Today, in a Senate hearing on Common Core legislation a leaked email from DESE became public. The email from DESE, talks about the Common Core battle being waged in Jefferson City. This email contains observations from the private lobby organization MASA, or Missouri Association of School Administrators.
This email labels opponents of Common Core as ‘right-wing activists’. It also offers a variety of empty talking points, the kind typically issued from supporters of Missourians surrendering the illusion of ‘local control’ over our districts. This slanderous, outrageous and blatantly false characterization of Common Core opponents seeks to create fertile ground for the false narrative that opponents of Common Core are ‘tea party extremists and obstructionists’ or conspiracy theorists in need of tin foil hats.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Those who stand in opposition to Common Core do so because it is another step in the advancement of a fascist takeover of our local school districts and an assault on our rights. It is about re-establishing local control, accountability and transparency in our school districts for the sake of our children.
The leaked DESE email is reprinted below. In the interest of space, a list of state representative contact information was removed from the body of the message. This is the only alteration made to this email. It appears exactly as it was sent out by DESE.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org on behalf of Bates, Shaun
Sent: Friday, March 28, 2014 8:05 AM
Subject: [Curriclistserv] March 28, 2014
Your Contact With Senators Is Crucial in Common Core Debate
Your legislators need to know that the Missouri Learning Standards (which are aligned to the Common Core State Standards) are supported by yourself, your district, and your educators. They are getting a lot of pressure from right-wing activists around the state to pass legislation prohibiting the implementation of the new standards.
The threat to abandon four years of work that Missouri educators and schools districts have dedicated to this initiative is very real. As MASA has engaged with legislators at the Capitol, it is clear that they are only hearing from the detractors of the Common Core.
The time to contact your legislators is NOW! Administrators should consider not only emailing their legislators regarding this issue, but also calling or physically meeting in order to discuss the issue in greater detail.
If you email your legislator, please send a copy of your email to David Pearce, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee at email@example.com and a copy to Gary Romine, Vice Chair of the Senate Education Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please contact your House members as well on this issue.
MASA Executive Director
Common Core Talking Points
The Missouri Learning Standards simply provide a framework by which Missouri will develop MAP tests; they are NOT curriculum. Districts maintain complete control of their ability to write their curriculum, while teachers are allowed the flexibility in how to teach their students.
The federal and state mandated testing footprint will be minimized under the new test schedule that the state will begin using with the Missouri Learning Standards in 2015, including giving the ACT to every student. This change was made due to concerns from educators and education organizations representing teachers, principals and MASA. We would support a further reduction in the federal and state mandated testing footprint, but we fully support the new test schedule to be used for the foreseeable future.
Repealing the Missouri Learning Standards would be an irresponsible and expensive action for the Missouri Legislature to take. Districts have spent nearly four years moving to these new higher standards. This represents MILLIONS of dollars and THOUSANDS of hours in professional development. Abandoning this work would have a devastating impact on teacher moral moving forward. DESE, the Missouri Legislature, school districts, and administrators would lose a ton of credibility for any initiative in the future.
If Common Core were to be repealed, we would expect policymakers and politicians to stop utilizing unfair comparisons on performance with other states that have different levels of rigor in state standards. The Common Core State Standards were developed because policy makers and politicians that have continually attempted to compare one state to another without a set of standards that allowed the comparison to be fair.
The Common Core State Standards represent work that was done between policy makers, politicians, educators, business leaders, and the higher education community in order to ensure that students that graduate from high school are fully prepared for their post-secondary goals. Employers would be able to get a more accurate indication of the educational level of a student with a high school diploma, while higher education institutions can now begin moving to better place students in their class offerings, thus reducing the need for remedial courses.
With an ever-increasing population of students that are mobile, the Missouri Learning Standards allow for schools and students to smoothly transition from one school or district to another. Schools would be better equipped and assured of where a student is at in their educational career and thus have more time to focus on meeting the needs of that student without wasting as much time trying to figure out where to place new students.
DESE and MASA, in this email, show a complete disregard for the notion of local control of our school districts. They would paint those who stand in the way of their silent coup, their assumption of authority they aren’t granted, as troublemakers, rabble-rousers and plain old crazy. That’s because those who stand up for their rights and the rights of their children stand in the way of the DESE/MASA business model.
