbying  TX lobbying
Check Registers  US  TX  Ask your district
rAsk questions  Set goals/organize  Bd
Are you an angry victim/watchdog? Activist Alert PR
n e w   c o m m e n t a r i e s
ERDI supe
Alton Frailey (Katy ISD / Texas)
versus public  freedoms
First They Came

First they came for the communists, and I did not
speak out -- because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak
out -- because I was not a socialist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not
speak out -- because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out
--because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me --
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

-- Pastor Martin Niemoeller
Gloria from Luling on
sidewalk outside
Walsh Anderson party
at Austin's Iron Cactus
with unnamed man
who was
shy about  revealing
his name
(TASA Mid Winter,
2007 )
'ERDI supes in the news' has moved here
Key to accountability:  voluntary ethics pledges (school boards & candidates)   Education News  &  Human Events
Soghra Najafpour (L)
was sentenced to
death at age 13 for the
first time in
Iran; she's
now 31 --
more here.  
Did principal Robin E.
Lowe (L)  mention
Soghra during her
'Islam 101'  day May 22
at Friendswood  JH?  
Will she mention
Soghra at her new gig
running Houston ISD's
Pershing MS?  
Wouldn't that be a step
towards "raising [her
students'] awareness
of the culture" -- of the
true culture -- in Iran?  
That perhaps Robin's
invited speakers from
CAIR might have
forgotten to mention?  
12.21.08 UPDATE:  No
response yet from
Robin to telephone and
email queries.
IRAN: Execution
Danger Alert
Earlier School News Quick
Links here--Oct.-Nov. here
The American Superintendent
(Leonard Merrell) as Allan
Ramsay's King George III
(Mixed-media collage by Peyton
Wolcott, Copyright 2008)
November 2008 commentaries here
Hats off to
Jim Van
Wimberley ISD (TX)
Trustees doing
the right thing
1.  End discretionary spending.
Set an example for your staff; let
them know you mean business
about running a tighter ship:
No trips, no conferences, no
meals, no credit cards.  If you want
to learn more about something, use
Google.  Do a webinar.  Read a
newsletter.   No golf games with
vendors, ever.  No chauffeurs, no
rental cars.  Stay home, do your
work and keep your nose clean.

2.  Reduce administrative costs.
Go through your administrative staff
roster and cut every other job,
starting with getting rid of all PR and
marketing.  No advisors, no
consultants. Learn how to really
read a budget.  Put your check
register and all wire transfers online.

3.  Ethics.
No nepotism.  Let your wife and
kids earn a living in a field other
than education.  No board
members' spouses working in the
district.  Conduct all discussions
with vendors and potential vendors
in the open; invite your public to
watch and ask questions.  Throw
away your contract and work year
by year.  Move your chair off the
dais at board meetings.  You're not
a team member with your elected
trustees.  You're not equal to them.  
They're your boss.

4.  No construction.  
If you're the rare district truly
experiencing sufficient growth to
justify building new schools,
splinter off that population and let
them start their own new school
district or charter school.  They
might be able to take over an
abandoned church or office building
for much less than the Taj Mahal
you had in mind.

5.  Back-to-basics curriculum.
Math table (1st grade: add, 2nd
grade: subtract, 3rd grade multiply,
4th grade divide) daily drill.  You
made sure your own kids learned
the basics at home or with tutors;
why shouldn't all children have that
same opportunity?  Ditto for
phonics.  Classical literature.  
History, not social studies.  No
more block scheduling.  Daily P.E.
for all. Emphasize individual effort
and accomplishment.

