I’m NOT the only one who is extremely bothered by what Eli Broad has been up to over the last several years. Since I started this blog in February 2008, I’ve been contacted by other people via private emails and blog comments. As it turns out, there are many other public school parents, public school teachers, and a variety of people all across the U.S. who are greatly disturbed by things that are happening to the public school systems where they live, courtesy of Eli Broad's "philanthropy." We certainly don’t feel like our communities, or our kids, are benefiting from his largess.
Because the dissatisfaction is definitely out there, I thought it was time to create a place where people could come together and share what they know. The result is a website I put together over this past weekend called The Broad Report. Eventually, I plan to add more information about the Broad Residency, recipients of Broad Foundation grants, details about the individuals and all their connections, and other lovely tidbits. Grassroots contributions are most welcome. I'm most interested in accurate, verifiable information, so please include links when you can. I do realize that sometimes the reports may only be anecdotal.
Eli Broad is a wealthy and well-connected individual who has acquired an incredible amount of influence over a very important public sphere. He is also an unelected person who plies his trade in back rooms, or at by-invitation-only affairs. He never presents himself at truly public forums, thus conveniently protecting himself from any public response which would be negative. Those of us in the trenches are left to our imaginations to come up with strategies to counter what he's doing.
I started researching Broad and his effects a few years ago after my daughter's principal started complaining about the "Broad-people" who had taken over "downtown" (also known as the school district's central office). I had never heard the word "Broad" before, other than when it was used to refer to the home building company Kaufman and Broad. This particular principal was an excellent one and very highly regarded. She was a school budget expert who was extremely creative with finding ways to bring good things to her students. Close to retirement, she soon just decided to bag it rather than try to fight with the "downtown" mess being caused by the Broad-takeover.
At that time, Oakland was being subjected to the first of three successive Broad-trained state administrators who assigned a host of Broad Residents to important positions in the OUSD administration. These people drastically altered our district during the six years they were here. The breakdown was what the principal had been witnessing.
During the Broad-trained state administrators’ reign, which was very likely facilitated by Broad and other pro-charter heavies who had made huge contributions to the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction campaign of Jack O’Connell, charter schools were opened, traditional public schools were neglected and/or closed, the community voice was blocked, etc. The damage to the integrity of our already less-than-strong community, as well as to our district's institutional memory, may never be regained. Of course, this was exactly what they were after, as their personal storyteller, Joe Williams (now executive director of Democrats for Education Reform), reports here.
The more you look into it, the more you become aware that this is a very cozy group. Randolph Ward was State Administrator #1 who worked the first three of the six years. Because of the harsh way he handled things when he arrived, threats were made against him by some of the more aggressive frustrated members of this city, so he ended up hiring a full-time bodyguard for the rest of the time he worked here. Ward left in 2006 and is now the San Diego County Superintendent of Schools.
Last summer OUSD regained local control, but a few of the Broadies are still lurking around.
About 20 years ago, I had my aptitudes tested to find out who I was, and to find out what I should do when I grew up. I was told that I’d be good at things like historical research, investigative writing, corporate training, and several other things. At the time, this advice went in one ear, and out the other.
In those days I had an eighteen-month old and was working part-time as a critical care nurse. I had never written much of anything in my life, and viewed myself as a frustrated artist and sleep-deprived mother. I suppose sometimes one just can’t help but to gravitate to the types of things they do best.
By the way, "Broad" rhymes with "load," "road," and also "toad."
P.S. (added 3/17/2011): I've written to the Foundation a couple of times in an attempt to engage them, but they've never responded. They do check on The Broad Report blog from time to time, however.