MASA is a private group with lobbying status and describes itself as follows, from their website, http://www.msaonline.org:
The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) is the only statewide association in Missouri that exists for the purpose of serving the needs of school superintendents and central office administrators with an interest in the superintendency. MASA is a statewide professional association that has grown to include over 600 school superintendents and school administrators. In 2011-2012 MASA set an all-time membership record. The services provided by MASA to its membership have also increased as members have identified and approved long-range plans incorporating key services.
Paul Ziegler is President of this private organization. He serves as the superintendent at Northwest R-I in High Ridge, located in Jefferson County, just south of St. Louis. The organization he heads, MASA, is a private entity. It is supported by the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole. It is also supported by ACI/Boland. Additionally, L.J. Hunt is listed as a sponsor of this private organization.
To provide complete context for the motivation behind the leaked email’s message, American Spring would like to invite you for a closer look at the Camdenton school district. For many reasons, Camdenton provides a clear picture of what ‘local control’ truly looks like under the DESE/MASA approved model.
This school district, located in central Missouri at the popular tourist destination, the Lake of the Ozarks, provides insightful context as to the motivations of the leaked DESE email. Camdenton offers an unobstructed, complete look at what is on the line with Common Core implementation.
To begin this dissection, a look at MASA’s sponsors and supporters is necessary. The list below is taken from the program for MASA’s Spring conference in 2011-2012. This conference was held at the Lake of the Ozarks Lodge of the Four Seasons.
Special Thanks To The Following For Contributions
To MASA Events And Programs During 2011-12.
PFM Asset Management, Inc. (MOSIP)
Forrest T. Jones & Company
Lawrence E. Smith & Associates
George K. Baum and Co.
Brian Cave Law Firm
Stifel, Nicolaus and Company, Inc.
Inter-State Studio and Publishing Co.
American Fidelity Assurance Company
Mickes Goldman O’Toole, LLC
Simplified Online Communication System (SOCS)
ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens, Inc.
L. J. Hart and Co.
Sam A. Winn & Associates Architects, PC
Guin Martin Mundorf, LLC
OPAA! Food Management
Tueth Keeney Cooper Mohan & Jackstadt PC
For residents of Camdenton, some well-known names appear on this list, including the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole. This law firm has represented the district in several expensive, frivolous proceedings costing taxpayers of the district thousands in legal fees. Additionally, the firm and school administration have throttled the public’s ability to interact with board members, by placing themselves as intermediaries between taxpayers and their elected officials. They have presumed to do this under flawed legal arguments and fear mongering, encouraged by another private organization, the MSBA, who sent a lawyer to present the faulty logic that the board might be sued because of something a citizen said to them.
Mickes was asked to resign from the firm he previous worked with due to his financial stake in a company that sold textbooks and manuals to the same school districts the firm represented.
From the St. Louis Business Journal:
Tom Mickes, known as one of the region’s leading attorneys on education issues, has been ousted from the law firm he helped start in April 2000.
His former partners at the 20-lawyer firm, now known as Tueth, Keeney, Cooper, Mohan & Jackstadt, took the action Aug. 25, and at the same time referred a report relating to Mickes’ termination to the Missouri Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, the state’s lawyer discipline system.
The actions apparently stem from a separate business Mickes owns that provides policy manuals to school districts and educators.
Tom Tueth, 56, one of Mickes’ former partners, declined to discuss the contents of the report but indicated in a written statement the report dealt with Mickes’ work for “several education clients.” The Tueth firm represents some 250 school districts in Missouri and more than a dozen in Illinois.
Mickes is the only lawyer who has left the firm, Tueth said.
The Tueth firm’s statement said in part: “We recently became aware of certain activities of Thomas Mickes relating to several education clients of the firm. We promptly conducted an investigation, both internally and through outside legal counsel….”
After the investigation the Tueth firm terminated Mickes. The statement continued, “Mr. Mickes acknowledged in writing conduct that raised our concerns. Our investigation has revealed that no other attorney or firm employee was involved, and each and every other attorney and staff member remains with the firm.”
In the Camdenton school district, the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole have a long, sordid history. They have provided the legal cover for administrators in Camdenton to create a toxic climate for teachers and students alike. A pervasive, vindictive bully system has been institutionalized in the Camdenton school district under the guidance of superintendent Tim Hadfield and the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole.
