"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lisa Graham Keegan as the New Margaret Spellings?

(Photo from the Arizona Republic)

Back when Lisa Graham Keegan was just another young attractive blonde female contender for the Arizona Superintendency of Education, she was lucky to have a gentleman and mentor like John McCain to rally to her support and to push her name forward. It was the move that would rocket Lisa to the top of the education industry privatizers and corporate socialists that moved into Washington when W was elected. All those delicious discretionary grants! And what a capable grant writer Lisa turned out to be.

Now after some years of laying low following the evaporation of milllions of dollars from some of those big federal grants to the Education Leaders Council that Lisa headed up, Lisa is on the move once more as an advisor and education consultant to the McCain campaign. Will John ask Lisa where the federal grant money went? Will Lisa become the new Margaret if John is elected? After all, she loves charter schools and high-stakes testing for social engineering purposes. Stay tuned.

From the Arizona Republic:
Yvonne Wingett
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 6, 2008 12:00 AM

Lisa Graham Keegan will scale back on her job as an assistant Maricopa County manager to spend more time working on John McCain's presidential campaign as an education-policy adviser.

She has worked for the county since last year, first as a contract consultant, then as one of its top - and best-paid - administrators, at a $175,000-a-year-salary. Keegan will scale back her role no later than May 1, and will continue to work with the county and bill by the hour.

Keegan is part of an unpaid crew of five from across the nation that will advise McCain on education policies, speak at events and travel with him, she said.

"We write for him, but because it (education) hasn't been a really active issue, none of us have had to spend very much time with him on this issue yet," said Keegan, a Republican from Peoria.

Keegan is a former Arizona superintendent of public instruction, and was the architect of controversial education reforms of the 1990s.

She is best known for opening the door to charter schools, enacting new state curriculum standards and fighting a bitter political battle to impose the state's high-stakes AIMS graduation test.

Keegan and McCain go way back, to the 1980s, when he first took office. He later served as chairman of her campaign for superintendent of public instruction, and prepped her when she was on President Bush's short list for Education secretary in late 2000.

Keegan has no interest in joining McCain's team as a full-time, paid staffer, she said.


  1. Anonymous12:36 AM

    Keegan is currently on the board of New Way Learning Academy, a private, not for profit school serving a population of students who are at risk of or diagnosed with learning disabilities. Since she has been on the board she has rewritten the bylaws insuring herself controlling interest in the school. This school was established with very little but is now worth considerably more. Keegan and her palls have forced the Director of Education, Dawn Gutierrez, out in order to work her own agenda. It is so interesting that Keegan has slid in and assumed control of a school that has recently paid off all debt.

  2. Anonymous6:39 PM

    Lisa Keegan co-authored a paper for the Hoover Institution which is posted on the Internet. The paper argues against elected school boards. Thus, the current,inflammatory situation at New Way Academy creates an almost ideal political situation for her to test her argument and, incidentally, attract publicity to herself.
    The parents at New Way Academy are united in their effort to have Dawn Gutierrez re-instated as headmistress. Answers surrounding Gutierrez's firing are not forthcoming from the Board and its head,Lisa Keegan, even though Gutierrez herself signed a release allowing for the dissemination of that information.
    Approximately 80% of the school's parents have signed a petition calling for Keegan's resignation. They are also calling for the resignation of the executive committee of the board and for Gutierrez's re-hiring.
    The uproar attendant to the highly qualified, experienced Gutierrez's firing has significant potential benefits for someone like Keegan. Keegan is trying to install a standardized program into the school's curriculum. She is campaigning for the school's certification.
    Keegan pushed for change against Gutierrez's trenchant opposition. Gutierrez and the school's faculty unanimously argue for personalized education for the New Way children. Certification and standardization of the school are superfluous to the children's real needs.
    Keegan could well be using the school as a political stepping stone. She has attached herself the McCain campaign.
    However, the current trouble in which she is instrumental has the teachers at the school willing to leave if Gutierrez is not reinstated because they are so opposed to the harm Keegan's educational ideas could cause for the students. The children at the school have educational needs that must be met with humanist educational concepts, not with a standardized, dehumanized, approach.
    Keegan seems to believe her own educational propaganda. She may have convinced the board's decision makers who invite themselves and each other onto an incestuous, appointed board. But she has invoked horror in most of the people who believe in New Way Academy and the marvelous job done at the school for its population and their families.

  3. Parents hail return of principal, (Arizona Republic, Monday June 2nd, 2008) and other local news reports regarding New Way Learning Academy, is nothing but politically motivated hype that does not tell the story of what really happened at New Way Learning Academy this last spring.

    Ms. Lisa Keegan and then Executive Director, Mr. Jeff Watkins, were unfortunate scapegoats and were “thrown under the bus” to divert attention from the real problems at New Way. The media has spun the firing of Ms. Gutierrez into a political propaganda story because Ms. Lisa Keegan sat on the board and is now an advisor to the McCain campaign.

    I am the ‘one teacher’ mentioned in the Republic. I left in the midst of all the controversy. Behind what the news media portrays, lies the true story of how things have been twisted for political purposes.

    The real story is that the Board voted nine to one to terminate Ms. Gutierrez. The real players here are not anyone well known, just a group of teachers who have been at New Way for years. They are well connected to parents who are wealthy and have funded many things for the school and perks for teachers over the years. The teachers have a huge influence on these parents.

