This is in reference to the hiring of superintendent Elizabeth Celina-Fagen, with a unanimous vote, by the Humble ISD school board, on Tuesday, June 14th. I did speak before the board on Wednesday, June 8th, asking them to reconsider, but knew they would not. I knew they thought they had the perfect person to follow Dr. Sconzo and no amount of Twitter or Facebook postings, her lack of experience, law suits against the district under her watch, negative feedback, the plethora of negative articles (facts/her actions,) or warnings from parents, teachers, and the communities of Douglas County School District or Tucson Unified School District would or could change their minds, and I was right.
What I am concerned with, of many, is the only information the school board could give us was from Fagen herself. Like all the references, many of whom were working with her in tandem on the countless organizations she works with for school choice or vouchers, or the “data” that we all know has quite the spin on it to make her look good. Everything I, and so many others have uncovered is not pretty. I researched the many references Fagen gave the board, each one has the same agenda and/or are seeded in controversy, as is Fagen herself.
School board member Keith Lapeze told us Fagen was wooed from TUSD by DCSD three times. This is not how TUSD see’s it…
“Pedicone took over for Elizabeth Celania-Fagen who fled from the district in 2009 — less than two years into her tenure. She cited state budget cuts to K-12 education as part of her reason for leaving.”
Fagen is a superintendent who put in place a controversial market-based pay system for teachers, a voucher program that drew national attention and legal challenges, and allowed its teachers’ union contract to expire after being with the district for 47 years. Fagen’s moves have drawn praise from conservative education “reform” advocates, criticism from supporters of the teachers union, and a vocal band of parents.
She has been associated with, a representative of, or has been a mouthpiece for companies that all have an agenda of privatizing schools across our country. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, American Enterprise Institute, The Friedman Foundation, The Leadership Program of the Rockies,EdLeader21 (Fagen was the national chair in 2014,) EdChoice,Reason Foundation, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC,) and The Independence Institute, all who have long been active in promoting tax credits, privatizing schools, Option Certificates, and Choice Scholarship Programs, all code for vouchers. For those who think, what’s wrong with vouchers? Well, they take money that is intended for public schools away and give it to for-profit private institutions or religious schools, that have absolutely no accountability, using our tax dollars, which we also do not have a say in how the money is used. Which, all over the country we are struggling just to keep schools open. Forget technology, forget new books, or paying teachers a decent wage, we struggle just to keep schools afloat, in many areas. Money is constantly being taken away by the states, millions, and schools are forced to make do with less money, more mandates, growth, and changing technology. These conservative-backed policies aim to weaken labor unions by attacking teachers’ job protections and to push state-level education legislation that makes way for greater private profiteering — while leaving traditional public schools further behind. Her ties with the right wing-think tanks and funding backers is evident with The Independence Institute, it’s one of the organizations behind Colorado School Grades. This group also has ties to ALEC. The Independence Institute, which they tout as “Colorado’s leading voice for free market policy,” are also the ones who applauded the DCSD school board who voted for the “pilot program” enabling parents to opt for private schools with public funds. The same program that was struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court as unconstitutional. I have not yet found where Fagen is a product of the Broad Academy, but she is closely associated with, and is a presenter for, Ken Kay – who is President of thePartnership for 21st Century Skills, EdLeader21, who is a product of Broad Academy, or at least associated with it. I have reason to believe those documents or websites that would tie Fagen to the Broad Dynasty have been deleted, why, I’m not sure. Seems to me they are pretty proud of their graduates.
Could it be Fagen decided to jump ship when her pet projects fell down the well, or the law suits got to be too much for her to handle?
The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research(AEI) is one of the oldest and most influential of the pro-business right-wing think tanks. It promotes the advancement of free enterprise capitalism. The same company that collaborates frequently with the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. She was on a panel of “Education System Reform,” on January 10, 2013, where she was a prominent speaker, with the AEI, speaking on behalf of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, another ideologically conservative American nonprofit education policy right-wing think tank.
Upon further research, Fagen has a YouTube clip of “Cage Buster” speaking to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on January 10, 2013. Fagen has appeared at least twice for AEI events. She is a prominent speaker for the Friedman Foundation, an American education reform organization. The Friedman Foundation’s mission is to advance “school choice for all children” nationwide. A parent from Douglas County had a meeting with Fagen and asked her about the Friedman Foundation, which I alluded to in my address to the board. This is what that parent had to say about Fagen: “She claimed to be unaware of the Friedman Foundation’s agenda to privatize schools. She commented: ‘My experience with them has provided no evidence that they are interested in privatization of education.’ She also stated that she had not read any of Friedman’s books, but that she knew of his support for school choice.” There is so much information out there, it will make your head spin. Here she is, again, a speaker for “school choice,” in a Friedman publication, The School Choice Advocate,ie: EdChoice.
“So what we have here is either a superintendent who failed to do her homework and allowed her name to be used prominently as a featured speaker for a foundation whose goal is to privatize public education, a goal she claims to not support, or we have a superintendent who knows exactly what the Friedman Foundation stands for and used her position within DCSD as a platform to raise her stature to a national level among privatization advocates.” ~
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is an organization working in tandem with deep-pocketed corporations, trade associations, conservative groups and mega-donors–including operatives of the Koch brothers’—ALEC which is driving an agenda you should know about.