6.  Attitude.  
You're a public servant, not a Third
World dictator. Practice humility
and gratitude.  Remember when
your employees laugh at your
jokes or tell you you're cool or
vendors marvel at your every
utterance that they're all sucking up
to you.  Remember why you got
into education to begin with.  Sell
your house in the gated community
and buy one in the middle of a real
subdivision like your average
parents and taxpayers can afford.  
Let yourself be driven not by the
latest platitude you picked up at the
latest education conference but by
the same wonderful noble desire to
educate kids that got you into this
nation & 49 states
b e s t   
p r a c t i c e s
s c h o o l  n e w s  
q u i c k   l i n k s
More "Best Practices" here.
2000-2001   $   121,951,145
2001-2002   $   137,745,786
2002-2003   $   169,103,740
2003-2004   $   188,618,903
2004-2005   $   188,838,330
2005-2006   $   215,068,567
 $   217,970,686
TOTAL        $1,239,297,157
2000-2001   $   204,116,731
2001-2002   $   180,097,229
2002-2003   $   254,465,426
2003-2004   $   199,905,502
2004-2005   $   199,940,243
2005-2006   $   198,907,113
2006-2007   $
TOTAL         $1,543,271,521
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Texas and U.S. taxpayers have sent
almost $3 billion
to Dallas ISD since 2000
JAN. 20, 2009
Scott Parks in DMN
.   Big picture/
JAN. 20, 2009
The big question:  With
family and money ties to
Asia, will Frankie Wong
(R) show up to begin
his sentence?  
Parks' DMN report
Best Practices Transparency
Lax oversight    Team of 8
Pass the trash
One clue as to the seduc-
tive nature of power is that
once you get some, it's
hard to voluntarily give it up.

President George
Washington gave our fledg-
ling nation a great gift by
walking away from the
presidency after only two
terms -- at a time when
many in America would
have happily allowed him
to be regent-for-life.  He
had the greater good in
mind and heart, and for his
gift we can all be grateful --
and look to his example.

Wimberley ISD trustee Jim
Van Overschelde has done
something commendable
along those same lines by
resigning from the WISD
school board earlier this
week after receiving a
promotion at the Texas
Education Agency.

In an articulate and
thoughtful letter of
resignation, Jim makes
some suggestions to his
fellow trustees of which it
would be wise for all
school board members
everywhere take heed.

From Jim's letter:
Jim Van Overschelde
Way to go, Jim!  
Trustees vote to extend
their term limits to 4
 Why? Why now?
Who benefits?
By Peyton Wolcott
Fri., Nov. 21, 2008 / 6:49 a.m.
If business and civic
leaders are really

running the show in DISD --
as they are in most of
America's 15,000 school
-- who in Dallas benefits the
most from extending the status
quo an extra year as occurred
at last night's DISD board

Which lucrative vendor
contracts -- including
technology and cons-
truction -- are thereby shored
up an extra year?  Which
relationships already
developed remain safely in
play and place for one more
budget cycle?

In a school district where
supe Mike Hinojosa got to per-
sonally touch as many as 1.7
billion actual dollars during the
most recently reported
PEIMS accounting period
(2006-07), who has the most
to gain from the decisions he
and his board make?

Many years ago I learned that
any time something
mystifying occurs in public
education and the pat answer
offered by the schools sounds
hollow, one rule always
DMN: DISD account-
ing system 'fatally
flawed' 'for years'

