Open Letter to Buffalo Board of Education (BOE) c/o Superintendent Pamela Brown and James Kane
To the BOE,
In 1999, while Mary Guinn was Superintendent of Schools in Gary, Indiana, she also served on the advisory board of the TargetTeach Program, a product of Evans Newton, Inc. (ENI). Guinn did not immediately disclose her conflict of interest to the Gary BOE, which in 2004 voted not to renew her contract, citing declining test scores as one reason.
A company official told me that Guinn wasn’t receiving royalties, but she was compensated while working for ENI over the past 12 years.
In 2005, as Chief Academic Officer of the Tulsa Public Schools (TPS,) Guinn directed a $1.3 million contract to ENI for its TargetTeach program. Two months later she expanded the program for another $2.5 million. As a paid Administrator, Guinn had a conflict of interest that should have been immediately disclosed, but was not, and her decision to expend millions of TPS money was unethical without such disclosure.
In March, 2009, as the Deputy Superintendent of the TPS, Guinn with her “personal” friend Yamilette Williams directed an additional $587,000 of Title I monies to ENI for TargetTeach Strategies. Her conflict was never disclosed. Guinn was terminated due to a “restructuring” in 2010. Private donors provided the $188,000 to buy out her contract.
As the Deputy Superintendent/Consultant in Falcon, Colorado, Guinn again purchased ENI TargetTeach products without disclosing her conflict. In February, 2011 she irked school board members by asking for a raise for taking a job that would have had fewer responsibilities, and her contract was terminated.
In July, 2011, Guinn was named head of school at a Esperanza Charter School in New Orleans where, after one year, she was allowed to “resign”. Her boss said the Board had doubts about the school’s goals under Guinn’s leadership. Guinn had already sold the school $225,000 of ENI TargetTeach programs without disclosing her conflict.
On February 21, 2013 while acting as a consultant to the BPS under a contract with Cross and Juftus, Guinn applied to be the Superintendent of the Monroe City Schools listing as her current position “Independent Educational Consultant–Evans Newton and for Falcon School District 49” (which she had left in 2012).
To recapitulate, Guinn worked for ENI for 12 years and incorporated its TargetTeach program in every school she worked at. She was compensated by ENI for her sales, yet she never disclosed that she was conflicted. This history of unethical conduct and abuse of power require a re-evaluation of her appointment by the BOE.
During her entire tenure as a consultant/employee of the BPS, Mary Guinn was not certified by the State of New York.
In late August, 2013, Guinn, illegally acting as de facto Superintendent of the BPS, harassed the Chief of Strategic Advancement and Innovation (Chief) in a three hour meeting demanding she retire and blaming her for the incompetence of the Superintendent. She repeated the demand in a second meeting in Sept., 2013, threatening discharge. On at least two occasions, BOE member Sharron Cottman, referring to the Chief, blurted out “we will get rid of that woman.” The Chief complained to the Human Resources Director who told her he would assign his attorney to interview her. Months later, in an elevator, the Chief asked the attorney when he was going to interview her. The attorney didn’t know what she was talking about. He told the Human Resources Director who immediately informed the Superintendent who called the Chief into her office two hours later. The Superintendent stated that the Chief either resign her position by submitting a letter of resignation by the end of the day or face potential, immediate disciplinary action. When the Chief said that she believed retirement was one of her options, the Superintendent directed the Director of Human Resources to say nothing, to offer no advice. The Chief retired. The Superintendent then lied to the BOE saying that despite counseling and warnings the Chief’s work was unacceptable. The Superintendent had in fact never evaluated or commented negatively to the Chief about her work.
Guinn was discharged from her leadership consulting contract in October, 2013 for cause. Guinn had lied to the BOE concerning her activities as a consultant stating that she never assumed any responsibilities as a supervisor when, in fact, she was acting as the de facto Superintendent during her entire tenure with BPS, propping up the dysfunctional and incompetent Superintendent on behalf of a dysfunctional majority of the BOE who wanted her to have on-the-job training.
Guinn, who was not certified as a School District Leader during her entire tenure with BPS, became certified by the State Education Department (SED) on February 13, 2014 and on February 24, 2014 she was appointed as the Interim Deputy Superintendent of the BPS despite her history of deceit and unethical conduct. The Superintendent lied to the BOE when she stated that there were no other qualified candidates for the position. Despite requests for a list of all applicants the Superintendent has refused to furnish the information. On two occasions in November, 2013 the Superintendent attested to the BOE that she had no intention of hiring Mary Guinn as Deputy Superintendent when in fact she was in regular communication with Mary Guinn as her adviser.
