|P E Y T O N W O L C O T T
How we take back our children's education:
one person, one question, one school at a time.
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|Copyright 1999-2008 Peyton Wolcott
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
|s c h o o l n e w s q u i c k l i n k s a r c h i v e s - Dec. 2008 / Jan. 2009
|Friends, some of these links may no longer work; hopefully there's enough information here that you can Google & call up at least the cached version.
|Houston ISD supe Abe Saavedra at the podium celebrating
what the Mexican American School Boards Association
called their "Triple Crown":
Abe in Houston, Rubén Olivárez in San Antonio,
and Mike Hinojosa in Dallas.
(Photo taken by Peyton Wolcott at TASB/TASA convention - Dallas, October 2005)
TX: Turn up
& the other 49 state
start promoting pre-embezzlement
internal trainings to school
When will our school superintendents
and school board members start paying
closer attention to their fiduciary
They must -- and now --
if our great public schools are to
remain strong and locally governed.
DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Did Queen Connie really need
someone to carry her purse?
|Connie Calloway (Collage by Peyton Wolcott)
INSET: Former Katy ISD (TX) supe Leonard Merrell was my
first historical collage, here as King George III. Thanks to
readers for their suggestions; who knows who'll be next?
"The CEO's of the United States
are the Louis XIV's of the 21st
STANLY COUNTY SCHOOLS (NC)
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) doctorate 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 "collaborative leadership" style
-- despite all that, it took an outside audit
to discover that Sam's high school
principal, Joyce 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 online.
QUESTION: When will AASA and its
state sisters start counseling supes in
fraud prevention and tighter internal
controls? What about our Ph.D. and
LAWRENCE, INDIANA: How
American public ed got off track
By Peyton Wolcott
Sun., Dec. 14, 2008 / 6:31 a.m.
|(L to R) Michael Copper, James Joiner, 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 America.
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 . . . .
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
|The ink's not even written yet on his
capo de capos Rod Blagojevich's
letter of resignation, yet Chicago Public
Schools supe Arne Duncan is expected
to be named later today by his long-time
pickup basketball companion,
president-elect 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,
Q: Is it oxymoronic or merely overly
optimistic, idealistic and hopeful to
expect someone 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?
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 here.
Allen's followed up on DMN reporter Lori
Stahl's news last spring that Dallas ISD
leaders including board prez Jack Lowe
are getting millions in contracts from the
district. Turns out TD Industries, one
of Jack's businesses (he also chairs
Zales) 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
installation 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:
www.Dallas.org Question: Are such
transactions indicative of business
people tied to public schools being public
servants -- or self-serving?
Has Allen Gwinn found
Dallas ISD's $9,912
By Peyton Wolcott
Wed., Dec. 3, 2008 - 4:06 a.m.
Questions for January
By Peyton Wolcott
Thurs., Jan. 1, 2009 /1 am
Will Frankie Wong show up in Dallas on
Jan. 20 for his 10 yrs. in prison?
|Frankie Wong (R) of Dallas ISD's Yachtgate
tech scandal (PHOTO--J. Mahoney/Dallas News)
How many school execs are tooling
around in vendors' luxury yachts & more --
where whistle-blowers haven't come
|Wong's "Sir Veza" used by DISD exec
Ruben Bohuchot, renamed the "Rehab"
Will Johnny Veselka (right)
introduce self-policing to
the Texas Ass'n of School
Administrators in 2009?
If Johnny proposed such a
thing would he be fired?
Has Frankie Wong submitted his
formal intent to no-show tomorrow
By Peyton Wolcott
Monday, Jan. 19, 2009
Frankie's 10-year date with the American
penal system, the result of his conviction last
year for bribing Dallas ISD tech head Ruben
Bohuchot with among other things exclusive
use of a fishing yacht in exchange for DISD
contracts, is set to start tomorrow. Although
lead prosecutor Dayle Elieson called Mr.
Wong a flight risk at his November senten-
cing, he was granted liberty until tomorrow.
Anybody received any postcards from Frankie
postmarked Hong Kong? Taiwan?