(but starting when?
and under whom?)
QUESTION #1:  Is the "lid
eally off" now? Q #2:  Who's
benefited  financially  from
DISD's accounting system
having no accountability?  
Q #3:  What specific steps did
former DISD supe
Moses take to fix things--no,
let me restate and clarify that
--to rectify the situation?
--Updated 11.24.08/8:04a.m.
Is is possible to keep the spirit of "Thanks -
Giving" going through December?
By Peyton Wolcott
Monday, December 1, 2008 / 11:53 a.m.
We just celebrated the best Thanksgiving
possible, joining 2,000 area families who each
picked up two young airmen at a local base and
took their pair to lunch.  
This morning  while downloading the photos we
took on Thursday several things went through my
mind.  You know, download, think:
One, it really is better to give than to receive. Gee,
you'd think I'd have figured this out by now.  Much
as I love the rituals of Thanksgiving -- waking up
early to put the turkey in the oven, start-
ing the potatoes, listening to Aaron Copeland's
"Appalachian Spring" on the classical station -- the
Young Air Guardsmen strolling
San Antonio RiverWalk
Thanksgiving Day 2008
only thing that could have made a hotel buffet on Thursday with two young airmen from
the Midwest better would have been to have had our whole family there--and theirs.  (We
would have fed them at our home but the airmen have to stay within a few miles of the
base.)  Rituals are just that:  rituals.  We gave our cellphones to our young airmen to call
home and one talked for quite a long time.  Afterwards he explained without needing to,
"There were 20 people in the room."  All 20 must have all slept a bit easier that night for
having had their first contact with him since his reaching San Antonio a few weeks earlier.
Two, they say character is what you do when no one's looking.   The Spungen family of
Waukegan, Illinois has done something remarkable; after selling their family's ball
bearing company, they gave $6.6 million to 230 employees as bonuses.  But this is a
family with a history of giving; when their children had their bar and bat mitzvahs, rather
than a five- or six-figure blowout as has become the norm for kids' coming-of-age parties,
this family instead hosted a kind of
bowling-for-dollars event (with the money given to
charity) for the son and a shopping spree (for needy families) for the daughter.  
Synchronicity: This morning when I called Waukegan to verify some of the foregoing, while
I was waiting on the phone, rather than elevator music I heard something familiar:
"The Things We Do For Love."  Indeed.  
Three, I've had a half-dozen or so conversations with friends over the past few weeks in
which either they'd lost most of their life savings in the market crash and/or they were
worried about the breadwinner's keeping his/her job.
Four, in light of one, two and three above, isn't this a good time for families to skip the
usual gift-giving and give instead to those in need?  And for our public school superin-
tendents to end their extravagant ways, like pay their own $165 greens fees out of their
six-figure salaries if they want to play golf on school days with vendors at resorts?   Bigger
picture, what about ending the cronyism that thrusts wasteful ill-proven curriculums on
our kids?  Isn't it time our 3rd graders were drilled again in the times tables?  So that our
public schools can be strong and free and locally run?  
Why I bring this up: former IBM/
Louis Gerstner is pushing for nationalized schools -- again.  Gee, isn't that
what Hitler tried, that Nazi thing that didn't end so well for Germany or any of the rest of us?
Has Allen Gwinn
found Dallas ISD's
$9,912 hammer?
By Peyton Wolcott
Wed., Dec. 3, 2008 - 4:06 a.m.
Samuel HS  (PHOTO-A.Gwinn)
High school principal, secretary
arrested for embezzlement
By Peyton Wolcott
Friday, December 5, 2008 / 6:40 a.m.
Despite supe Samuel A.
'Sam' DePaul, III's
(L) doctor-
ate in school administration, despite his
two decades as a member of the
American Association of School
Administrators, despite Sam's being
named last year as one of 7 finalists for
North Carolina "Superintendent of the
Year," despite his using a "collabora-
tive leadership" style -- despite all that, it
took an outside audit to discover that
Sam's high school principal,
Whitley Steele
(M), and her secretary,
Yvette Misenheimer (R), had
embezzled an as-yet undisclosed sum
of money.   Both women have been
arrested and both are out on bond;
Steele, age 69, has worked for Stanly
schools for almost 34 years.  Perhaps
Steele and Misenheimer misunderstood
Sam's collaborative leadership approach
to mean, "Let's you and me collaborate
and get us some of that cash the supe's
not monitoring very closely."  Perhaps it
wasn't that way at all.  However, absent
a statement from Sam, we can only
wonder and speculate.  Hopefully he'll
be able to depart that
ivory tower soon
and communicate with his community,
put their rumors to rest.  Hopefully also
he'll put his district's check register
and its state sisters start counseling
supes in fraud prevention and tighter
internal controls?  What about our Ph.D.
and Ed.D. factories?
Are there enough degrees of separation
between Arne and Blagojevich for Arne to be
the next US DOE secretary?
By Peyton Wolcott
Wednesday,  December 10, 2008 / 12:02 a.m. -
Updated Wednesday, December 10, 2008 / 9:59 a.m.
When I first saw the headline
yesterday morning that Illinois
Governor Rod Blagojevich had just
been arrested along with his chief of
staff, John F. Harris, on charges of
among other things trying to sell
Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat,
my first reaction was probably not that
different from yours, "Oh.  

