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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Zais - Doesn't Play Well With Others!

Subject: Feedback from Duncan/USDE on ESEA Waiver
Thank you to everyone who sent letters of support, signatures, emails over the past few weeks as we prepared our unified response to the ESEA Waiver Request sent to the US Department of Education. The reviewers are meeting with SDE staff over the next few days.

On Friday afternoon (March 30, 2012) at 2 PM at Scotts Branch High School,  we had a very productive meeting with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  Those attending were Secretary Duncan, Congressman Jim Clyburn, former Secretary and Governor Dick Riley, Superintendent Mick Zais, Superintendents - Rose Wilder, John Tindal, Betty Bagley, Frank Morgan, Cynthia Cash-Greene, Leila Williams, Congressional and USDE Staff members, Debbie Elmore from The SC School Boards Association, Betsy Carpentier and Molly Spearman from SCASA.  Dr. Zais was invited into the meeting by Secretary Duncan and Congressman Clyburn. He heard the concerns and participated in the entire discussion. We had a very frank, open, and what seemed to be a very productive meeting. 

We asked that Secretary Duncan consider 1)granting South Carolina an immediate freeze on the 2014 AYP goals  2)review and present to reviewers our concerns as listed in the letter sent from the Executive Committee and supported by all superintendents, SCSBA, and SCEA 3)request that the waiver be sent back with instructions for collaboration with local districts and inclusion of the recommendations from superintendents and that it be resubmitted in September, or 4) if this is not possible, deny the waiver and allow local districts to apply for waivers.  

During the discussion, we detailed reasons for our concerns, particularly the A- F labeling, and the lack of answers to many questions and the uncertainty of how the new system would impact districts.  We agreed with Dr. Zais that many meetings were held to gather input; however, we felt that the waiver request was predetermined and little, if any change had been made as a result of input. We showed reasons that we felt the waiver would be more punitive than NCLB and that many of the goals were not achievable. Secretary Duncan was very attentive and explained that the waiver would go through the established review process and that he would take our concerns back to staff.

Shortly after we finished, Dr. Zais requested an impromptu meeting with those of us remaining.  Again, we had a very productive and open conversation and the final discussion ended at 4:30 p.m.  I think we all left feeling optimistic.

Shortly afterwards, a press release was sent out by the South Carolina Department of Education Press Office which had a very negative tone towards Congressman Clyburn and all of us. I am including the press release from the department, as well as the news article from the Sumter Item (see both below)... We will continue to be optimistic and work for the best of students in South Carolina and we tremendously appreciate Congressman Clyburn setting up the meeting for us, for Dr. Wilder hosting us in her beautiful school, for the time everyone gave to make this a productive meeting and for the unified support our colleagues across the state have given this effort.

Spearman from SCASA 

From: Ragley, Jay []Sent: Friday, March 30, 2012 4:57 PM
To: Ragley, Jay

Statement from State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais

Today South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais issued the following statement after attending an event at Scott’s Branch High School in Summerton, South Carolina where U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a public appearance.

After the event a secret meeting, organized by South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn and the South Carolina School Administrators Association, was held to lobby Secretary Duncan against South Carolina’s request for flexibility from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, commonly called the NCLB waiver.  Others in attendance included former U.S. Secretary of Education and former South Carolina Governor Richard W. Riley, SCASA Executive Director Molly Spearman, and several hand-picked South Carolina district superintendents.  Dr. Zais walked into the secret meeting, which he was not invited to attend, addressed the attendees and answered their questions.  Dr. Zais issued the following statement after the secret meeting.

Dr. Zais said, “The South Carolina Department of Education set an unprecedented level of transparency and public engagement during the NCLB wavier process.  The public comment period began on December 16, 2011 and lasted until February 1, 2012, and we received and reviewed approximately 1,100 public comments.  We held 22 public meetings including a statewide virtual meeting throughout the state.  However, Congressman Clyburn did not attend any of these community stakeholder meetings and few district superintendents did as well.”

Zais continued, “Rather than engaging the public in the sunshine, the education establishment is trying to cloak its activities in secret.  This goes against the transparency Secretary Duncan has required as part of the waiver process.  I hope he will reject today’s political stunt by Congressman Clyburn and the education establishment, and give South Carolina’s NCLB waiver a fair review.”

Article from Sumter Item
Leaders, Zais spar over waiver
A simple visit from the U.S. Secretary of Education to Summerton's Scott's Branch High School on Friday quickly turned political as the state's highest education official went after one of the leading South Carolina Democrats in national politics.

State Secretary of Education Mick Zais alleged late Friday afternoon that House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn and others in the state's "education establishment" secretly lobbied U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan against the state's request for flexibility from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. Zais said a secret meeting was held shortly after Duncan, former Gov. Richard "Dick" Riley and Clyburn, a Sumter native, met with about 75 juniors and seniors at the school to talk about the school's entry into the New Tech Network, a nonprofit consortium of schools that focus on technology-based learning initiatives rather than a traditional blackboard-and-lecture method.

"Rather than engaging the public in the sunshine, the education establishment is trying to cloak its activities in secret," Zais said. "This goes against the transparency Secretary Duncan has required as part of the waiver process. I hope he will reject today's political stunt by Congressman Clyburn and the education establishment and give South Carolina's NCLB waiver a fair review."

Zais said he was not invited to the meeting and later walked in and addressed its attendees. "But none of that fits what happened," said South Carolina School Administrators Association Executive Director Molly Spearman. According to Clyburn, the association requested a meeting with Duncan following his meeting with the students.

"When we learned Dr. Zais was still in the building, both Secretary Duncan and I asked that he be invited into the meeting," Clyburn said. "It is unfortunate that Dr. Zais has chosen to attack what I believe was a very productive meeting." Spearman said the meeting was a chance for her organization - which represents school district superintendents and school administrators across the state - to let Duncan know that they were not behind the entire waiver request.

"It's no secret that all 83 superintendents in South Carolina that our organization represents, along with the SCSBA and the South Carolina Education Association, have great concerns and reservations about the waiver request as it was sent to Washington, D.C.," Spearman said in response to Zais' allegations. "To us, it appears that it will be worse than No Child Left Behind, and we were just wanting Duncan to know that we are adamantly opposed to it."

Zais said in his release that a public comment period from Dec. 16 through Feb. 1 garnered more than 1,100 public comments from 22 public meetings across the state, including a statewide virtual meeting held online. One of the first two meetings was held at Manning High School in early January.

"We tried to give our input to the department at the meetings," Spearman said. "But little change was made to the waiver. We believe their plan was pre-determined when they started the meetings, and they made very little, if any, changes from the input they received."

Clyburn said, like Spearman, he thought all parties at Friday's meeting walked away with a better understanding of the state's educational climate.
"What ensued was an opportunity for both Dr. Zais and the school superintendents to share their respective perspectives on the NCLB waiver," Clyburn said. "I believe (Duncan) walked away with a better understanding of our state's education climate. It is a shame that Dr. Zais did not appreciate the opportunity to present his position."
It's a shame  the education leaders in this state cannot sit down and work through issues that will determine the future of our communities. The Rock Hill School District hosted one of the meetings referenced which was given almost no advance notice or publicity by the state. Even on short notice, all the Rock Hill School Board was in attendance as was our Superintendent and the York Superintendent (with some York Board members). Zais was not present.

As I posted after the meeting - I'll take the known instead of the unknown from the state department of education. None of the waivers make the necessary improvements needed for a successful NCLB revision - and both parties (Democrats and Republicans) have enough blame for everyone.


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