Other speaking engagements on Fagen’s resume include a September 24, 2013, appearance on the Laura Ingraham radio show. That would be the Laura Ingraham who on August 26, 2013, played an audio clip of Rep. John Lewis speaking at the 50th anniversary event of the Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech. On air, Ingraham plays the audio of Lewis’ speech and then interrupts the speech with the sound effect of a gunshot. The overall effect for listeners of the program was that Lewis, a well-known civil rights hero who had his skull fractured by a state trooper during the first 1965 Selma march, becomes silent mid-sentence as if he had been hit by a sniper. Listen here. Later she defended her use of a “blow up” sound effect, claiming it was “fun” and “teasing,” after receiving heavy criticism for using the sound effect.
What I’d like to know is where does Fagen find time to supervise her districts? Apparently by the looks of things…she doesn’t. Seems to me like that is a lot of speaking engagements she’s making, and organizations she’s cozy with who want to privatize our schools, which would do nothing to help our district, but take time away from it. (I found another almost hour long talk pushing her InspirED Innovation. Looks like she did this every Wednesday?)
Fagen was also a featured speaker at the Leadership Program of the Rockies on February 24-25, 2012. What is LPR? Its philosophy is firmly rooted in the classical-liberal traditions of the American Revolution and America’s Founding Fathers. These traditions clearly align with the modern conservative movement. America’s libertarian mores are often evident, too. They stress the virtues of free-markets, Austrian-school economics, and the elements of liberty stemming from natural law. They read from books like Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Milton Friedman’s Free To Choose, (remember him?) original sources like the Federalist Papers, and similar works.
If she is so dead set against tax credit, scholarships, or voucher programs, why did she say, “It is unfortunate that we have to spend time and resources defending what is in the best interest of our students,” said District Superintendent Elizabeth Celania-Fagen. “But we are prepared to do that.” when the Douglas County School District officials and board members held a news conference of defending the groundbreaking program they say provides opportunities and choices for all students.
Fagen states she was a great fit for Douglas County because her vision aligned so well with theirs. DCSD parents were told in a meeting with her that she acted entirely at the board’s direction and was possibly misled about what their intentions were for bringing her aboard. Or could it be she told those parents what they wanted to hear, as I feel she did with our school board? Or could it be the board changed, and three of them no longer wanted to push vouchers on the naïve community? To me, this seems like a bad relationship. She broke up with TUSD to go with DCSD because they looked a bit better, were richer, bigger, and now she’s breaking up with DCSD to go with us.
It is important to add, I believe that all members of the Board are acting sincerely and in good faith according to what they perceive to be the best interests of the principals, teachers and students of Humble ISD. What frightens me is why. It’s no surprise our board is made up of ALL Republicans, even though it is supposed to be non-partisan position. And it’s no surprise Republicans like “choice,” but only when it comes to schools. That being said, they have hired someone who seems to be fitting right in where she did in Douglas County, in the beginning. I knew when I heard the board refer to themselves as the “Team of 8,” just after I learned so much about the seven DCSD board members and Fagen (8), and how closely they worked with Fagen, I knew we’d be in for the exact same journey she took with Douglas County.
Not only are the red flags waving concerning the many organizations that want to make our schools for-profit, there are the many, many programs Fagen implemented in Douglas County. Like, World Class Outcomes, (WCO,) Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum (GVC,) 21st Century Skills, and Deeper Learning Outcomes. Schools like to add new acronyms, and give the teachers more paper work to read, adhere to, and then are judged by. No more are teachers hired for their teaching expertise. Seems to me the rhetoric around education is the idea that teachers enjoy an easy life of automatic pay raises, long summer vacations and little accountability for what their students learn. A teacher within DCSD said of the new “evaluation system” Fagen recently implemented was, “The new evaluation system is CITE 2.0 (CITE stands for Continuous Improvement of Teacher Effectiveness) and is meant to show the education world how innovative and forward thinking Douglas County can be. But, for those who believe that CITE is the answer to the “how does one measure and reward good teaching“ dilemma, CITE is at best a disappointing mess and, at worst, a weapon that may drive quality teachers from this district.”
The Humble ISD board has scheduled town hall meetings for the community to “get to know” our new superintendent. They are Tuesday, July 19, at the Kingwood High School Performing Arts Center, 2701 Kingwood Drive, 77339; 6 p.m. Thursday, July 21, at the Humble High School Performing Arts Center, 1700 Wilson Road, 77338; 6 p.m. Thursday, July 28, at the Atascocita High School Performing Arts Center, 13300 Will Clayton Parkway, 77346. I implore those who don’t wish to see our district go down the same path as Douglas County to attend these meetings, to question her motives, her actions, ask what her visions are, her visions for our kids’ future. There is so much more, much, much more. About the laws that were broken, her pattern of changing jobs (she has not stayed longer than 5 years at any school district,) the way a student was mistreated by the board for standing up, speaking up over all the “good” teachers that were leaving in droves (which is still going on and my understanding is the lawyers logged 372 hours for the investigation. That is $267,840!!, the district may have to pay out,) along with other controversies surrounding lawsuits against the district, and how the district was fined $4.2M by the Colorado Department of Education, and the three and a half hours we had to endure before being able to speak out about our dismay at hiring such a lightening rod, such a controversial figure head. This, my friends – is just the tip of the iceberg.