You know, as in the 3 R's:  prior
governor George Ryan, former
Congressman Dan  Rostenkowski,  
and long-time Obama supporter Tony
Rezko.  As in, to quote Matt Drudge,
Arne Duncan (L) and Rod "Even My Hair's For Sale"  
Blagojevich (R)     
(GRAPHIC IMAGE--Peyton Wolcott)
What's Arne Duncan's track record on financial transparency?
Given that getting rid of corruption in public education must be job one for the next US
DOE secretary, and given that Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan has deep ties
to Chi-Land (he's from there), and given also that he's a front runner for the post, a good
question to ask is, "How transparent has Arne been during his tenure as supe of
Chicago schools?"  Meaning, how much has he opened up specific-dollar CPS actual
financials to the public in the cheapest, easiest and fastest way possible, by putting
checks online?  No pie charts, no percentages, no aggregates, but real checks-to?

When I went looking on Chicago Schools' website and couldn't find their checks, I called
the CPS PR department and asked whether Arne had made any plans to put their check
register online.  After explaining to the fellow with whom I spoke what a check register
was, he said he'd look into it and get back to me.  Shouldn't be that hard; even though
Florida's Miami-Dade County Public Schools has fewer students, if we can believe
Chicago Public Schools accounting over Miami's M-DCPS spent a lot more money last
year, $6.7 billion for all expenditures, all funds as opposed to the $4.6 bilion CPS will
admit to.  I sent the PR guy a helpful
link to Miami's check register so Arne could see for

Oh, wait!  Miami-Dade's check register is online because Marta Perez, an elected trustee,
pushed for it last year -- but all seven Chicago Public Schools trustees are appointed by
Mayor Daley.  D'ya think they'd risk losing their appointments by pushing for financial
transparency with a Chicago mayor who controls all of Chicago public ed?  

No response yet from CPS
Perhaps that was the famous "I'll get back to you when Hell freezes over" time frame.  Or,
maybe what the CPS PR guy really meant was, "It's a long way to Tipperary which is
"Crook County."  As in, "Chicago, Corruption Capital" and the "Chicago Machine."   As in,
apparently anything goes in Chi-Land and surrounds that's not nailed down.  

Graft, graft everywhere and not a drop to drink
Chicago's suburbs have not been immune from graft and corruption.  It was just over
three years ago -- a year after Gov. Blagojevich appointed Thomas Ryan, then-supe of
Community Consolidated School District 168 in Sauk Village (a half-hour south of
Chicago) to a
task force of school administrators to help shape Blagojevich's new
Department of Education -- that investigators raided Ryan's home and hauled off a
Left: Thomas Ryan (center) in his garage.  Right: Investigator carrying
laundry basket filled with cash.
 (PHOTOS--Southtown Star)
laundry basket filled with cash,
ten years of financial records,
computers and a collapsible
metal billy club.  Ryan was
eventually indicted, tried and
sent to a minimal-security
prison where, presumably
without the asp, he served
only a few years of his
eight-year sentence.
Role played by
investigative journalists
A shout out to the Daily Southtown:  
The Illinois State Attorney only began
looking into Sauk Village schools'
finances after The Daily Southtown
published stories by reporters Linda
Lutton and Kati Phillip regarding
questionable payments made to
Thomas Ryan, his family and school
district vendors.
And earlier this year it was reported that "former Hoover-Schrum Elementary District 157
administrator Rosemary Hendricks was paid as superintendent for the Calumet City
school system and another suburban Cook County school district."  Two months ago, the
suburban Cook County district, Bellwood SD 88, accepted Hendricks' resignation and
appointed an interim supe.  
(SOURCES--Joan Carreon/ Northwestern Indiana Times; David
Pollard/Proviso Herald; and
Proviso Insider Blogspot)
While a former Chicago Public School manager remained jailed on felony
theft charges Tuesday, the high school that entrusted her with its finances
is struggling to recover from a loss of nearly half a million dollars.  Marilyn
Jenkins-Evans, 47, was ordered held on $200,000 bail by Criminal Court
Judge Thomas Hennelly, a day after she was arrested on allegations that
she stole $457,000 from Simeon Career Academy High School, where
she once worked as business manager.  Investigators alleged that she
wrote herself 319 checks, forged the former principal's signature and
Closer to home, Tracy Dell'Angela and Jeff Coen of  the Chicago Tribune reported on
something that occurred on Arne Duncan's watch as CEO at Chicago Public Schools:
2006 mug shot
deposited them in her personal accounts over more than five years at the school.  "How
is this school going to recoup that money?" asked the interim principal of the South Side
school, Leonard Kenebrew. "That's $90,000 a year for five years. That could have been
novels. Or microscopes. Or training for the teachers. Or field trips for the students. It's so
where we hid the check register and when we
get it cleaned up I'll get back to you."  In any
event, at press time there was still no response
from Chi-Land Schools about Arne's intention
(or not) to put their check register online.

