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Thursday, November 13, 2014

How Gary Chartrand bought a school district (rough draft)

People might not have noticed it but the Duval County Public School district was sold to local grocer Gary Chartrand. 

First Gary Chartrand started a public education policy group, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and it has come a long way since former mayor and school board member Tommy Hazouri disdainfully asked who these guys were when they tried to interject in education policies. Fast forward a few years and JPEF and the district routinely partner on a wide range of services and events including them managing the Quality Education for All (QEA) funds but more on that in a moment. The JPEF also writes a lot of white papers on education topics that invariably reflect Chartrand's way of thinking.

Next Mr. Chartrand started to collect school board members like kids collect baseball cards. He and his friends helped get six current school board members elected and it would have been 7 but Paula Wright managed to defeat their hand picked and well financed candidate. 

Gary Chartrand then bought a news service and a respected one at that. Most of WJCT's education pieces come with a partly funded by the Chartrand foundation tag. This helps to explain the puff pieces on KIPP, which Chartrand is on the board of, the lack of tough questions about Teach for America, which Chartrand brought to town and so many other stories which could have been potentially embarrassing to him and eye opening to the public. In fact WJCT loves Gary Chartrand so much they created a champions of education award and gave it to him as well. Another recipient was Trey Csar and that name might sound familiar because he is president of the JPEF and neither taught for one day in Jacksonville. Finally in case you were wondering only one of the first five awards went to an actual teacher.

Not satisfied then Chartrand also bought the Public Policy department at Jacksonville University. He donated an undisclosed amount of money (they wouldn't tell me how much), sits on the Public Policy advisory board and donated to the mayoral campaign of the Public Policy director Rick Mullaney. At their recent forum billed as a who's who in education, not one teacher spoke and most of the panelists came from the local KIPP school, which Chartrand also brought to town, people who arguably owe their jobs to him, Superintendent Vitti and Commissioner Stewart, the affable president of the JPEF Trey Csar and another JPEF staffer to tell how great the QEA is.

The QEA initiative is a pot of fifty million dollars that local philanthropists led by Gary Chartrand raised for the school district. The thing is they didn't go, hey here is some money fill your needs, they met behind closed doors and decided how the money was to be spent. We have no idea if anything like, hey here is all this money now please let the KIPP charter school expand, of I really hate labor lets hurt the power of the union by expand Teach for America or anything else that might be coming down the pike. Furthermore what do we have a school board for? They are supposed to be the ones to divvy up resources and to set priorities and policies.   

Also as I mentioned the district isn't even managing the money, the JPEF is further blurring where the district ends and Chartrand JPEF begins.  

I am not even done. Chartrand brought PEN, the professional educators network, billed as an alternative to the teachers union to town.

Now follow this; Gary Chartrand is the chair of the state board of education. The State Board of Education over sees the Department of Education and hired commissioner Pam Stewart. The Department of Education is handing out grants, 3.3 million dollars’ worth to only three winners, to foster partnerships between districts and charter schools. Gary Chartrand is on the board of the KIPP charter school in Jacksonville. Superintendent Vitti and the Duval County School board (Jacksonville) have applied for the grant. 
Florida also has a rule that prevents schools from dropping more than one letter grade. A rule that Chartrand helped develop and protected his KIPP school from dropping from a B to a D two years ago, something WJCT failed to point out when they covered the recent KIPP expansion.
So let's sum up. Chartrand, who never taught nor worked in a school a day in his life has paid for the school board, bought a public policy department at a local college, created an advocacy group that backs up his ideas and holds sway over a local major news source, that likes him so much they give him awards. Game over people! We have sold control of our schools and at a bargain basement rate too. 
I don't feel like he is the twisting arms or putting horse heads into beds to get his way sort but his influence money is everywhere and nobody should be so naive to think that doesn't play a huge role in who gets what and what we get told.
Here is the thing if you like race based goals, think anybody can show up and teach, that teachers shouldn't be treated as professionals or have work protections and think the privatization of our schools with vouchers and charter schools are good idead like Chartrand does then this all out assault on democracy might be okay with you.
However if you don't maybe it's time you said enough is enough already.


  1. Funny. Don't FSCJ and UNF have unions? Nobody ever seems to complain about them!

  2. I guess if Gary Chartrand could get Paula Wright's District redrawn he might be able to replace her, next time around, and as such own the entire Duval School Board. By the way, I've noticed that Principals Power of Recruitment of Teachers has been axed and has been handed over to the following 8 Staffing Supervisors:
    Gail Roberts;
    Vincent Foster;
    Arthur Perry;
    Christine Kumer;
    Dawn Gaughan;
    Melissa Brandt;
    Janice Bland;
    Lynn Earnest.

    Isn't that a lot of money involved in having so many Staffing Supervisors recruiting teachers. Is Duval County Public Schools a Temporary Workers Staffing Agency? And why can't the Principals and Asst Principals do Recruitment for their own schools. This seems quite a HEAVYWEIGHT BUREAUCRACY. Of course just as the Principals were replaced, the names, only, of these "Staffing Supervisors" could be removed while retaining the Bureaucrats themselves. Just eliminate the column that says "Staffing Supervisor" but leave the phone numbers.