Under the supervision of Yamilette Williams, the Chief of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction, nine School Improvement Grant (SIG) applications were prepared.
By memo dated March 2, 2014, the Superintendent notified the BOE that the applications, signed by her, were sent to SED. The Superintendent overtly and intentionally misrepresented to and denied the BOE copies of the actual District SIG 5 applications that went to SED in what was a $90,000 diversion of funds by the Superintendent to Mary Guinn and ENI.
Eight consultants had responded to an RFP for Leadership Turnaround Coaching. The committee formed to review the responses scored Evans Newton 21/40 points. Two other known and reputable consultants were scored 35/40 and 40/40. Apparently the American Institute of Research (AIR,) which had provided excellent coaching support services to the BPS for SIGs 3 and 4, was chosen by the screening committee but at the last minute AIR was replaced with ENI. Mary Guinn was hired February 26, 2014. The applications went to SED on February 28, 2014. There was no cut off score applied which would have excluded ENI under normal conditions. The complicit Superintendent chose to overrule her committee, circumvent normal procedure and collude with Guinn, Williams and ENI to award to ENI. There was no disclosure of the award nor their conflict to the BOE. Required parent and principal signatures were not on the applications.
When she was illegally appointed,Yamilette Williams did not have a valid NYSED certification as a District Leader. She is not certified today and hasn’t even applied for certification. Legally, applicants can’t be interviewed without a certification. Williams is licensed only as a “School Building Leader,” and that license is only conditional pending fulfillment of requirements including passing the test. The Superintendent lied when she told the BOE that Williams had the requisite SED certification as a District Leader.
Williams was appointed after a required interview by a committee attended by her “personal” friend, “Consultant” Mary Guinn, who told the interviewers that she was present “to make sure Yamilette could answer the questions.” Guinn’s obvious purpose was to intimidate the committee. The Superintendent has failed to respond to my requests for a definition of the “unique qualities” of Yamilette Williams, which compelled the Superintendent to choose a resident of Florida, over otherwise qualified people available in the BPS who could have been promoted based upon merit.
Williams lists as her professional experience “Project Implementation Manager-Evans Newton, Inc.” where she managed “turnaround and transformation programs” from 2010 until she was hired by the BPS.
Chief of School Leadership, Faith Alexander a/k/a Faith Morrison only has a School Building Leader Certification. She does not have the requisite NYSED District Certification to be a Chief of School Leadership. She does not have the required education and has not taken the test. She supervises principals but has never been a principal. Her peers say she is not competent in the position.
Alexander and Williams are subject to disciplinary action by SED for being unlicensed.
There are many high quality principals within the BPS who could have been promoted to the Chief of School Leadership position based on merit but the Superintendent appointed another “personal” friend of Guinn. Despite requests by me for a description of the “unique qualities” of Alexander, who holds on-line diplomas, the Superintendent has been non-responsive. Alexander holds a BA from the University of the West Indies Mona, a one-year accelerated masters from Lynn University, an on-line school, and an Ed.D from Nova Southeastern University, another on-line school which she remarkably earned during 2007-10, the same period of time she was earning her MeD from Lynn.
From 2010 to her date of hire with the Buffalo Public Schools (BPS), Alexander worked for ENI with Williams and Guinn. Within a month of taking her position with the BPS, Alexander was an applicant for another position in downstate New York. Alexander has not shown any indication of permanent residency in Buffalo.
By copy of this memo I am referring the above to the appropriate authorities for investigation of this apparent collusion and conspiracy among the Superintendent, Mary Guinn, Yamilette Williams and Faith Alexander to illegally and improperly award contracts to ENI.
I move that the BOE resolve as follows:
1). The three administrators and the Superintendent be suspended without compensation for cause pending completion of the criminal investigation, and
2). The BPS immediately withdraw the referenced SIG applications from SED to be recast in proper form with the Coaching consultant replaced by the winner by points of the screening committee, prior to re-submission.
3). The SED must immediately investigate and remove and/or otherwise discipline Faith Alexander and Yamilette Williams who are not licensed for their positions by SED.
4). Refer the entire matter to Karl Kristoff to investigate all activities and failures to disclose conflicts by the Superintendent and the three administrators.
Please feel free to forward this memo to your fellow teachers, principals and administrators of the BPS and your friends and families.
Buffalo BOE member and 2010 GOP nominee for governor