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Why did Chicago hire a North Carolina superintendent embroiled in a testing scandal?

By far the longest and most long-winded testimony on behalf of Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman at the February 4, 2010, hearing on the proposed reconstitution and so-called "turnaround" of Gillespie Elementary School (9301 S. State St.) came from the "Chief Area Officer" Geraldine Middleton.

Chief Area Officer Geraldine Middleton (above, red dress and glasses) was the Chicago school system official who presented the longest statement during the hearings on the proposed "turnaround" of Gillespie Elementary School. Middleton, who came to Chicago from North Carolina, began her $160,000-per-year job after being hired by a vote of the Board of Eduction on August 26, 2009. Seated beside Middleton (above) is Board Assistant Attorney Edward Wong, who is being paid $91,000 this year, according to CPS records. Wong narrated the overall case against Gillespie school at the beginning of the February 4, 2010 hearing. In the background are Ryan Crosby (who presents the Power Point on each case) and Reginald Williams (an assistant ion the Department of School Security and Safety), who didn't speak. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. According to Middleton, her office had done everything it could to help Gillespie Elementary School in Chicago, but Gillespie had "failed."

According to Middleton, the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) was just the right entity to save the children of Gillespie because AUSL had nothing but success in its so-called "turnaround" work for the past several years.

The question the hearing officer should have asked Middleton — but didn't — was something along the lines of "How the heck could you know?"

Middleton has been in Chicago less than six months, having arrived here from North Caroline following some data scandals in North Carolina. According to CPS records, Middleton was hired by a vote of the Chicago Board of Education on the recommendation of CEO Ron Huberman on August 26, 2009. Her salary was set at $160,000 per year (a bit higher than the CAOs who had worked in Chicago) and the Board agreed to pay up to $5,000 for her moving expenses. The Board approved the Board Report to hire Middleton without discussion or debate.

But according to media material from North Carolina and Middleton's own statement to the school board there when she accepted the Chicago position, she wasn't even intending to begin her Chicago job until September 18, 2009.

Between August (or September) 2009 and early February 2010, Middleton served as one of the most powerful school officials in Chicago. As a result, she got to be part of the Board of Education's team that presented the "data" arrayed against Gillespie. According to her testimony, she was testifying on behalf of CEO Ron Huberman, who has yet to attend any of the hearings being conducted in his name.

Because the hearings on school turnarounds are one-sided to a shameful degree, nobody got to ask Geraldine Middleton how she could possibly know anything about Gillespie — or any other school in Chicago — since she was only hired by CEO Ron Huberman under a secret but now highly controversial change in decades-old Chicago policies that allowed the CEO to hire "Area Officers" who had no Chicago or Illinois teaching or administrative training or experience.

There is more. When Middleton was hired by Huberman and the Chicago Board of Education in August 2009, Middleton was in the middle of a scandal back in North Caroline involving a common but unsavory response to "data driven management" — cheating to raise scores on standardized tests. One of Middleton's principals had been accused of cheating on the North Caroline PACT tests to provide Middleton with "data" to show how much things were improving. Middleton had been hired to hear the Halifax County school system in order to raise test scores, and she had done so — until the scandal called into question some of the methods used.

Instead of remaining in North Carolina as she had promised to clear the record, Middleton answered the call of Ron Huberman and arrived in Chicago to take one of the higest-paid and most powerful jobs in the Chicago Public Schools.

NEWS REPORTS FROM NORTH CAROLINA The Post and Courier newspaper ran a story on September 19, 2009 about a scandal in Middleton's administration.

http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2008/sep/19/moore_maintains_innocence55072/

Former Sanders-Clyde Elementary School Principal MiShawna Moore says she didn't do anything unethical or illegal with standardized testing at the school.

Moore maintained her innocence in a letter this week while requesting a 30-day unpaid leave of absence from her position as assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Halifax County schools in North Carolina.

She asked for the leave so that she could "address and be available to have face-to-face conversations with the appropriate individuals in Charleston, S.C.," according to a letter from

Moore to the Halifax County School Board. The request was granted.

The state released Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test results last week that showed massive drops in test scores at Sanders-Clyde, a high-poverty downtown school previously recognized for its students' impressive achievement. The test score decline coincided with stringent district oversight of the school's testing, a first for the school.

Charleston school officials asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate after seeing the scores plummet this year as well as a higher- than-average number of student eraser marks on 2007 tests and improbable academic gains among students in 2007. SLED has opened an investigation.

The Post and Courier has repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to reach Moore for comment. In her letter, obtained Thursday by the newspaper, Moore says that she did not respond to the newspaper's requests "mainly because I was unable to contact anyone that could give me an official explanation of what was going on other than what was being reported in the media. To date, I have not been contacted by any official with the Charleston County School District."

Schools Superintendent Nancy McGinley said neither she nor anyone in the chief academic office has heard from Moore or tried to contact her. The information about Sanders-Clyde has been turned over to the state, and McGinley said the district wasn't going to interfere with the state investigation.

Moore left Charleston in June, a few weeks after PACT testing ended.

Jennifer Timmons, a spokeswoman for SLED, could not comment on whether the state had asked Moore to return to South Carolina.

Moore explains in her letter to the Halifax County School Board that before leaving Charleston, she prepared information from her testing coordinator and teachers that would answer any questions about testing procedures at the school.

