Playing Dice with Our Children and Our Tax Dollars

Yesterday, Baltimore County Public Schools hosted the TEAM BCPS STAT Partner/Stakeholder meeting. From the title, one might think this would include teachers, parents, and community members who have an interest in the progress of STAT and the success of local schools. But think again, as this was anything but.

“Stakeholder” has many definitions. The most common is “a member of an organization or system that has an interest in its success.” However, the word has its origin from a gambling term, meaning “an independent party with whom wagers are deposited.” Perhaps this is the more apt definition to use here, as the “stakeholders” involved were various STAT administrators (including Dallas Dance, Ryan Imbriale, and Verletta White) along with representatives from several corporate entities, including Engrade, Discovery Education, and Knovation, who obviously all have some skin in the game with BCPS.

For just one example, consider Knovation (out of Cincinatti, Ohio, whose title is an unholy grammatical Frankenstein of the words “know” and “innovation), a company that provides digital content. The company is run by Steve Nordmark and Randy Wilhelm, who are not educators but corporate consultants in the educational technology industry, who also have their fingers in the pies of educational publishing and the software industry association. Their mission statement reads “Together, we ignite the hope of knowing in every child.” A more meaningless statement is impossible; maybe they should have stuck with the usual “together, we’re making the world a better place” cliché.

Are Mr. Nordmark and Mr. Wilhelm our stakeholders? Are corporations? Perhaps our bets have been placed with them, as they are happy to take some of the cash that the STAT initiative has to offer.

This “stakeholder” meeting occurred the same day that the Baltimore County council was set to ask questions of Dallas Dance and BCPS officials in regards to the FY2017 audit report of the Baltimore County Public Schools Operating Budget, which was released on May 16. The report, which is available here, identified several areas of concern, specifically about the rise of spending for STAT while other areas such as salaries, maintenance, transportation, and student well-being have been neglected.

Unfortunately, the Baltimore County council members (Tom Quirk, David Marks, Vicki Almond, Wade Kach, Cathy Bevins, and Todd Crandell) pitched only softballs at Dance, giving the audit report and any concerns about STAT a Baltimore County old boy pat-on-the-back and pass. But that is a story for another time.

A favorite metaphor of Dr. Dance and the BCPS leadership is that BCPS is “building the plane as we fly it.” To extend this metaphor…the county audit report tells us that there are numerous and profound safety, maintenance, and quality concerns about that BCPS plane. But Dallas Dance, Ryan Imbriale, Verletta White, and their STAT “stakeholders” are more than ready to load that plane with our children and send it out over the ocean, no matter the consequences. The metaphor must close here, as education is not truly an airplane, but the consequences of the inaction and arrogance of the BCPS leadership will be no less dire.

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4 thoughts on “Playing Dice with Our Children and Our Tax Dollars

  1. Wow! That is just stunning. Are they completely tone deaf about the corporatization of schools? The fact that for-profit companies that make tons of money off our children should be called “education partners” is beyond the pale. Ok, so they are software curriculum providers doing business with the county school system. Business, not educators. Shouldn’t we be taking their claims with a hefty grain of salt? Yes, of course we should. They are paid vendors, not team players. Calling them “stakeholders” under the current definition is more than a sleight of hand. It’s deceptive. And what role do the parents of the very children in these schools play–those pesky parents who pay the taxes that fund the salaries or coffers of those featured here? Down the hall somewhere dodging crumbling school ceilings, overflowing bathroom sinks or trying to find a Risk Management Director whose job goes unfilled.

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  2. I’m sorry, but who objectively looks at this software and other offerings? What do teachers think?

    If everyone involved is so over the top ‘rah rah,’ how can there be any objectivity, especially if the super and the for-profit companies work so closely together outside of the schools, at panels and events and cross country live chats or phone interviews from Discovery Education’s headquarters in Silver Spring, MD….

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