A top city educational official in charge of turning around failing schools resigned in disgrace from his last job, the Daily News has learned.
John Alford, the $130,000-a-year director of turnaround, was hired in October, a year after leaving his post as CEO of a New Orleans charter school because his business manager was charged with embezzlement.
The staffer was ultimately sent to jail for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the school over multiple years. Alford was not suspected of any wrongdoing.
"At the end of the day, I take responsibility for allowing this to happen," Alford told The Times-Picayune after he resigned from his position at the Langston Hughes Academy.
City education officials said they were aware of the problems in Alford's past.
Alford, a Harvard Business School graduate and a former national director for the KIPP charter schools, declined to comment yesterday.
Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg, however, defended his decision to hire Alford. "This is a person of real integrity who cares deeply about student outcomes," said Sternberg in a statement.
"He'll be an important part of our team as we continue the crucial work of fixing our struggling schools."
Can you imagine how this story would be framed by the papers if the union hired an accountability guy who couldn't keep employees accountable at his last job?
Can you imagine how Bloomberg would frame it on his Friday radio show?
And yet, at the NYCDOE, they hire this guy because he has the pedigree they want - KIPP experience, ed deform ideology, charter school proponent.
Oh, and he made it into a Michelle Obama speech about "role models."
According to Michelle Obama, Alford is a role model because he has helped create a turnaround school where students "spend 50% more time in their classrooms."
He has also helped spur other "reforms."
These days, that's all that matters.
Still, for a Harvard Business School graduate, this guy doesn't sound too swift.
The employee he supervised at the Langston Hughes Charter School, Kelly A. Thompson, stole $675,000 in a little more than a year.
And she was pretty blatant about the thefts:
Several times a month, Thompson allegedly withdrew cash or made a check out to herself. The amounts range from $100 to nearly $9,000, but usually fell in the $1,000 to $5,000 range. A few times, Thompson made several cash withdrawals in a single day.
Financially "the place was left in shambles," said Mickey Allweiss, the chair of the school's board of directors. "We're working very hard to figure everything out."
Should the DOE really have hired a guy whose management skills are so in question that he left his previous employer "financially...in shambles..."?
I'd have to say on the face of it, no.
Perhaps they've hired all the really good KIPPsters and TFA'ers and other ed deform shills already and now they're down to hiring people like Alford?
Or perhaps they really didn't look into his background.
They say they did, but you know, they also say they did a nationwide search for a replacement for Klein.
Or perhaps they hired him because they want him to do for NYC schools what he envisioned for New Orleans schools when he first got started at Langston Hughes.
Here is how he framed that vision in an article about how great the new charter schools were in NOLA and how they were replacing the old corrupt public school system:
And what happens with the public school system, long blamed as the root cause of New Orleans' entrenched poverty, will also shape the city's future.
Katrina accelerated a process of replacing the corrupt, underperforming system with reformed traditional schools and charter schools. Recently released test results show higher scores among the charter students. But the system is having trouble attracting teachers.
The clean slate attracted John Alford, a Harvard Business School graduate who moved from Baltimore to run the Langston Hughes Academy Charter School. By the storm's tenth anniversary, he expects 90 percent of the city's schools to be independently run charters.
"If we do what we're supposed to do," he says, "it can be a glorious city."
Oh, it's going to be a glorious city all right, now that charter operators like John Alford have eliminated all the corruption from the old system and brought about accountability and high standards.
You know, like having an employee making several thousand dollar cash withdrawals from the school fund each day for personal expenses and walking around cash.