Janet Parks MORE2
Janet Parks, MORE2, testifies in public hearing regarding charges against the Missouri State Board of Education
Carolyn Randazzo
Carolyn Randazzo, Metropolitan Congregations United

 

Representatives from Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (MORE2) and Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU)  held a hearing in Jefferson City today about questionable practices by DESE and The State Board of Education.  Janet Parks of MORE2 had previously filed FOIA requests (2013) to determine the process in which the state educational agency and State Board awarded a state contract ($385,000) to CEE Trust (a private NGO) for education reform in the Kansas City School District.   In the hearing, Parks and Randazzo (MCU) accused the newly appointed DESE commissioner Margie Vandheven,at that time an assistant commissioner, of fixing a bid process for the turn around model for the Kansas City School District.

As reported in December 2013:

The Kansas City Star reports that Nicastro has been instrumental in planning more charter school expansion in the Kansas City School district.  This plan is even as the district has shown improvement in its scores, a necessary component necessary to regain accreditation.  Nicastro was also creating a job for Norm Ridder, retiring Springfield superintendent, for a position in the charter expansion plan.  This plan would also ensure that DESE retain control of the district.  From Emails detail a hidden plan for Kansas City Public Schools:

 

The electronic trail exposes a rushed bidding process, now criticized, that ultimately landed Indianapolis-based CEE-Trust a $385,000 contract to develop a long-range overhaul for the district’s failing schools.

Summer discussions in emails reveal Nicastro’s wish for a statewide district to gather poor-performing schools under new leadership, with an office for innovation and charter school expansion.

In mid-August, days before the state’s district report cards were to be released to the public showing a surprisingly high score for Kansas City, a CEE-Trust partner shared his talking points with Nicastro and staff debunking the performance of a district where 70 percent of the students still perform below proficiency.

“It suggests a conspiracy against our success,” said Kansas City Superintendent Steve Green.

 

The auditor’s report showed that DESE’s process to seek bids to turnaround Kansas City’s schools was biased and included potential conflicts of interest.

The official auditor’s report may be found here.

 

Parks and Randazzo requested a public hearing in this bid process which read:

Pursuant to Missouri State Statute 161.022.2, this letter is to serve as official notification of a Public Hearing regarding potential misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance by the members of the Missouri State Board of Education, related to the oversight and governance of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

 

Janet Parks and Carolyn Randazzo

Education Task Force Chairs

MORE2 and MCU, respectfully

 

In today’s hearing, Parks and Randazzo testified Margie Vandeven (newly appointed DESE Commissioner) fixed the bid process for CEE Trust, enabling that firm to win by one point even though other bidders were more qualified.  They took their complaint to State Board Peter Herschend and he dismissed their concerns.  Parks and Randazzo request the removal of Herschend and statute written to hold DESE accountable for such actions.

 

 

Gretchen Logue