by David Safier
Earlier today, we learned "a national company specializing in research-based education solutions" has been engaged to investigate the Mexican American Studies program to determine if it is "complying with the requirements of A.R.S. § 15-112." But we didn't know who that company is. Now we do.
The company is Cambium Learning Group. A quick scan of its website gives me the impression that it is a credible, publicly traded corporation which sells learning materials and has an expertise in working with low achieving students. The people in charge have strong credentials in education and educational publishing. I don't detect any political agenda either on the company website or in what has been written about Cambium Learning.
But there could be a real problem with Dr. Steve Gallon, the person Cambium Learning is sending to do the audit. From what I have found skimming through extensive articles about him on the web, he is a talented, charismatic man of questionable moral integrity who sounds like he is ill suited to make the impartial judgements required of him in this evaluation.
Gallon was Superintendent of Florida's Miami-Dade School District in 2008 when he was hired as superindent by New Jersey's Plainfield School District. In 2010, he was arrested for providing false documents for some students. He claimed they lived at his address, which allowed them to attend a school when they were out of district. He only avoided jail time by entering a pretrial intervention program.
But there's more to the story.
Gallon brought two people with him from Miami-Dade who were hired as administrators in Plainfield. It turns out they were teachers who lacked the necessary adminstrative credentials. When the issue was raised, Gallon called the allegations "lies extracted and interpreted from newspaper articles." Later, it came to light that the names of the two rarely appeared in the log book staff have to sign on a daily basis, meaning they may not have been showing up for work.
Meanwhile, another new Gallon hire had a complaint filed against her, that "during a Sept. 15 staff meeting [she] approached [a staff member] from behind and violently grabbed his neck with both hands, causing a neck sprain."
Another situation: When a group of teachers made some complaints at a board meeting,
Gallon issues a memorandum to all Plainfield Public Schools employees warning them about potential repercussions for "unbecoming conduct.'' The memo warns of potential discipline against those that engage in conduct "that which does not reflect positively on the district, its schools, professionals, and its students.''
Gallon's tenure as superintendent ended when he was charged with "conspiring to commit theft by deception, theft by deception as an accomplice and false swearing." Similar charges were filed against one of the Miami-Dade teachers posing as an administrator and also against the administrator who grabbed a teacher's neck. Gallon had claimed the children of the two women charged along with him lived at his address. All three agreed to enter pretrial intervention rather than do jail time.
Now, Gallon is in the employ of Cambium Learning Group and being sent to make a determination about the Mexican American Studies program. TUSD should ask the question: Is a man of dubious moral character who is known to play fast and loose with rules and laws the right person to pass judgement on the legal standing of a TUSD program? My answer would definitely be no.