Union scuttles Newark schools ‘E-plan’

larissaNo sooner had city school officials given teachers the option of working Election Day than they had to cancel school when the union told teachers they didn’t have to work if they didn’t want to.

Larisa Shambaugh, the city’s chief talent officer, sent a letter to teachers telling them she was forced to close school Nov. 8 because union President John Abeigon had monkeyed up plans to keep schools open.

“Mr. Abeigon recently directly communicated to teaching staff to ignore our calendar and invoked a provision in state law directing members to take Election Day off if they  desire,” Shambaugh argued. “This action created a serious concern about whether there would be appropriate coverage for students.”

Abeigon fired back in his own letter to teachers:

“Newark Public Schools seek to blame everyone else for their mistakes and attempt to nullify a law that clearly states ‘No teaching staff member shall be required to perform his duties on any day declared by law to be a public holiday,’ ” he wrote.

The union boss charged that Shambaugh displayed “arrogance, disrespect” and a “refusal to respect the community of Newark.”

Abeigon said he never encouraged members to ignore the school calendar or take the day off. “In fact, we asked staff to give administrators plenty of notice if they would be absent (which they are not required to do) to insure coverage would be available.”

Shambaugh said she would schedule a makeup day later in the year.

The rift comes amid widespread publicity surrounding Abeigon‘s confusing, on-again, off-again fundraising campaign.

He had said the GoFundMe idea was aimed at replenishing the union’s legal-defense fund but days later pulled the plug on the website http://bit.ly/2drVAm3 after critics questioned the union’s financial management.




Newark union chief: ‘Fundraising effort to be revived soon; stay tuned’


Union chief John M. Abeigon (njspotlight.com)

Newark Teachers Union chief John M. Abeigon says the group’s plans to raise money to defend public teachers have not been dropped, despite any public perception otherwise in the wake of “technical kinks.”

Abeigon‘s assertion comes just days after the union president pulled the plug on the organization’s funding site https://www.gofundme.com/2bhyjaty following critics who said the effort to raise money went south due to lack of support.

“The GoFundMe site is down temporarily and will return once we have worked out technical kinks,” Abeigon said.

The union boss has steadfastly denied the critics who complained the project was ill-fated due to the public perception that the union is awash in cash and needs no further financial help to defend embattled teachers.

He added: “We remain dedicated to fighting fire with fire and look forward to teachers negatively impacted by so-called ‘reforms’ to support us.”

Asked whether he has dropped the fundraising effort in the face of skepticism, Abeigon stated emphatically: “no.”

The union leader initiated a public fundraising campaign recently that he said was designed to help finance the onslaught against teachers, especially senior faculty members whose tenures are under fire.

But after the effort went dry, with no donations, Abeigon said the funding website was only up for testing. He quickly pulled it down, however, amid questions.

GoFundMe officials said people who create funding pages often don’t immediately publish them while they make final touches to their campaigns. Bartlett Jackson, regional communications manager for GoFundMe, said he wasn’t familiar with the details of the Newark case.

Abeigon insists he will re-post the funding page soon.



Union chief: ‘Fundraising campaign needed to fight fire with fire.’


John M. Abeigon

 By TED COHEN/Editor

The president of the Newark Teachers Union came out swinging against critics of his fledgling fund-raising campaign, saying the organization needs extra cash to “wage a successful campaign against the war on teachers.”

“There’s no shame in fighting fire with fire,” John M. Abeigon said in an exclusive interview with this blog. “The war on teachers is being funded with taxpayer dollars. Our only source of income is union dues from members. We don’t receive any taxpayer funding.”

Abeigon has come under fire from some critics who say the union should have plenty of money to do its work defending teachers with their contributed dues and shouldn’t have to create a special defense fund to bring in more dollars.

In a blistering headline blasting Abeigon‘s money-raising campaign, http://njleftbehind.blogspot.com said the idea for the fund came from “the Department of Chutzpuh.”