Here's hoping Mayor Daley will let Arne put CPS
checks online whether or not Arne makes US
DOE secretary; specific-dollar transparency in
the form of online check registers is a terrific
way for honest Illinois administrators and
politicians to separate themselves from  the
Blagojevich / 3R's crowd.
American public ed got off track
By Peyton Wolcott
Sun., Dec. 14, 2008 / 6:31 a.m.
(L to R) Michael Copper, James Joiner
and Nikki Woodson
Although I'm still not sure
why a chance notice that a middle
school principal in Indiana had been
arrested a second time for driving while
intoxicated grabbed my attention -- out
of the dozens of similar news stories I
receive daily -- I'm glad it did because
a closer look at the Metropolitan School
District of Lawrence Township can
show us much about where and how
our public schools began failing our
kids, even those in the heartland of
When those
lists that come out every
year cite Indianapolis as being a great
place to live, what they really mean
are Indy's prosperous suburbs such as
Lawrence to the northeast.  Just as
elsewhere across America parents
wanting to raise their children in safer
more rural settings fled city centers, so
too in Indianapolis . . . .
Developing . . . .
Arne 'I'm from Illinois 2'
Duncan named today as
US DOE secretary ?
By Peyton Wolcott
Tuesday, December 16, 2008 - 4:33 am
Arne Duncan (L), Rod Blagojevich
Alabama's trying to
unravel this educator's
phony 'University of
Beverly Hills' doctorate
By Peyton Wolcott
Friday, December 19, 2008 / 12:56 a.m.
To better understand U.S.
public education watch almost
10 minutes of excruciatingly
slow video
More good news from
GCISD:  Frank has volun-
tarily posted the district's

register online .  Way
to go, Grape Creek!
Hats off to
Frank Walter
Grape Creek ISD (TX)
Student art mural
At a time when some
administrators are hiring
vendors to paint patriotic or
school spirit-inspired
murals on their schools'
walls, Grape Creek ISD
superintendent Frank
Walter has continued the
time-honored tradition of
allowing student-painted
The mural above, by art
Jack Cavness'
Grape Creek High School
students, is part of a larger
effort in nearby San Angelo
to place more
art in public

More here from GCISD's
home page:
Frank Walter
Everybody wins with
disciplined and focused
student-painted murals
such as this.  Kids have
learned a skill with which
they can make money for
themselves in the future,
and tax dollars are saved.  
Plus the world's a prettier

