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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Gary Chartrand, Florida’s most influential and dangerous man. (rough draft)

I don’t believe the average citizen knows it but Jacksonville is home to one of Florida’s most influential people in education, Gary Chartrand. Mr. Chartrand created the Professional Education Network an alternative to teachers unions. He brought both the KIPP impact charter school and Teach for America to town. He is the chair of the state board of education and John Peyton, President of the University of North Florida, Deborah Gianoulis, Director of the Schultz Center, Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, Colleen Wood of Save Duval Schools and Trey Czar, of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, where Chartrand is also a board member, all call him Gary. He is without a doubt one of Florida’s most influential figures in education, and unfortunately most dangerous too.
This is his profile form the Florida Department of Education: Gary R. Chartrand is the Executive Chairman of Acosta. Acosta is a leading full-service sales and marketing agency, providing outsourced sales, merchandising, marketing and promotional services to manufacturers in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. The Company represents more than 160,000 stock-keeping units (SKUs) for over 1,600 manufacturers, and services more than 120,000 traditional grocery stores, mass merchandisers, club stores, convenience stores, drug stores and natural food stores, as well as the wholesalers who serve these same channels. The Company employs over 22,000 associates and operates 64 offices in the U.S. and Canada.

Gary joined Acosta in 1983 as a Business Manager, and subsequently was promoted to Vice President, Regional Vice President of Florida, President, and in January 1996, President and Chief Executive Officer. Gary became Chairman-Chief Executive Officer upon the merger of Acosta and PMI-Eisenhart in July 1998. Under his leadership, Acosta-PMI joined forces with Kelley-Clarke in June 1999, Morris-Alper in August 1999, and Luke Soules in September 1999. In May 2002, Acosta expanded services into Canada by acquiring four regional sales and marketing firms to form a North American network.

Gary has served on the Board of Directors of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. He has served on several Advisory Boards for the consumer products companies represented by Acosta. Gary received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the State of Florida in May 2001, and was named to the Supermarket News Power 50 list from 2003 to 2009, indicating the 50 most influential people in the industry
Gary currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Chartrand Foundation, Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, St. Vincent's Hospital, and Fresh Ministries; He serves as Chairman of the Board for Acosta, Inc. and the advisory board of CNL Bank of Jacksonville. He is on the board of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and a director on the board of the KIPP schools in Jacksonville, FL. Gary was appointed to the State Board Of Education by Governor Rick Scott in 2011. He previously served as a member of the Board of Directors for the I. M. Sulzbacher Homeless Center in Jacksonville. He is currently serving as a Vice President of the MDA "Aisle of Smiles" campaign. He is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Wounded Warrior Program, Catholic Charities, Guardian of Dreams Catholic Schools, and the Diocese of St. Augustine.

Gary is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire. He resides in Ponte Vedra Beach with his wife, Nancy. They have two children, Jeffrey and Meredith.
I have to say that is a pretty impressive resume; he has done some nice things. The reason however I reprinted it in its entirety is because I want people to see what is missing. Nowhere does it say teacher or what schools he worked in and that’s because those experiences are not there. Mr. Chartrand never worked in a school and never taught a class, yet somehow he has worked his way to the top of the heap. He is the equivalent of having a plumber who watched a lot of Law and Order on the Supreme Court. Would you go to an accountant for a broke arm or a fireman for legal assistance? No of course not but for some reason Rick Scott thought with all that grocery store experience he was perfect to run our schools.
Perhaps this is the reason his ideas are so counter productive.
He brought Teach for America to Jacksonville and they do the opposite of best practices by taking poorly trained non-education types and putting them in our neediest classrooms.
He brought the KIPP charter school to town and touted it as a savior, and despite tremendous advantages, like spending a third more per student and being able to counsel out poor performers, the school’s grades have been F, B and D, well the latest would have been a D if the Chartrand rule, the rule that says school grades can only drop one letter grade even if they are supposed to drop more, hadn’t passed.
He has been on the state board of education since 2011 and I don’t think it is a coincidence that Floirda’s A-F grading system after constant tweaking, massaging and adjusting has reached rock bottom, destroying the few shreds of credibility it had.
Chartrand help create the states raced based education goals. He doesn’t feel as if black kids have to do as well as white kids. If you disagree with this then you aren’t the only one as the Department of Justice recently filed a lawsuit saying the policy is discriminatory. 
His two choices for education commissioner have also been less than stellar. First there was Gerard Robinson who lasted a year before being forced out after a round of grade inflations and deflations, to be replaced by Tony Bennett who lasted just seven months before resigning in disgrace after revelations that he altered the grade of a charter school, owned by a donor that gave him 130 thousand dollars. The main problem however is he chose commissioners whose main goal was not to improve education but to privatize it instead.
Throw in his push for merit pay, which has no evidence that says it works and his criticism of the class size rule, which has lots of evidence that says it does and it makes me wonder why anybody who cares about our schools would give him the time of day. Deborah, Trey, Nikolai, John and Colleen, I am talking to you.
But you know what is incredibly frustrating? Mr. Chartrand could have done a lot of good had he checked his ego at the door.  He is rich and willing to spend money, he knows rich people and has been able to get them to contribute too. With that and his position in the community he could have rallied us towards common sense solutions that helped instead of hurt our schools.
Unfortunately hubris accompanies his wealth and position. He thinks just because he is rich and teachers are not, then he and he alone must have the answers. He doesn’t get that his solutions are making things worse by siphoning resources out of schools and by preventing us from implementing real solutions that will mitigate the crippling effects of poverty and that will help our schools improve..
This guy went from top fifty in grocery store news to running our schools and it is showing. 


  1. As one observes what is happening in our country, we are being led by people who have very little experience in the fields they portray themselves to be experts. The damage is that it hurts our country, economy, military, and know education.
    The students lose, the country loses, and then everyone wonders why? It is time to place people who are qualified and have the relevant experience.
    To do less, is to lose our most valuable resources-our students' futures here in Florida.

  2. Having worked with Gary directly, I can tell you that he is unable to check his ego at the door. To the detriment of many employees and families along the way, he amassed a personal fortune on the backs of his employees. This is not a good man.