An editorial from EAIonline.com‘s Mike Antonucci said:

“The union claims this unique project is necessary because ‘we don’t have access to the same funding sources as those who want to destroy our public schools.’

“That might be literally true, but NTU has an annual budget of about $3.4 million and is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, a parent organization whose budget is $188 million. The idea that it requires a GoFundMe campaign for $100,000 is laughable.”

But Abeigon is undeterred by his critics. He said the onslaught against senior teachers requires hiring lawyers, and that costs alot of money.

“School districts and the state are using so-called evaluation systems to retaliate against senior teachers to force them out the door,” Abeigon said. “They’ve been pushing tenure cases against our senior members, forcing litigation. Whether they’re being defended for evaluation or for tenure, defense attorneys cost money. Unlike the corporations that are funding the war on teachers, our pockets are not bottomless.”

He added: “We’re not begging. This is a vehicle to assist us bringing in money to fight the crimes being committed against working people, accumulating enough money so we can afford a respectful campaign against the war on teachers.”

Abeigon said that, contrary to what some critics have claimed, the nonprofit “ERC Foundation” he is setting up as a repository for the money isn’t ready yet for public donations. He contended the gofundme website was up only for testing. It was apparently taken down minutes after our interview:


“We only had it up briefly for testing purposes to get the kinks out,” Abeigon said before pulling down the website. “We haven’t launched it yet. If you try to donate, you can’t yet.”



Teachers union goes mute – refuses to explain “foundation”

If you want to know what the “ERC Foundation” is, don’t bother asking Newark Teachers Association President John Abeigon, who has refused to respond to repeated  press inquiries.


John Abeigon (Facebook)

Abeigon’s silence comes amid myriad published reports of the union’s so-far unsuccessful effort to raise money through a newly formed “foundation” called the ERC Foundation.

The failed campaign has even caught the eye of the Washington Examiner. http://washex.am/2cNrXJp

“Maybe it’s due to poor promotion, or maybe it’s a hoax,” The Examiner’s Jason Russell wrote. “But after five days, a fundraiser for the Newark Teachers Union has raised $0. As of 5:30 p.m. on Monday, a GoFundMe page for the union had zero donations since its creation on Sept. 14.”

On its page http://bit.ly/2d1ZUYw the NTU writes:

“With Newark educators, their unions, students and public education under constant attack, the Newark Teachers Union is announcing an innovative way not just to fight back but educate the public about why public education must be supported and strengthened.

“Are you as angry as we are—the Newark Teachers Union—about the unrelenting attacks on teachers, their unions, their students and public education? This war is funded by the state, which is using taxpayer dollars to destabilize public education, especially in the poorest districts, like Newark.

“We need to fight back, but we don’t have access to the same funding sources as those who want to destroy our public schools. If you’re mad as hell and want to help us launch a real campaign to make sure Newark students, their educators, their families and communities have the strong, well-resourced neighborhood public schools they need to thrive, then consider donating whatever you can to our struggle.

“Any amount you contribute is greatly appreciated.”

Veteran teacher: ‘Don’t blame us for your mistakes and – oh, ya, Turnaround is still a joke.’

dunce cap

Veteran Newark teach Abigail Shure came out swinging against – what’s this? – her kissin’ cuz in the wake of his posting [https://newarkschoolsforsale.wordpress.com/2015/06/13/failing-blacks-and-hispanics-heck-send-turnaround-to-fix-it-not/] that suggested new stats say the “best teachers” should be assigned to classrooms where the blacks and hispanics are failing.

abbie in school library

Abigail Shure

“The reformer mantra of, ‘children living in poverty are forced to suffer from the worst teachers,’ is getting stale,” the longtime teacher wrote in a reply comment to the blog. “The argument paints teachers laboring in schools filled with high-needs students with broad-brush strokes.”

If teachers in the minority classrooms are receiving low evaluations, Shure said, “these poor ratings are not being explored or exposed or explained.”