This bully system has been directed at teachers, as the cases of former educators Jan Michaelree, Kathy Egyabroad, Sean Kirksey and others clearly demonstrate. Good teachers and educators have been forced out of the Camdenton school district for not going along with the program, as dictated by the law firm through their puppet superintendents.
Teacher suppression in the Camdenton school district is a way of life. It comes with the job.
Earlier this year, a thirteen year teaching veteran turned in her resignation after less than three months in the district. Fearing retribution, she hired a lawyer to deliver the letter to school administrators.
Nor has the law firm’s bullying been confined to teachers and students. It has been directed at parents who have dared defy their assumed authority. The firm filed a law suit against the Fitzgerald family in the Camdenton school district.
The Fitzgeralds home schooled their children. The law firm, in a case that was laughed out of court, made unfounded claims of abuse as basis for the school’s attempt to reach into their home and take control of the Fitzgerald children. In reality, this suit was filed in an act of retribution. It was filed against Sherry Lagares’ sister. Sherry Lagares had previously beaten the Camdenton school district in Missouri Supreme Court. The firm however, in its blood lust for revenge, didn’t stop there.
The law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole, through the Lebanon school district, rewrote a court ordered custody agreement for Sherry Lagares’ grandchildren. Through actions condoned and legally ‘justified’ by the law firm, Denny Lagares, Sherry’s son, has had his parental rights stripped from him.
This is particularly disturbing when we look at this presentation, given by the firm, made to MASA at the aforementioned spring conference in 2011-2012.
Successful OCR Investigations from Beginning to End
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm Marbella A
Presenter: Tom Mickes and Teri Goldman, Mickes Goldman O’Toole
In recent years, OCR complaints have far exceeded the number of due process cases involving special education issues. The OCR has seized upon bullying issues and statutory changes in an attempt to expand their reach into school districts. Teri will help you navigate through the OCR bureaucracy.
This is the very door the law firm stepped through in order to literally “kidnap” Sherry Lagares’ grandchildren, as promised by Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole attorney Ernie Trakas through the Lebanon school district. This is not a door unfamiliar to Mickes’ firm. They have represented private youth facilities, such as CALO, at the Lake of the Ozarks. Mickes has also been tied to multiple other interests profiting off of the most vulnerable of our children, including those with autism.
With the number of school districts represented by the firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole, and the number of administrators listed in MASA’s membership, it would appear the MASA is a private club for Mickes’ approved and endorsed administrators, and a collection of profit hungry vultures.
L.J. Hart & Company
One of these is L.J. Hart and Company. L.J. Hart, in addition to sponsorship of MASA, also serves on the Board of Advisors for MARE (Missouri Association of Rural Education). The company is an associate member of the MSBA, the Missouri Association of School Business Officials and the Chamber of Commerce in Chesterfield.
L.J. Hart has a long association with the law firm of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole. They are tied to most bond initiatives in the districts represented by Mickes. Mickes has introduced Hart in school districts around the state for bonds and loans. This is significant, considering the way L.J. Hart has conducted business.
L.J. Hart & Co., a St. Louis-based municipal-bond underwriter, agreed to pay a $200,000 fine to settle charges that it violated pay-to-play rules by giving tickets to sporting events to win work from schools and counties.
L.J. Hart gave school and county officials more than 2,000 tickets to attend games played by the Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Cardinals and other teams, according to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority documents. The tickets were valued at $183,546.
The gifts show that securities regulators haven’t eliminated underwriters’ practice of giving gifts to public officials from whom they seek business in the $3.7 trillion municipal-bond market. This year about three-fourths of the $233.4 billion of municipal debt sold has been through negotiation, instead of competitive bidding, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Recent changes made by the Missouri legislature has increased the debt limit for school districts. As a result of this hike, school districts across the state have put ballot initiatives in front of taxpayers this April.
In the Lake of the Ozarks area, several ‘no-tax increase’ proposals are on the ballot. Many of these are tied to, in part, federal grant money from FEMA for the construction of bunkers or ‘safe rooms’ in our schools. Two, in Eldon and Warsaw, raised eyebrows in Camdenton.
Last year, Camdenton passed such a ‘no-tax increase’ measure. What voters were not told by superintendent Tim Hadfield, pitch man for the sham, was that while no tax increase would take effect with that vote, the ability for raising the levy without a vote of the people was handed over to the school board.
