Newark official on Race to the Top panel said he flagged error before presentation

TRENTON — A Newark Public Schools official who helped present New Jersey’s Race to the Top application in Washington, D.C., said today he flagged a crucial error less than a week before the presentation — but was told by consultants there was no chance to correct an answer after the deadline.

Dan Gohl, in charge of innovation and change in Newark schools, said he noticed the error six days before the presentation but he did not tell former Education Commissioner Bret Schundler or others in the state education department about the error.

Speaking at an Assembly committee hearing on the failed grant application, Gohl said he was told “anything that was submitted on June 1 timestamped a final document, and that’s all we can speak to” in the presentation.

When asked why he didn’t raise the issue with other officials in the state, Gohl said he was “playing catch-up” and was joining a group who knew more about the application.

New Jersey’s five representatives — including Schundler and Gohl — at the Aug. 11 presentation seemed surprised when the judges said the state provided information for the wrong budget years in response to a 5-point question. The state lost most of those points and lost the competition by three points.

Gov. Chris Christie fired Schundler in the aftermath of the state’s loss of the grant of up to $400 million, saying he was misled about what happened during that presentation.

Schundler has said he was unaware the state answered the question incorrectly until it came up in the presentation.

The U.S. Department of Education said the rules of the competition allowed the state to clarify answers in the application during the presentation but not introduce new information.

Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (D-Passaic), chair of the appropriations committee, said today the goal of the hearing was to understand how the mistake was made and develop safeguards against future mistakes.

“Only by understanding how a mistake of this magnitude was made will we be able to move forward with any confidence that it won’t happen again,” she said. “This is not a witch hunt, as some partisans have carelessly claimed. That attitude and rhetoric is insulting to the people of New Jersey who lost $400 million in education funding … The assembly takes seriously its oversight role over the administration.”

But Republicans, who are in the minority in the Legislature, and Democrats soon clashed over how to conduct the hearing, who could ask questions and when, and what the focus should be.

Representatives from the state Department of Education described the process of preparing and editing the more than 1,000-page application.

Consultants from New York-based education company Wireless Generation set up shop in the department in April, and sections of the application went through up to six or seven rounds of edits, in some cases, officials said.

Schundler and several top Christie aides declined to attend.

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  1. RetiredTeacher September 14, 2010

    Hasn’t anyone considered this mistake might have been done intentionally?

    On the surface a loss of 400 million dollars seems disastrous to everybody, but is it really?

    Far too many Abbott districts have been practicing nepotism in filling teaching positions. A wave of new teachers from industry have been trying to grab a foothold in Abbott districts without success. They’re run out on false evaluations by principals and supervisors alike.

    Why keep the most talented people from grabbing a foothold in Abbott districts? Teachers who studied teaching as a profession were never the smartest students in high schools themselves. The smartest students, with the highest SATs, went to college for engineering, and other various professions. With the job market today, many have entered teaching through alternative route, and they have much to contribute.

    Yet I have observed the very best new teaching talent been run out of education by Italian school management. They practice job nepotism as a rule. In order to themselves on top in school management they had to have run out many excellent teachers. I witnessed this process n Elizabeth. The very best teachers from industry weren’t kept, but the lame, almost stupid teachers were kept, and tenured. Is it any wonder Elizabeth had its math and verbal scores sink in the sewer? How many other districts run by Italians have had one failure after another year after year?

    BUT WHY? This keeps the Hispanics and Blacks down. Keeps them undereducated, ensuring they always vote Democratic. The school psychologists, far too many who are Jewish, are like their partners in crime. Hardly discouraging self-destructive behavior in students. Going after naive new teachers who expected better behavior from their students.

    I could be wrong, but my guess, this unbelievable administrative clerical mistake allows an excuse to get rid of all non-tenured teachers who dare to effectively teach minority students. Ensuring the Democratic vote in the future from a dependent uneducated work force.

    Everyone knows from Florida, the more educated Hispanics generally became, the more they became conservative. Not a desirable goal by a liberal run educational establishment.

    I’ve seen so much dirt in school politics that I suspect the worse instead of the best from people running Abott school districts.

    This serves two higher purposes beyond education.

    Continuing political support for Israel by a strong Democratic party filled to the brim with uneducated voters.

    Drug profits for the mob in a community unable to management itself because of a lack of professionals in the community.

    Am I wrong? It is possible. So I suggest a test. It has been a long time since I gave a real test to anyone.

    Create some new small experiential schools. Don’t hire any Italian or Jewish management to run the school. Bring in teachers who have been run out of the educational system who were successful in more demanding occupations.

    Let them run and manage the schools like companies. Where the final product, a well educated graduate counts for something.

    If they fail at it then I’m wrong in my assessment of the never ending failures of some school districts. But if they do succeed, then you know why they haven’t in the past. No one ever dared bring up the problem of job nepotism in teaching.

    Let industry people in teaching take over. Results matter to them. They’re a different breed of teacher who you usually hear discussing only vacations, their saved days off, and pension plans in the faculty room. One topic i never heard discussed was how to teach more effectively. That topic never once came up in years. They don’t care, but swear it, if you ask them why they went into the profession. The ugly truth is, most didn’t think they could compete in private industry.

    Why is it that no one in Abbot districts has found a way of keeping minority children from failing over the last twenty years? Are they naturally stupid? Or is there some hidden purpose to this continuing failure?

    How many teachers have retired into comfortable living conditions, many with multiple homes, having sent out students into the work force unable to read a newspaper or count their change in a restaurant?

    This is criminal. This is a social crime on poor communities. Usually by people in school management who wouldn’t dream of living in the poor cites they run school systems in..Why would they really care? People who hire staff consisting of friends don’t tell the truth do they?

    You can try the private school experiment and one more.

    Most Abbott districts suffer from low scores from their special needs students. Too many students are classified as special needs, to bring in additional monies for the school from the state.

    How many private schools in New Jersey catering to these students are not owned by Jews? It is a business. How many special needs departments are run by them?

    Bottom line, it is all about money.

    As I said, how could professional administrators accustomed and accomplished in properly doing paperwork, make such stupid trivial mistake on something as important as receiving 400 million dollars?

    Are you telling me for 400 million they didn’t check, double check, and triple check all the forms to make sure they were properly filled out?

    No way! I’m not that naive. It was done on purpose is my guess. But what was the true motive for it? Just to embarrass Christie? Would the top people at the DOE screw teachers to get back at the governor? Is New Jersey politics that dirty?

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