    Negative views about the job Ms. Gutierrez was doing as the Director of Education were held by many of the teachers I worked with. Teachers were unhappy about general mismanagement, the larger than advertised student-teacher ratios, and the lack of follow through with students and many issues at the school. In addition, there are a group of parents who filed complaints about Ms. Gutierrez and New Way Learning Academy with Raising Special Kids, a non profit agency to aid families with children who have disabilities.

    When Ms. Gutierrez was fired, why did teachers change their views and suddenly stand behind her so passionately? Why would they get parents to band with them, and spin a story that “Lisa Keegan hijacked the school?”

    Mr. Jeff Watkins came to the school in October, 2007. He visited classrooms, met with each of the teachers and made it clear that he had plans for the high school and wanted input from teachers. He was very approachable and open to discussion. He also was very proactive in establishing new procedures for purchases, and many other school practices that needed attention. He followed through on every issue, task, or request which was a nice change.

    Most of the people I worked closely with felt that it was inevitable that Ms. Gutierrez would leave, either by resignation or termination. It was the timing of the firing that was unexpected.

    A very important fact that is not well known is that Mr. Jeff Watkins initiated a Human Resources audit at New Way, just a few weeks before Ms. Gutierrez was fired. All teachers were requested to submit their official transcripts and certifications as soon as possible. Why? These documents were missing from many of the personnel files of teachers.

    Mr. Jeff Watkins and the Board wanted to be sure New Way was in compliance with state and federal laws as New Way is funded by school districts- to the tune of $300,000 this year-about one third of their operating budget. This is taxpayer money. The intent and idea of having a Board of Directors is to oversee these sorts of things for a nonprofit school. Their intent is not to be involved in the day to day dealings so they can feel the “climate” of the school. That is not their purpose.

    In order for a private special education school to be approved by the Arizona Department of Education, which New Way proudly proclaims to be, private school teachers who teach district funded students must be certified in the area of special education for which they are approved. New Way is approved by the State Department of Education to teach students with learning disabilities. This means that New Way teachers must be special education certified in learning disabilities.

    A teacher once approached me and actually asked me to scan a certificate from a professional development course, delete the name on it and type in her name. I could not believe it! This began my suspicion about valid certifications.

    After I left New Way, I submitted a list of teachers who work at New Way to the Arizona Department of Education Private School monitoring unit.
    The Program Specialist for state approved Private Day schools verified that a comparison of the list submitted with the staff list submitted by New Way showed that two staff members certifications have expired; four who are on the list are not on the certified staff list submitted;. In addition, there are other teachers listed that do not appear on the list submitted and all of the other staff had current certifications.

    Prior to this, a call to the Department of Education certification unit revealed that the most vocal of the teachers through out this controversy, are not certified in special education by the state of Arizona! And the one quoted in the above named article is not a certified teacher at all! This is public information that can be verified with the Department of Education.

    This not only speaks to the integrity of some New Way teachers and Ms. Gutierrez, but it also confirms that the Department of Education has failed to monitor this private school which receives federal funds!

    Soon after Ms. Gutierrez’s firing; an anonymous mass email went out to most of the parents and teachers at the school which spewed out all kinds of accusations and vicious attacks on Ms. Lisa Keegan, Mr. Jeff Watkins, and some board members with no substantiation, and none of it has been proven to be true! Whoever wrote the anonymous email convinced many parents that there was some sort of conspiracy and Ms. Lisa Keegan was at the center of it. This is where the story got spun.
    (Please read the attached ‘anonymous email titled-LISA GET OUT OF OUR SCHOOL!!!)

    This group of teachers orchestrated this entire revolt, from undermining Mr. Jeff Watkins through mass emails, open criticism to parents and the anonymous email. As mentioned earlier, teachers have a lot of influence over parents and more importantly, there was something the teachers did not want: scrutiny of state certifications by the human resources audit and the scrutiny of the Department of Education.

    Ms. Lisa Keegan and the many people who have served on the board are non-paid volunteers whose primary function is to oversee the administrative aspect of the school. These board members have spent many volunteer hours because they cared about the students. Where is the thank you to them? Instead they were lambasted by a bunch of paranoid parents who were blindly led by this group of teachers. Where are the public apologies to the people who were so publicly humiliated and viciously attacked?
    Ms. Lisa Keegan’s tenure as Chairman of the Board was to end in May, and she publicly said she would resign then, which she did. Of course, this is conveniently left out of all the articles as well.

    The reason for not divulging why Ms. Gutierrez was fired has to do with student privacy issues as Ms. Keegan stated. www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/112747)
    Why can’t people accept that? Just because Ms. Gutierrez signed a release to publicly explain the reason for her firing does not mean that someone else who may have been involved also signed a release. In the real world, people do get fired from their jobs, it’s not outrageous, it is a fact of life and it is usually confidential information between the employee and employer.

    I am in touch with families that have left New Way since Ms. Gutierrez’s firing. Some of these families have been with New Way for many years and they were not aware until they left, that they had no legal rights as far as special education laws and regulations are concerned while at New Way. However, New Way is accountable for federal and state regulations to be followed for their district students.

    All of these families that left saw the good positive things that Mr. Jeff Watkins was trying to implement. They also saw the resistance to these changes and were dumbfounded by the overreaction to Dawn’s firing, and outraged by the behavior exhibited towards those who did not agree with them, the board members, and especially Ms. Lisa Keegan and Mr. Jeff Watkins.

    Ms. Lisa Keegan was right when she said, “Change is uncomfortable.” I just never thought it would be taken to the extreme that it did.

    by Ms. Cindi Lane