Elsewhere in Asia where he still "has family
and friends"? (SOURCE--Scott Parks/
Dallas Morning News)
(1) Brownsville ISD's big post-Broad
fingerpointing match (2) Yup,
Frankie Wong no-showed
By Peyton Wolcott
Wed., Jan. 21, 2009/2:03 am
Let's see if we can sort things out at another
corrupt MALDEF Robin Hood district. (1)
Brownsville ISD's supe is claiming the board
wanted him to be corrupt and when he
refused the board forced him out. BISD's
former CFO is also claiming the board wanted
him to be corrupt, too, but afterwards they were
supposed to gang up on the supe and he'd get
his job back. Or something like that.
(2) Dallas ISD update: Frankie Wong pulled
out the health card to avoid making his prison
date yesterday at the men's unit in Bastrop.
New surrender date is Jan. 27, 2009, and he
must supply medical documentation of his
alleged health problems. Be there or be
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
symbolically 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
|L to R: Connie Calloway, Joan McCray,
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 some legal
issues of her own.
May God bless Detroit.
Q: Why did Judson ISD hire special
ed attorneys to investigate PBK
construction fraud allegations?
By Peyton Wolcott
Thur., Jan. 22, 2009/10:30 a.m.
A: Maybe Judson's leadership didn't really
want to find anything. Remember that great
line from Casablanca: "Round up the usual
Were Judson ISD serious, wouldn't they have
hired a forensic accounting firm to do a
Here's my query earlier today to Jeff Rogers at
Feldman & Rogers:
|Jeff, I'm writing to learn more about Feldman
& Rogers' experience and expertise
including client names in the area of
investigating allegations of school
Who are some of your school district clients
whom you have successfully represented in
this area, where your client school districts
What might be some specific examples with
names where you have investigated possible
school construction fraud in Texas where you
have found fraud by construction
management firms, architects, contractors,
Without naming any school districts in
particular, I was surprised to learn that your
firm -- best traditionally known to many of us
as public education special education
specialists -- had been hired to look into
allegations of possible fraud and
management issues related to school
construction projects at a Texas public school
Wondering why you didn't pass this
engagement to an accountancy firm with the
recommendation that they conduct a forensic
Also, what type of legal services -- special
education? construction investigation?
something else? -- would Judson's $
61,787.88 payment to Feldman & Rogers in
Judson's third quarter have been for?
HERE'S THE ONLY RESPONSE
RECEIVED TO DATE FROM JEFF
ROGERS, DISAPPOINTING GIVEN
THE MILLIONS FORKED OVER TO
THIS LAW FIRM BY TEXAS
TAXPAYERS: "Our firm provides a full
range of legal services to Texas public school
districts and charter schools. While we have
an extensive special education practice, we
have never been strictly a special education
law firm. I invite you to visit our website at
www.feldmanrogers.com for more
information about our firm. I cannot comment
on matters related to our representation of
specific clients for reasons I am sure you can
appreciate and understand."
CARROLLTON-FARMERS BRANCH ISD
Former supe of the year Annette
Griffin pleads guilty
By Peyton Wolcott
Sun., Jan. 25, 2009
|Annette Griffin (R) TAPE awards
Aug. 21, 2008
Arrested for driving drunk; on way to school
board meeting, Annette doesn't tell board
Oct. 9, 2008
Annette granted leave of absence by board;
continues to receive paycheck.
Oct. 15, 2008
C-FBISD PR gal Angela Shelley claims the
school district (her employer) is still confident
in her boss.
Annette continues to receive $23,750 each
month from F-CBISD taxpayers as her base
pay plus perqs.
Dec. 5, 2008
Annette finally resigns. Board pays her a
$100,000 settlement rather than risk lengthy
and costly trial. The district publishes her
undated letter of apology which only refers
(twice) to "my mistakes." Presumably
Annette did not consider her insisting on
collecting an extra $100,000 from district
taxpayers and school-
children a "mistake." If it was really a
"privilege to serve" why not let the district keep
Jan. 20, 2009
Annette pleads guilty and is put on probation.
|According to the Dallas Morning News, Griffin,
62, entered the plea . . . in Dallas County
Criminal Court No. 3 and received 15 months
of probation, chief clerk Liz Fleet-
wood said. She also paid a $750 fine and
$453 in court fees.
Griffin Collie, Griffin's attorney, comments to
|"This process has taken its toll. This entire
process has been so public that it's caused
her a lot of remorse and shame, and a lot of
pain for the school district."