Here's an aquatic-themed  
mural painted last year at
an expressway by Jack's
students at San Angelo
ISD's Central High:
The seventh period art
class of Mr. Jack Cavness
created a mural for the
GCHS Library and
presented it to Mrs. Franklin
Dec. 12th.  It was produced
in sections with all class
members creating different
parts of the artwork.  This is
quite an undertaking,
because each piece has to
match perfectly when it
comes together.  The eagle
now soars on the west wall
in the library.  Come by and
look at their great work.
Was this a good idea?
Detroit supe & CFO
at Boca Raton resort?
By Peyton Wolcott
Sunday, December 21, 2008/3:07 pm
Wouldn't a better -- and more
apropos -- use of
their time this past September,
just three months after DPS'
$408 million deficit was
announced, have been for
supe Connie Calloway and
her CFO Joan McCray to have
stayed home rather than going
to an edu-conference at a
posh Florida resort, especially
one featuring a gala and golf?
L to R: Connie Calloway, Joan
McCray, Sherry Washington
Friends, this is so very encouraging for the future of our great nation that public schools
in 27 states have raced this far this fast towards transparency.
WOW!  School checks online in  27 states!  401 districts!  294 in Texas!
To access this site including rosters you have
read and accepted Terms & Conditions here
brick wall, detainment by three armed
school district police officers in San
Antonio on August 3, 2006.  I took the
event seriously for serious reasons
(more below at "Edgewood").

I quickly came to the conclusion that
there had to be a better way than
risking life and limb to bring
transparency to our public schools.
Why a sense of urgency
As our economy continues to tank because of and despite
misguided  efforts at
unbridled socialism and subsequent
attempted fixes, and as employment declines along with
housing prices, public schools are going to have to
voluntarily rein themselves in; this will  be tough going with
so many demands on tax dollars. (To help you understand
the complexity of our vendor-driven public schools, I've
prepared this
special report.)  

It's important that all of our 15,000 U.S. school districts
post their checks online as soon as possible so that we
can start a meaningful dialogue about spending such that
our schools remain solvent, strong and locally run.  For all
but the very largest districts, putting a check register online
is a simple matter of taking checks that are already online,
sorting out payroll and HIPAA, then PDF'ing whatever is left
over and posting the PDF; this entire process usually
takes at most a few minutes.  Earlier expressed concerns
about technology and additional requirements of staff time
have all proven to be unfounded.  (More

We must educate our kids better and for less money.  
Multi-million dollar deficits in dropout factories like Detroit
and Dallas hurt everyone and only encourage those such
as former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner to whom the Wall Street
Journal recently gave page space for his advocacy of  
nationalization, towards which NCLB was a lope.  
A tip of the Texan hat
to our first honoree,
the Texas Public Policy
Foundation, for whom this
award is named, for the
greatest number of errors
(100-plus, see below) in
one check register roster!
"TPPFSY" as in "TIPSY"
as in, Gee, somebody
must have been a bit
TPPFSY to have made
that many errors!
Our little smilin' cowboy's
already back out
a-prowlin' the Internet
prairie looking for more
awardees!  If you're
compiling check register
rosters for schools, and
you've got 100 or more
errors like TPPF, you
could be next!

Yippee ki-yay!
Why I advocate online check registers
As a long-time filer of public records requests, I'd taken
this line of inquiry about as far as I could when I ran into a
Edgewood ISD PR guy
and 3 cops hurried away
after it felt safe enough for
me to pull out my cell.
Almost two months later a simplistic and naive idea -- which I
recognized as such at the time -- occurred to me: Start a national
roster of school districts with their check registers online for the
purpose of jumpstarting a national grassroots movement.  
There are 294 names of
Texas school districts
who are voluntarily
posting their check
registers on my roster.  
You can read their names
and tally them up for
yourself.  However,
according to the Texas
Public Policy Foundation,
there are only 160
districts posting.  Even
though they are pushing
for greater transparency,
TPPF has not been
willing to post their roster
all in one place.  Instead,
there is an awkward
by-county drop-down.
Check Register and
Aggregate Payroll Amount
Title 19, TX Admin. Code
Optional. Starting in
calendar year 2008, this
internet posting rule applies
if a school district wishes to
appeal the Schools FIRST
performance based upon
fiscal year 2007 expendi-
ture data for the new
indicator 13 related to the
65% rule.  If a district wishes
to appeal its performance
under the new indicator 13,
the check register for the
fiscal year is to be posted
within the 30-day review
period following the release
of preliminary ratings by TEA
(this will occur on or about
June 2008).
tabulation.  Many districts for reasons of their own have decided they
don't want or need or care about the 3 points.  Fortunately, many
others have posted because they understand that voluntary
transparency puts them into the winners' column on many levels.