Shure said the problem is not that the minority classrooms have bad teachers, the problem is that administrators are assigning teachers to tasks outside of their expertise and experience, and then blaming the teachers for poor performance.

The veteran educator used herself as an example of how teachers are held accountable for poor management. Shure said she has spent the past year at an “employee-without-placement” site as a library aide and academic-intervention and social-and-emotional-learning teacher, assignments that are “outside of my realm of expertise.”

So, it is no wonder, she said, that her evaluation comes in at only “partially effective.”

Shure found agreement with us on one front. “Turnaround for Children has little to offer to mitigate the profound academic, social and economic challenges of our children,” she wrote.

abbie reply

AIR.org joins the Turnaround for Children Inc. coverup; refuses allowing response to taxpayer-funded blog

$377,000-a-year David Osher

So Turnaround for Children Inc. now has another Teddy Bear kissing its face.

David Osher, the $377,000-a-year vice president of American Institutes for Research, published a glowing piece on Turnaround on AIR’s “Great Teachers and Leaders” blog.


And guess who posted his lapdog piece on her website: Pammy Cantor, president of Turnaround for Children!

“Luckily,” Osher writes, “…Turnaround for Children, helped put the South Bronx school on the right track.”

Oh, really?

Apparently he missed this report of the South Bronx school’s test-score results since Turnaround went into that school.

south bronx

So, what to do?

We have submitted an op-ed to AIR to point out what a fraud Osher’s piece offers the reading public – to say nothing of the donors who blindly think their money is helping at-risk kids in poor school districts.

(Here is our response: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hlpbN5nB9O7A4aytAduqil_NG19INWntVj4Ylnd6iq8/edit?usp=sharing)

But AIR has ignored our emails.

We have filed initial appeals of their ignorings, pointing out that their website says they are taxpayer funded:

The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders is based at American Institutes for Research and funded through a cooperative agreement by the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

We are patiently awaiting a response from:

pat gurin mug

Patricia Gurin, $50,000-a-year AIR board chair

Her website:


We have also filed a complaint with the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Education:

Inspector General Tighe:

I am interested in your opening an investigation into lack of public editorial access to The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders of the American Institutes for Research.

AIR has refused to respond to or print my response to a blog article it posted on its website that praises the work of Turnaround for Children Inc. in spite of publicly documented evidence that Turnaround for Children’s involvement in at-risk schools is not only not as successful as claimed, but simply is falling short of its publicized goals.

AIR’s Center on Great Teachers and Leaders website says: “The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders is based at American Institutes for Research and funded through a cooperative agreement by the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education.”

Because this is a publicly funded endeavor, it is required to provide access to anyone wishing to offer competing editorial viewpoints.

By failing to do so it is in violation of the tenets of the agreement with the DOE.

Its website further states: “The contents of this website were developed under a cooperative agreement (S283B120021) from the U.S. Department of Education. Information presented in this site does not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education and does not imply endorsement by the federal government.”

Even though the agreement “does not imply endorsement by the federal government,” that disclaimer is insufficient to excuse or insulate the American Institutes for Research from offering editorial space to opposing viewpoints.

The Inspector General

Inspector General Kathleen Tighe

Education Week joins flat-earth society; refuses to print letter blasting Vander Arss and other blowhards who vainly try to defend Turnaround for Children Inc.’s failures

Education Week is now refusing to print a letter to its editor calling out Tom Vander Arss and his baseless claims that Turnaround for Children Inc. is a success.
Editorial Projects in Education

Clearly, Ed Week is covering up for Bill Gates, a major education reformist.

Yes, folks, Gates owns Ed Week.

Let us back up for a moment.
Pammy Cantor, the rightous prexy of Turnaround for Children Inc., postulates that resolving the social/emotional issues of children living in poverty leads to academic success.
However, test scores of children studying in TFC partner schools are plummeting.
Need proof?
What would constitute sufficient evidence?
There is no evidence that the program is succeeding other than the baseless proclamations of Tommy My-Way-Or-The-Highway Vander Ark and other blowhards.
Tom Vander Ark
Vander Arss
And you need a Vander Ark/Bill Gates connection?
Vander Ark is a former executive director of education for the Gates Foundation.