But have these events been so "public" and
caused (by her own actions) Annette
sufficient "remorse and shame" that she will
return to the schoolchildren she cares so
much about the quarter mil plus she's cost
them since her DWI arrest?
|"I believe that banking
institutions are more dangerous
to our liberties than standing
armies. If the American people
ever allow private banks to
control the issue of their
currency, first by inflation, then
by deflation, the banks and
corporations that will grow up
around [the banks] will deprive
the people of all property until
their children wake-up homeless
on the continent their fathers
conquered. The issuing power
should be taken from the banks
and restored to the people, to
whom it properly belongs."
ATLANTA PS (GA)
Another AASA supe of the year
finalist in the news: Beverly
Hall's audit woes persist &
persist & persist & . . . .
By Peyton Wolcott
Monday, January 12, 2009 / 3:02 a.m.
Q: When's the last time you
heard the phrase, That's a
(George M. Cohan to FDR in Yankee Doodle
|The nation's 1st & only daily conservative public education commentary
|Beverly Hall (L), Atlanta Mayor Franklin
In May 2006 I contacted the PR office at
Atlanta Public Schools to ask three
|1. Info re APS supe Beverly Hall's ERDI
2. Info re Hall's other side consulting.
3. Could they send me Hall's current
employment contract including all perqs.
You'd have thought I'd asked something
personal like the superintendent's hat
size or whether she liked fettucini.
Despite his years working for CNN, the
Asian Wall Street Journal and UPI, APS
spokesman Joe Manguno seemed
surprised by money questions:
|"The kind of information you're asking
me I'm going to have to sit down with
[Beverly Hall] and ask whether she's
willing to give this information. Nobody
gets to the superintendent without going
through this department; that's why I'm
here, as gatekeeper."
Perhaps they didn't talk about money at
WSJ or CNN. In any event, Joe
apparently never did have that sit-down
with Beverly as the district still has not
produced the information.
However, the district's not producing
basic financial information may have a
more simple explanation: Perhaps it's
just not there. Meaning, their books are
in such shape that they don't have
current or reliable data.
|Widespread errors and missing
paperwork have continued to plague
Atlanta Public Schools’ financial books
despite repeat warnings from auditors.
State auditors noted serious defects in
each of the five years since a judge
ordered them to begin examining the
system. For two years, financial
statements were in such disarray that
examiners refused to vouch for their
accuracy. Audits provide crucial
oversight for agencies by testing their
safeguards against fraud and theft and
ensuring their balance sheets
accurately represent their financial
The district’s most recent noted: mislaid
payroll records that included a half-
dozen personnel files, questionable
purchasing card use and trouble
verifying a $20 million correction the
district had suggested.
The report issued late last year, which
covers July 2006 through June 2007,
also said the district failed to produce
documents supporting its accounting
of capital assets, debt payment
service and payroll —- leading the
auditors to decline to give an opinion.
Auditors do so when they don’t see
enough evidence to know an agency’s
financial statements are correct. “That’
s pretty significant,” said Ben Riden Jr.,
a deputy state audit director.
(SOURCE--Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Hopefully they'll find Beverly's
employment contract among those
missing documents so they'll know the
right amount to pay her.
On other fronts, Atlanta Public Schools'
check register is not online, and -- drum
roll, please --Beverly Hall's now the
latest ERDI consultant in the news.
Shine a light on
Dothan (Alabama) Eagle editorial
Published: January 22, 2009
We applaud state school board member
Betty Peters of Dothan, who wants the public
to know how its money is being spent.
This week, Peters urged local school
districts to post some financial information,
such as details from a check register, on
their Web sites for easy access by members
of the public.
“In many communities, public education is
suffering from a lack of trust and support by
the taxpayers and the voters,” Peters told the
Eagle. “The schools often think the solution
is to hire a public relations expert, yet the real
answer is to be up front with the public.”
City and county school systems operate with
tax funds, and state law requires that
financial information for those systems be
available to the public.
We see no reason why Peters’ suggestion
should not be implemented. Taxpayers
deserve a convenient way to review public
spending so they can make informed
decisions about education-targeted tax hike
The additional daylight should also make
school boards and administrators think twice
about potentially questionable expenses