Another ERDI? BCPS Affiliate Brokers Edtech Company Access to Schools

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UPDATED: Baltimore County Public Schools recently touted yet another education technology award for three top administrators who have pushed the controversial laptop program known as STAT — locally and at conferences nationwide.
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Trouble is: the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), which granted the “award,” also offers education tech companies face-to-face or “virtual” access to school leaders via paid “sponsorship” levels: “Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze.”
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Another case of pay-to-play?
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CoSN “sponsors,” according to their website, include tech firms doing business with BCPS: Schoology, CDW-G, HP, SAFARI Montage, Microsoft, Cisco, and others that are paid nearly $2 million annually in license fees alone, with increases slated for next year’s controversial proposed BCPS budget.
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Isn’t this cosy?
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Check out this tweeted image too of BCPS IT “leaders” yucking it up last week at the CoSN Conference in Portland, Oregon. Who is paying for all this? (See postscript below, with a whopping $1.75 million in employee travel and conference-related costs proposed for next budget year alone).
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And this, during the same weeks Baltimore County struggles to cover BCPS teacher salary increases for next year, as well as find funds to pay much-needed student counselors or build new schools — overall, facing difficult budget choices about what dire needs to fund or not to fund in the county’s public schools:

Mar 31

CETL Team six fills the elevator

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In a move reminiscent of industry-related “awards” claimed by former superintendent Dallas Dance, consider the latest BCPS PR missive: “James Corns, executive director of information technology for Baltimore County Public Schools, Ryan Imbriale, executive director of innovative learning, and Jeanne Imbriale, BCPS director of enterprise applications, recently earned the Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) designation, awarded by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN),” according to a March BCPS press release. (In the image above: Imbriales back left. Corns on the right with his CETL badge.)
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Earning the Certified Education Technology Leader certification demonstrates a commitment to bringing 21st century learning to our nation’s schools,” said Keith Krueger, CAE, chief executive officer of CoSN. “Because of the CETL recertification requirements, certified leaders pledge to stay current in this ever-changing field of education technology.”
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Here is how CoSN also advertises access to school leaders for companies who hope to market edtech wares:
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CoSN sponsorships provide unique opportunities to reach decision makers in the K-12 education technology market. We offer our sponsors:

*  Valuable marketing opportunities by providing access to education technology leaders virtually and at face-to-face meetings.

* Increased visibility in the K-12 education market.
* Stronger understanding of the education marketplace and trends impacting companies.
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Four annual sponsorship packages are available: Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. There are also stand-alone sponsorship opportunities for leadership initiatives, Annual Conference, regional CTO clinics, national awards, scholarships, CETL certification, advocacy, and international activities.”
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Is there a specific corporate sponsor for the CETL certifications of the three taxpayer-paid BCPS employees?
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How can conflicted cross-germination connections possibly continue?
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The controversial Education Research & Development Institute (ERDI) brokers similar private company access to public school decision makers, as reported by The New York Times. That included ERDI conferences, panels, and face-to-face meetings with Dance, who was later convicted of perjury related to financial disclosure forms. Current Interim Superintendent Verletta White was later cited for ethics violations for undisclosed income from ERDI. Among other criticized contracts in various districts across the country, ERDI clients have been awarded more than $60 million in no-bid BCPS contract spending authorities. 
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According to ERDI offerings: “Panels of expert superintendents provide honest, candid insight and feedback that clients typically incorporate to upgrade their products and services and to modify their marketing plans . . . In addition to the panel session, ERDI conferences include different social events to help clients truly harness the power of networking with these top educational leaders.” For more info, see ERDI About Us.
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Ongoing questionable relationships between public school admins and industry groups paid by for-profit entities to gain access to such leaders raise questions about whether anyone has learned anything about ethics, potential conflicts-of-interest, spending priorities, or biased approaches to educating children in Baltimore County Public Schools.
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Despite the fact that the laptops and digital curricula are not improving student learning outcomes and is strangling the district financially, Corns did no fewer than four videos promoting the BCPS tech initiative and related from the CoSN conference, posted via EdScoop on YouTube here. In the first, he speaks in near-spiritual terms about BCPS One being “platform-agnostic” and allowing “students a uniform experience as they’re working through their daily practice.”
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For CoSN “sponsor” firms and BCPS vendors, including recently contracted Schoology related to BCPS One, see BCPS chart, 2019-20 Information Technology Software Licenses Fees, at end of this board member Q & A here. Among other fee increases: nearly $62,000 more requested for 2019-20 for CoSN sponsor SAFARI Montage, rising to $473,800. Former BCPS IT director Lloyd Brown is now that company’s VP of “Digital Strategies.”
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For another glimpse of ironic travesty, see this: Ryan Imbriale on a panel at the January 2019 FETC conference titled: “Fast Track: How to Ramp Up Your District’s Digital Transformation.”
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Bottom line: Taxpayer-funded junkets to promote an overpriced, underperforming edtech program in public schools — after hundreds of millions of dollars wasted — in the midst of a severe county budget crisis?
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Baltimore County — facing an $81 million shortfall and a litany of desperate needs in public schools — must act. It’s time for a much closer look at BCPS employee travel, spending, and the appearance of conflicts-of-interest: Local media, state and county auditors, Board of Education, Baltimore County elected officials?

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Joanne C. Simpson
To be updated. 
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Follow the Money and “Awards”
More on CoSN’s deep-pocket tech connections here from Missouri Education Watchdog, links and resources within.
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Postscript Budget Note:

For more on BCPS employee travel costs: FYI: See “Responses to board member questions,” # 20: ‘Over-night travel per diem, Conference registration fees, Professional dues’ — for exactly which departments and employee positions? Note that this amount does not even include mileage, for mostly local travel and events. See earlier budget analysis on costly administrator travel expenditures here and here.

Travel and conference-related travel in proposed budget for FY20 alone: ~ $1,750,000

Source: http://www.bcps.org/budget/FY20/responses_to_board_member_questions_fy20_operating_020119.pdf
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Additional BCPS employee travel and promotional links: 

Other slated panels and edtech conferences, search for employee names, including Ryan Imbriale, FETC 2020 here and at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) here. See Imbriale’s testimonial ad for ISTE “Membership” here too, promotions Dance also did, to much criticism. “I really believe that ISTE is serving all educators all around the world when it comes to finding a place for digital learning,” Ryan Imbriale.

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