As a former Gates Foundation executive,

has sacred-cow Vander Arss

been granted carte-blanche rights

to pontificate for Ed Week?

We have emailed Education Week deputy editor Mary-Ellen Deily asking her to defend Cathy Cardno’s decision refusing to print my letter calling on Vander Arss to defend his claims:
It is astonishing that Ed Week does not accept, as documentation of my claims, reports that have appeared in the conventional press showing marked decline in test scores reported by schools in which Turnaround for Children has been running its programs.

If press accounts of these scores – which I submitted to Cathy in response to her claim that my ‘facts’ were not documented – are not up to your standard, then what is?

Cathy Cardno
Mary-Ellen Deily

We’ve got Turnaround for Children Inc. on the run; Felsen hiring flak, social-media guru, marketing manager

turnaround now hiring

Turnaround mouthpiece Kate Felsen now needs help responding to our critical coverage of her employer.

Funny how Turnaround for Children Inc.’s top flak now needs extra staff to cope with our blogging proliferation.

Felsen is advertising for a communications manager, a social-media manager, and social-media marketing manager:

turnaround jobs

turnaround jobs

The job description for communications manager says that person would “monitor all media coverage.”

The social-media manager would “manage existing social media (incl. Twitter, blog accounts, etc.)

“Support the development and manage distribution of digiial newsletter.”

The social-media marketing manager would “develop and implement innovative and effective multi-media and branding strategies to extend reach, build new audiences and increase impact.”

But wait, that sounds like the social-media job.


Have they changed the job description?

Or are they now hiring three people to help the Overworked, Underappreciated Kate?

Maybe Kate will hire me?

Rather than focusing on the shortcomings of its programming, Turnaround is now looking for a way to spin its way out of trouble.

Pamela Cantor, president of Turnaround, has a habit of throwing money at problems.

Now, it appears that we are the problem.

Why else would Turnaround suddenly be soliciting candidates to hone its “message?”

And what exactly is the message – that Felsen isn’t qualified to control our barrage of critical writings about her and her employer?

Turnaround for Children Inc.’s lap dog fighting back: “Cohen lacks cred”

Seems Tom Vander Ark is a little sensitive to criticism of his string of fawning articles on Turnaround for Children Inc.

Vander Ark’s latest vacuous piece was published in Education Week. (See following post for details on that disaster.)

van ark fights back

As you can see, Vander Ark wrote:

“I have investigated Mr. Cohen’s claims and they don’t appear to be accurate or credible.”

My reply:

For someone who writes nothing but fawning pieces about Turnaround for Children Inc. – and then reposts them on his blog – you speak with no accuracy or credibility.

If you can cite one instance of lack of accuracy, I would be more than happy to provide you the information you need to clear up your journalistic jaundice.




To wit:

President of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Tom Vander Ark, is walking away from a multi-million dollar project to open new charter schools in NYC.

The New York Times is reporting that after spending more than $1.5 million of investors’ money on consultants and lawyers, Tom Vander Ark, president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has walked away from the project to open new charter schools in New York City.  As a result, the new schools will not open as planned this fall.  This shocking move has left many frustrated.







‘Education Week’ in the tank for Turnaround for Children Inc.; Blogger Cohen cries bias

ed week bias

When Education Week sees an op ed that suits its purposes – lavishing fawn on its bed mates – it hops right into the sack with its suitor.

But when confronted with a critical piece about one of its partners, it runs for the hills.

Consider Ed Week’s latest fawn on Turnaround:


Turnaround’s president Pammy Cantor liked the piece so much she posted it on her Facebook page – the same page that prohibits critical public comments.

See a pattern here, folks?

I mean, why don’t you all just get a room.