This week, during a forum for Camdenton school board candidates, school administration was overheard saying that Camdenton was also getting a ‘safe room’ or bunker installed in the district. This came as a shock, considering no such measure has ever been put in front of the taxpayers. The statement was made with certainty, although construction cost overruns are already plaguing the Camdenton school district and the district is operating in the ‘red’ financially.
ACI/Frangkiser-Hutchins is also listed as a proud supporter of MASA. ACI/Frangkiser-Hutchins is better known however, for their parent company. In Camdenton, ACI/Boland is both well-known and well-represented on the school board. Selynn Barbour, an incumbent running this spring, is related to the interests in ACI/Boland, the architecture firm that has attached itself like a parasite to the Camdenton school district.
ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens, Architects & Planners, is the educational division of ACI/Boland. ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens is a nationally recognized educational design firm that has been in business since the early 1950’s. In the fifty years since its founding, the firm has concentrated on programming, planning, design, and construction of educational facilities. We have been involved with over 750 such projects.
ACI/Boland has been happy to spend the tax dollars of Camdenton residents. They were in support of the ‘no-tax increase’ pitch delivered by Camdenton superintendent, MASA member and part-time snake oil salesman, Tim Hadfield. They have pocketed thousands of dollars through their incestuous, seemingly never-ending relationship with the district.
The context behind the message revealed in the leaked email from DESE/MASA cannot and should not be overlooked. MASA is simply doing what its membership is trained to: act on behalf of the special interests and attorneys who are usurping local control in our schools and assuming that power for themselves. Common Core implementation is simply another brick in the walls they are constructing for parents and children. It allows not only for greater profit margins with its endless data collection, it also allows for this assumption of authority to continue into our homes.
A look at MASA’s 2013-2014 legislative priorities, from its own website, provides insight into the future this organization envisions for our schools.
3. Support For High Standards
MASA supports the implementation of the Common Core. In recent years, school districts have put an enormous amount of time and energy adjusting curriculum to improve student learning. Stopping implementation of the Common Core standards at this point would be extremely counterproductive for the students we serve. Missouri schools receive no assistance with technology funding and they cannot be among the top education states in the nation without providing students with the modern tools they need in the classroom.
Providing specialized training for administrators, teachers and staff who work in high poverty areas or with diverse student populations that focus on the unique situations children face in their communities and culture;
Replicating programs that have been proven to be effective in meeting the needs of students and specifically those that live in poverty or those who are considered “at-risk”.
Increasing the bonding capacity for school districts;
Allowing voters to approve bond issues with a simple majority;
MASA, no surprise, opposes the following:
Limiting the ability of school districts to seek civil, equitable and other legal remedies; and
Transforming the early childhood special education program from a required to a voluntary program.
MASA, and the special interests they represent, want nothing more than complete control of our children, as early as possible, so as to turn them into profit centers. The unspoken threat, leveled against our children, is that they will come into our homes and snatch our children if we dissent. This is the door opened by Common Core, the next evolutionary step in the march toward fascism. It is also the door through which the boogymen of Mickes, Goldman and O’Toole have made a practice of walking through.
Sherry Lagares witnessed the determined, combined, coordinated effort by lobbyists for DESE, MSBA, MASA and the alphabet soup of educrats rushed to repeal the Missouri state statute that, in part, allowed for her victory in the Missouri Supreme Court. She watched as the statute that Missouri had in place, holding the standard for our children’s education above the standard set by the federal government, was repealed despite efforts by Sherry and dozens of state representatives. It was through the repeal of this statute that Common Core implementation was made possible.
Sherry Lagares and her family have paid the highest of prices for daring to oppose fascism in education. She has been forced to watch while her grandchildren have been ripped from their home and placed into an unsafe environment by the sponsors of the leaked DESE/MASA email. They have been targeted by an insidious, vindictive bully system, the type designed, installed and promoted by Mickes, his law firm and puppet administrators.
Attempting to dismiss opposition to Common Core by marginalizing them as ‘right-wing activists’ is nothing more than a futile effort in the campaign to marginalize all parents, taxpayers and citizens of Missouri and the United States who dare stand up for their Constitutional rights. It is precisely the kind of arrogance one has come to expect from those who seek to assume power and authority they are not granted under law.
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