approach we have found works; details
here.  Many of the districts
you see on my three rosters -- all the most complete in the nation --
have posted their check registers online because they've been
approached in the friendly way described above.  In sharp contrast,
NOT A SINGLE DISTRICT among the 401 who are online thus far
has posted because they've been attacked by angry constituents,
pelted by email campaigns, diluged by petitions or had demands
made that they do so in letters to the editor or guest editorials or
blogs.  Not one.  Superintendent after superintendent has told me
that they find such attacks off-putting.  I don't blame them.  When we
feel we are being attacked, the most natural thing in the world is to
go into hunker-down mode.  It amazes me that folks who agree that
the Golden Rule is a good thing forget to use it in their dealings with
Even with the Texas Public Policy Foundation's 100-plus errors
on their Texas public school district accountability site, there's
some good news in that, too:  TPPF's numbers are all very low!

Here's the breakdown:  
TPPF states that only 160 districts have posted their check
their local schools. In fact, much of the work I do consists of undoing previous attempts
which proved to be at best unproductive and at worst counter-productive.  As one dad told
me last week, "I wish we'd found you three years ago."   (His district's check register was
online within a month after I began working with him.)
It's always useful when pressing for transparency to show hard stats, so here are mine:  
o  There are 4.6 million students in Texas public schools; 3.4 million in online districts.
o  $22 billion is online from local districts (out of $46.5 billion total expenditures/all funds
in actuals for 2006-07) & $19.4 billion from TEA (apples to apples data) with the result
that out of $66.9 billion total possible (1031 districts and TEA), 62% is online.
registers online, when in fact almost twice that many have (294).  Also, TPPF states that
only 35% of students and spending are represented by districts with online check
registers, when in fact almost twice the number of students (64%)
and spending (62%) are online.   TPPF provides no visible roster --
you must scroll through all 254 Texas counties individually to view
their data -- and only percentages, and few hard numbers other than
the 160 -- the $50 billion they quote "for the public education system"
does not define the categories included in that number -- plus
there's the wildly out-of-date pie chart at right.   Our cheerful cowboy
friend, TPPFSY, got a big chuckle out of the orange slice being about
half the size it should be.  Because he's such a helpful little fellow,
TPPFSY pulled his favorite pink marker out of his saddlebags and
striped in some of the missing portion of TPPF's pie chart.
the district had sunk to "Academically Unacceptable," the fourth and lowest rating.  This
dismal showing seemed worth recording given that this was the lead district for a series
of so-called equity lawsuits which had cost taxpayers billions of dollars.  
      This kind of
machismo show of muscle and intimidation had special meaning
coming as it did from the same district who'd just been on the front page of the local
paper a few months earlier for their police officers having chased a suspect off campus
and followed him several blocks away where the suspect was
shot in the ensuing
scuffle.   (This is legal, I learned, for armed school district police officers to chase
anyone anywhere.  The phrase is "in pursuit," and it should prompt all of us to wonder
whether an appointed school district superintendent should be given free rein to
mobilize his or her private force of armed police officers; there are many instances
where supes have used their private police forces to intimidate parents.)
Misleading signage on the front door of Edgewood
ISD's administration building.  
(PHOTO--Peyton Wolcott)
A few of the 100-plus errors and omissions (above) on Texas Public Policy Foundation's school district trans-
parency website.  Below, TPPF got all 6 districts in Hockley County wrong despite themselves providing links for
all; the 5 circled TPPF says are not online actually are, and the 1 that TPPF says is online (the X) actually isn't.