Who needs a lap dog if you have Tom Vander Ark?

In recent years he has written six laudatory pieces about Turnaround, three of which were in Education Week.

How much are Turnaround officials paying Vander Ark to flak for them?

Tom Vander Ark

Turnaround’s lap dog Tom Vander Ark

Here’s the piece of mine Education Week REFUSED to publish:

Turnaround Children Inc.’s transparency claim transparent The top school official in a major American city as part of an education-reform initiative is bringing in yet another private foundation, yet as little is known about Turnaround for Children Inc. as is known about how it fits into Supt. Cami Anderson’s plan to modernize Newark, New Jersey’s schools.

Anderson arrived in New Jersey’s largest school district in two years ago this month, bringing with her an education-reform movement.

The city’s public schools are among the lowest-performing in the state, even after the state government took over their management in 1995.

Although the school district continues to struggle with low high school-graduation rates and low standardized-test scores, the mayor of Newark, Cory Booker, insists, “Newark, New Jersey can become one of the first American cities to solve the crisis in public education.” This vision for better school district is also shared by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who made a $100 million donation to Newark Public Schools in 2010.

HuffPost’s Joy Resmovits called Newark “a national test case for the fixing of troubled urban schools and the use of major philanthropic dollars in an educational system.”

Now, Turnaround For Children is interviewing schools in Newark for September.

What is Turnaround and what is its proposed role in Newark?

The best source for information would be Turnaround, right?


Turnaround has refused to provide information about its failed foray into Orange schools and whether that experience foretells problems in Newark.

Turnaround’s entry into the reform movement began with Orange, N.J., as well as New York City and Washington, D.C. But as soon as the Orange effort began, it failed, according to Turnaround’s nonprofit filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

Tax documents filed with the IRS by Turnaround disclose the program’s unexpected suspension.

The documents, a public record, also reveal that Turnaround was forced to return the remaining part of the grant that funded the program.

“Management decided to terminate its three-school program earlier than planned,” Turnaround officials told the IRS.

In their IRS filing, Turnaround officials blamed the short-lived program’s demise on what they vaguely described as a “shift in organizational priorities.”

But officials failed to disclose what they meant by the change or who instigated it.

Turnaround officials say they suspended their request for the remaining funding they were to receive for the Orange project, but they made no mention of the amount of funding they had already received and the amount they were still due.

Turnaround officials issued a prepared statement defending their Orange pullout.

“Our hope was to expand the partnership, to deliver a significant amount of professional development to teachers and to increase our engagement district-wide,” said Kate Felsen, vice president of communications. “Unfortunately, Orange Public Schools did not have the capacity to take on the professional development we had to offer during the 2011-12 year. For this reason, we ended our partnership amicably.”

Though Turnaround proudly announced the Orange project in its September 2010 newsletter, there is no evidence on the organization’s web site that Turnaround officials ever notified the public of the program’s suspension.

If Orange school officials are to blame for Turnaround’s failure in their schools, then they are apparently taking the accusations in stride.

Orange Supt. Ronald Lee failed to respond to questions until he received a formal open-records request.

He said, “Turnaround proposed to expand its program to a transformational model that encompassed academic, foundational and behavioral elements in the 2011-2012 school year. At the same time, the district was continuing or launching a number of significant initiatives to improve instruction and student outcomes. We mutually concluded that the district’s initiatives would require and deserved the full focus of the district staff principals and teachers. Therefore, we discontinued the program in Orange at that time to allow these innovations to take hold.”

Felsen, too, will not go beyond her prepared statement.

When asked who funded the Orange effort and who will be funding the Newark plan, Felsen replied, “You have my statement.”

More to the point, attempts by journalists to procure information from this so-called “transparent” group – as described by GuideStar.org – have been met with silence, stalling and arrogance.

Ted Cohen of Maine is a veteran newspaper and radio reporter who follows trending national issues. He can be reached at tedcohen@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Tedcohen1.