So let’s proceed from the den of iniquity to the holy of holies. As politicians always say, we do it all for the children. And sometimes to the children.
The school board just announced five finalists to replace Prof. Harold Hill, aka Dr. Heath Morrison, as Washoe County education boss.
As I reported previously in this never-ending series, Morrison’s double-digit (14 percent) graduation rate increase over the past two years is a clever shuck perpetrated upon hicks hungry for good news for this retro state’s long-starved education system.
Morrison has never responded to anything I’ve written. He’s too busy packing his bags for Jesse Helms land. He takes over in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., next month.
In a magnificently ballsy exercise of chutzpah and PR inoculation, the good doctor actually admitted to Charlotte Observer education reporter Ann Doss Helms that he has been doctoring the graduation stats: “Morrison introduced a door-to-door campaign to locate the hundreds of students a year who were listed as ‘vanished,’ along with those who had officially dropped out, and get them into school. If dropouts who are 18 or older enroll in the Washoe Adult High School, they are switched into the ‘transfer out’ category, which means they’re removed from the calculation entirely, counting neither as graduates or dropouts. Morrison says it’s better to have those young adults working on their education than sitting at home, but he acknowledges it’s too early to say whether they’ll be successful,” Helms wrote.
Morrison has been certainly successful at this shell game. The above is one method long-criticized by local insiders, rightly afraid to speak on the record, that improves the graduation rate by wiping former students off the rolls as though they never existed. Charlotte educators are admittedly hungry to change the way they count graduates, just as Washoe’s panel was three years ago when they hired Morrison from Montgomery County, Md.
The longtime odds-on favorite to succeed him is now a finalist. He brought current Deputy Superintendent Jane Woodburn with him from the spawning grounds of the soft-shell crabs.
I repeat what I’ve said before: Anybody who wants this job is nuts because it will damage one’s precious professional resumé. Statistics the school district gave the Nevada Department of Education project a meager 1 percent graduation rate jump this year. The new person is doomed to failure because jacking up the figures by changing the counting method is only good for a one-time blip.
The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that one of the school board’s inquiries of the new candidates will be “how the finalists would close the achievement gap and dramatically improve the graduation rate.”
They also want to know “steps the finalists would take to inspire trust in public education.”
I submit that the two are mutually exclusive in the wake of Morrison’s shuffle unless the new guy can figure out another way to cook the books and put on a PR campaign to convince taxpayers that the naked emperor marching down the street is actually fully dressed.
Former Washoe deputy super Pedro Martinez is another finalist. He was a Morrison competitor three years ago. Morrison then hired him but forced him out a year later when he couldn’t score enough federal money, according to insiders. Martinez is now a deputy with the Gomorrah South school district, which just announced a spectacular (6 percent) one-year graduation rate increase. Sound familiar?
Martinez implemented a Morrison-style home visitation system down south. Clark County superintendent Dwight Jones is a soul brother of Morrison.
Martinez is also one of two finalists for the top job in Philadelphia, so look for him to choose cheesesteaks over pine nuts.
Paul LaMarca, another finalist, currently serves as Washoe County School District chief accountability officer. He is working on a response to requests for background statistics behind the Morrison miracle.
I would not be surprised if none of the five candidates takes the job because the conditions are impossible to fulfill and will bite the old career in the rear.
Moonhowling conservatives and kneejerk education bashers love guys like Morrison. The newly minted superstar national superintendent of the year has “proved” that drastically gutting education budgets actually improves education.
What a guy.
Read more about it
Tribune alumnus Dennis Myers has written a splendid puncturing of many of the myths and urban legends that have been allowed to damage our education system. See “Tales Out of School: How Journalism Damages Education with Bad Information” in the current edition of the Reno News & Review.
Got a hunch that my critics would like to include me in the bad information category. OK by me. Just bring your facts with you and prepare to be challenged and fired upon.
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Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 43-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.