While it's unclear what information she's referencing, McGinley said the district received a packet from Moore that described school employees' concerns about the monitors' effect on the school during the 2008 testing period. The roughly 20-page document included a narrative and several e-mails from teachers that detailed the way district monitors disturbed the testing environment, such as the number of times monitors entered and exited classrooms and the impact of the strangers on children used to familiar faces, McGinley said. Some felt the monitoring would hurt test scores, she said.

Moore said in her letter that she believed her submission of that information was the end of any questions about what happened this year.

"If I believed otherwise, I would have never taken a chance in bringing you or the district discontent or uncertainty about my credibility," Moore wrote. "Please accept this as confirmation that I was not involved in any unethical or illegal activities, as it pertains to the administration of the state test at my school."

Halifax County schools Superintendent Geraldine Middleton said she wasn't concerned about the investigation at Sanders-Clyde because nothing has been proven. Middleton supervised Moore in Charleston, and Middleton said she hired Moore in North Carolina because of her knowledge of curriculum and instruction. Middleton does not believe Moore was involved in any wrongdoing.

"I believe, that based on her work and knowledge, that it's not true," she said. "We will await the results of the investigation."

Reach Diette Courrégé at dcourrege@postandcourier.com or 937-5546.

Copyright © 1995 - 2010 Evening Post Publishing Co..

Aug 18, 2009

Halifax County Superintendent Resigns

The troubled school system is now being run as a partnership between the county and the State Department of Education. (Posted: 12:18 PM Aug 18, 2009).

The head of a troubled school system here in Eastern Carolina has resigned for a new job out of state. Geraldine Middleton is leaving as superintendent of the Halifax County school system on September 18th. [2009].

Earlier this year a superior court judge threatened to force a state takeover of the school system, which has been plagued with low student test scores. Instead the state and the school system entered into a partnership to help Halifax County make improvements in its schools.

Middleton, superintendent for the past two years, has accepted a position with the Chicago Public School System, the third largest in the country.

Press Release. August 17, 2009. Middleton submits resignation

HALIFAX – Geraldine Middleton, superintendent of Halifax County Schools, submitted her resignation to the Board of Education at Monday night’s meeting.

Middleton became superintendent in July 2007. She was immediately faced with a financial crisis from the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years. This year, she has faced a state takeover due to low standardized test scores for the past five years.

“It is both with resolve and anticipation that I submit my resignation effective September 18, 2009,” Middleton said. “I have accepted an opportunity to further my current career goals and achieve growth within a new adventure.”

Middleton said she has accepted a position as Chief Area Officer with the Chicago Public School System.

Chicago Public Schools is the third largest school district in the United States with 408,000 students in 666 schools. Middleton said Chief Area Officer is the equivalent of being superintendent to 30 to 40 schools within that huge district.

In a prepared statement, Middleton told the board and audience, “Two years ago, with a vision, a dream, and mountains of faith, I accepted the job as superintendent of Halifax County Schools. In this capacity, I served the children and the community tirelessly. I was vigilant in my attempts to raise test scores, create positive learning environments, implement new programs and create the financial stability of the district.

“Many times I was faced with difficult decisions and had to perform what seemed, the impossible,” she continued. “Difficult decisions are not always popular; however, if they are made in the best interest of children, they become challenges you cannot, should not and must not ignore.

“I will remain committed to cost effectiveness, innovative programs geared to 21st century learning, research-based professional growth and development — all the while dedicated to helping children overcome obstacles and reaching higher levels of achievement. In order to grow, we will always have to ‘navigate the winds of change.’

“To the children who attend Halifax County Schools,” said Middleton, “I continue to wish that you will grow educationally and always strive to be excellent in all your endeavors. You are the future leaders. As you ‘navigate the winds of change,’ keep in mind that if you are prepared intellectually, there is no limit on what you can be.

“To the parents of the children who attend Halifax County Schools,” she continued, “I challenge you to ensure that your children receive a quality education daily. By attending parent teacher conferences, PTA meetings, volunteering and by being an active participant in the educational process, you can help to facilitate a new vision and a bright future for your child.

“Underscored in this challenge is that you not just become active in times of crisis incited by politicians,” Middleton continued, “but instead demonstrate responsible actions throughout your child’s school years.

“To the teachers,” Middleton said, “I implore you to take advantage of the challenge to educate all children and to fully embrace change because it is incapable of being avoided. Always bring new vitality to the classroom and fresh approaches to teaching. Our children must never be the losers in an educational decision, especially if those decisions benefit someone’s political career and personal ambition.

“To the community,” she continued, “I encourage you to embrace the necessary changes related to declining enrollment, budget cuts, and low student achievement as an opportunity to use wisdom versus status quo, excellence versus mediocrity, strength and fortification versus what is politically expedient for someone else and reason versus inappropriate tactics.

‘It has been my genuine pleasure to work for Halifax County Schools,” Middleton concluded. “I have enjoyed working with the fine staff of professional colleagues and will miss my association with them. I will keep Halifax County Schools in my prayers.” 

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Comments:

October 11, 2011 at 11:39 PM

By: Andrew Newhouse

Geraldine Middleton

Ms. Middleton worked at Ann Arbor public schools with George Fornero supertintendent until 2006, where he resigned from public pressure and was hired by Chicago public schools district 113. Middleton left Ann arbor pubic schools shortly after the next superintendent Todd Roberts was hired. She could not close the achievement gap, as deputy superintendent of instruction, and there were undisclosed ethical issues that should be FOIA'd. Fornero is causing a great deal of anger with parents in Chicago. It would be worthwhile to google Ms. Middleton and check ann arbor board meeting minutes.

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