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Unethical Behavior at OPSB? Tell Us Something We Don’t Know.

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Perhaps the University of Houston should review its screening process for job applicants.

On Monday, the U of H issued a press release announcing the appointment of Herman Taitt as Executive Director of Facilities Management for the university. The glowing announcement included a quote from Associate Vice Chancellor Emily Messa, who said:

“Herman’s extensive and diverse background will serve him well here at the University of Houston. We welcome him and know his knowledge and experience will be an asset for Facilities Management and the University.”

The University of Houston announced Taitt's hiring the same day news broke he was being charged by the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

The University of Houston announced Herman Taitt’s appointment as Executive Director of Facilities Management.

According to the Louisiana Board of Ethics, Taitt’s “extensive and diverse background” includes abuse of office while serving in his previous role as the Executive Director of Operations for the Orleans Parish School Board. As outlined in charges filed earlier this month [see filing below], the Board of Ethics says Taitt pressured GCA Services Group, a private custodial and maintenance services company, to hire Andrenetta Thomas for a “coordinator” job that was not included in GCA’s contract with the school board.

As I noted in a previous blog post, Taitt openly allied himself with former OPSB President Ira Thomas during the latter’s effort to oust Interim Superintendent Stan Smith last year. At the time, a senior OPSB administrator told me that they believed Taitt and Thomas were colluding to remove Smith from office so the duo could steer district contracts to their “friends.”

Lo and behold, Ira Thomas was the first to come to Taitt’s defense when news broke of the ethics charges on Monday. In an interview with The Advocate, Thomas claimed he was “surprised” by the charges and said, “From the information I have, I don’t believe [Taitt] was in violation.”

Ira Thomas is possibly the only person in the City of New Orleans surprised by the recent ethics charges.

Ira Thomas is possibly the only person in the City of New Orleans surprised by the recent ethics charges.

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Ira Thomas may be only person in the entire City of New Orleans surprised by the recent ethics charges. The incessant in-fighting and power struggles that have paralyzed the board over the last two years have largely centered around the issue of district contracts. Shady individuals and organizations take to the podium at every board meeting to browbeat board members and district administrators over the allocation of those contracts. Now we learn that a senior OPSB official is accused of twisting the arm of a vendor to provide someone with a job. The question raised by this incident isn’t “How could this have happened?” but “What other OPSB bombshells are just waiting to be uncovered?”

No wonder why some members of the school board seem so dead set against allowing the New Orleans Inspector General to audit the district’s finances. They’re no doubt afraid of what he would might dig up.

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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T

Herman Taitt was one of the most honest people NOPSB ever had working for them.
Peter
if you look closer at the real issue you will find the reason why the charges
were filed against Mr. Taitt. The real reason was to deflect the real issue. Why
the acting superintendent would allowed a contractor to over bill by $200,000
per year. Was there a financial interest that would allow Stan
Smith to overlook the overbilling and try to force a whistleblower out? I think
the investigation should be looking into the connection between Stan Smith and
the contractor GCA Services Group.

CT

I happen to have knownMr Taitt for 25 years and he has never done anything un-ethical his entire life. These charges are bogus and I believe he will be cleared of all charges…UofH did a full background check before hiring Herman and they hired the most qualified candidate for the job. Last time I checked we are all innocent until proven guilty in this country.

wpDiscuz

NOLA

PSA: It’s Millage Time Three School Taxes Are Up For Renewal On October 14th

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Voters in New Orleans will be heading to the polls next month for the first round of several high-profile citywide races. While the contests for mayor and various city council seats have drawn plenty of attention, three important school board millages are also on the ballot (literally at the very bottom, so don’t miss them).

The millage proposal language on an Orleans Parish sample ballot from the Louisiana Secretary of State.

The three proposals simply renew existing property taxes for another decade and will provide our city’s public schools with approximately $38 million annually. Funding from these millages will benefit both charter and traditional schools, whether they’re under the oversight of the Orleans Parish School Board or the Recovery School District. If they are not renewed, schools will receive $850 less per student each year, resulting in cuts that will negatively impact our kids.

Public schools in New Orleans have made tremendous gains over the past 12 years and the revenue generated by these taxes will help ensure that progress continues.

That’s why New Orleanians should vote YES on all three school board millage proposals when they head to the polls on October 14th.


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Charters

PSA: NAACP Charter School Hearing Tonight Don't Let Critics Distort The Story In New Orleans

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Tonight, the NAACP will be holding a hearing on charter schools at the New Orleans City Council Chambers (1300 Perdido Street) starting at 5:30pm. It will be the sixth hearing that the NAACP has held in cities across the country following their inexplicable call for a moratorium on charter schools last fall.

Flyer for tonight’s NAACP hearing.

The NAACP’s call for a moratorium has been roundly criticized by education reform advocates, as well as by the editorial board of The New York Times, which called the move “a misguided attack” by an organization that “has struggled in recent years to win over younger African-Americans, who often see the group as out of touch.” The Washington Post was even more scathing in their take on the moratorium, linking the NAACP’s recent turn against charters to the substantial financial support the group has received from the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.

Angry charter school parents from Memphis confronted NAACP officials at their national meeting in Cincinnati last fall.

In any case, NAACP officials have apparently decided to dispense with any pretense of objectivity at tonight’s meeting by inviting a number of outspoken charter opponents to speak, including:

  • Bill Quigley, a law professor at Loyola who filed a specious civil rights complaint against a local charter network that was eventually dismissed by the Louisiana Department of Education for lack of evidence;
     
  • Walter Umrani, an anti-charter candidate for the District 4 seat on the Orleans Parish School Board who received only 13% of the vote;
     
  • Willie Zanders, the lead attorney in the class action lawsuit against the Orleans Parish School Board and State of Louisiana over the layoffs of school board employees following Hurricane Katrina that was dismissed by the Louisiana Supreme Court;
     
  • Adrienne Dixson, a former education professor from Illinois who recently compared the education landscape in New Orleans to “The Hunger Games”;


  • State Rep. Joe Bouie who has used his position on the House Education Committee to spread misinformation about charter schools and engage in obstructionism, as seen below.

Charter school supporters need to attend tonight’s NAACP hearing to ensure that the truth is heard and that the positive impact that charters have had on the children of this city is not denied.

I hope to see you there!

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