Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Byrd-Bennett, SUPES & Harcourt's goal in Detroit: Loot and then burn.

Byrd-Bennett's inner circle, Tracy Martin, Sherry Ulery and Rosemary Herpel, followed her from Cleveland and Detroit.

I'm glad that Chicago reporters are finally uncovering the depth and breadth of the SUPES scandal. Today, the trail leads them back to Detroit where Barbara Byrd-Bennett was brought in to run the district as a high-paid consultant after leaving Cleveland. In the end, I predict the trail will extend even farther and higher up, as the edu-criminals begin rolling over to save their own skins.
According to today's Sun-Times:
An FBI agent believed corrupt former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett worked to “fraudulently steer” a $40 million contract to one of the country’s biggest educational publishers while she worked for the Detroit schools.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who's been following the case or to those of us who have been writing about the takeover of Detroit's public school system, which smelled of corruption and mismanagement from day one.

With the help of three accomplices brought over from Cleveland, including Tracy Martin and Sherry Ulery, to rig the bidding process, BBB funneled big contracts to testing/textbook giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Turns out, she was on Houghton's payroll before and after Detroit. Martin, Herpel and Ulery then became part of BBB's inner circle at CPS and have now been named in the SUPES indictment.

Here's the FBI warrant on BBB from Detroit.

More from S-T:
The feds told the judge an “unusual financial transaction” took place about three weeks before the contracting process for the Detroit deal began. Records show the FBI’s “analysis of bank account belonging to Barbara Byrd-Bennett shows a deposit into her Money Market account on July 20, 2009 in the amount of $26,530.26 from ‘Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.’”
Before arriving in Detroit in May 2009, Byrd-Bennett had worked for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for three years for an annual salary of more than $155,000, according to court records.
 A couple of months after leaving the Detroit schools — where she was an independent contractor with the title of chief academic and accountability officer — Byrd-Bennett returned to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The company offered her $182,000 a year to work 21 hours each week, the FBI said.
The whole purpose of the Detroit takeover, as later admitted by BBB's successor Roy Roberts, in May 2011, was to, “blow up the district and dismantle it.” But to BBB and her SUPES friends, the goal was to loot first and then burn.

Before the succession of state interventions started in 1999, DPS had a $93 million dollar operating surplus, enrollment over 173,000, and academic gains. Six years of emergency management from Lansing since 2009 has widened the performance gap between Detroit’s students and their Michigan counterparts; enrollment has plummeted; and the district’s operating deficit and long-term debt have smashed all previous records.

Over the ensuing years, the Detroit Public Schools has been run into ruin, with over 200 schools closed, and many of the district’s buildings turned over to charter operators.

Note to Chicagoans: The BBB-HMH deal likely wouldn't have happened without the dismantling of the district's elected school board. That board regularly reported contract irregularities, but, stripped of their powers of oversight, they were neutered in the face of corporate "reform."

They call themselves a "global learning company."
As for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, I have been writing about them for years. HMH is now one of the biggest text/testing publishers, right up there with Pearson and McGraw-Hill.

They have been among the most aggressive companies bellying up to the Common Core feeding trough. They have been buying up everything  even vaguely associated with Common Core. In April, they purchased Scholastic Corp.'s educational technology and services business for $575M. They've already acquired Channel One and Curiosityville. Last month they launched Netflix for Learning. They plan on launching HMH Marketplace, online tools and games for educators to use in the classroom, in 2016.

HMH was even intent on purchasing SUPES from BBB's indicted co-conspirators Gary Solomon and Tom Vranas.
Besides the Detroit deal, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was mentioned in September 2014 court records regarding the alleged kickback scheme at CPS. According to those records, there was a 2012 email in which SUPES co-owner Thomas Vranas told Byrd-Bennett: “If we are purchased by HMH [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt], we will give you 5 percent of total amount we are purchased for.”
Nobody has been charged criminally in connection with the investigation of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Detroit deal. Why not?

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