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Hanna Skandera Senate Rules Committee Confirmation Hearing

Hanna Skandera Senate Rules Committee Confirmation Hearing

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Published by Independentsource
Michael Corwin's testimony to the senate rules committee hearing on Hanna Skandera. Read about her misuse of state resources for political purposes, misappropriation of $1.7 million in GO Bond funds, her manipulating job qualifications to hire the wife of the chief of staff into a fully federally funded- Title I- position in what appears to be a violation of federal law, conflict of interests, traveling on state contractor funds and more.
Michael Corwin's testimony to the senate rules committee hearing on Hanna Skandera. Read about her misuse of state resources for political purposes, misappropriation of $1.7 million in GO Bond funds, her manipulating job qualifications to hire the wife of the chief of staff into a fully federally funded- Title I- position in what appears to be a violation of federal law, conflict of interests, traveling on state contractor funds and more.

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Published by: Independentsource on Mar 03, 2013
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08/14/2013

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1Hanna Skandera Senate Rules Committee Confirmation HearingMichael CorwinMarch 1-2, 2013Thank you for the opportunity to present information today. I am here today because Ihave a son in public school in New Mexico. His education and that of hundreds of thousands of other students requires that an assessment of Ms. Skandera’s managementof the New Mexico Public Education Department (“PED”) be performed with the mostcomplete information. She has been in office for over two years so there is a true track record of her performance.Per Article XII, Section 6 the New Mexico Constitution requires the director to be a“qualified, experienced educator.” It is clear that Ms. Skandera lacks classroom, or schooladministration experience, so the question is whether her two years as secretary designatehas dispelled concerns about her qualifications and experience, or reinforced her lack of those constitutional requirements.The administration would like this hearing to be about “reform vs. status quo”, but it isabout far more than that. Policies are a critical component of determining what is best for our kids, but before we tackle policy we must first look at her operational actions for theyreveal significant problems in the areas of misuse of public funds and resources, conflictsof interest, ethical lapses, procurement code violations, dismissiveness of minorityeducation, including state laws, significant communication problems including refusingto meet with stakeholders, and an administration bent on concealing information.The weight of these factors combined with the constitutional and policy concerns presenta very clear picture that Ms. Skandera should not be confirmed.MISUSE OF PUBLIC RESOURCES AND FUNDS:1)
Directed the entire PED IT Department
to spend two full work-days combingthrough non-PED held information in order to “create lists” and a “new public record” for use by Governor Susana Martinez’s “key advisor” to use on a political attack againstteachers’ unions opposed to the governor’s agenda. Misuse of government resources for  political purposes may be a violation of the governmental conduct act.Item # 1- Email string showing the actions were directed by Ms. Skandera.Item # 2- Email response from PED that it does not create lists or create a new public record pursuant to an IPRA request except for the governor’s political benefit.Item #3- SF New Mexican article on possible violation of law and secrecy.Item #4- ABQ Journal article on PED already having info in its own system.2)
Misused almost $2,000,000
in voter approved (by over 60%) GO Bond funds toreward A/B schools after the legislature rejected request for funds to reward “A” ratedschools. Under SB 1 the “2010 Capital Projects General Obligation Bond Act” the
 
2legislature designated
“two million dollars ($2,000,000) to purchase books and instructional material 
statewide.
” (Emphasis added).
Ms. Amador-Guzman reported in an LESC meeting on 11/13-16/2012 that PED issued amemo announcing that it would
give awards
to purchase books and instructionalmaterials to schools that received a letter grade of “A” or to “Top Growth” schools.
“The funding source of the awards for those schools, Ms. Amador-Guzman said, was a general obligation (GO) bond authorized in 2010.
Members of the LESC noted that the wordingin the legislation for the bond was
to provide funds to schools statewide
. The chair of the LESC questioned the legality of using GO bonds for rewarding ”A” schools.According to LESC minutes dated 6/18-20/2012,
“Mr. Craig also noted that the 2012 Legislature did not appropriate $1.25 million that the executive had requested for monetary rewards for A-grade schools.”
PED may have broken the law, and clearly violated the voters trust, because theadministration was denied funds to reward schools the way they do in Florida.Legislation pushed by the administration to financially reward “A” schools wasoriginated in draft legislation by Christy Hovanetz, a full-time salaried employee of theFoundation for Excellence in Education (“FEE”) on January 24, 2011. See below aboutcontract payments made to Ms. Hovanetz by PED while she was still receiving her salaryfrom FEE.Item #5- LESC Minutes 11/13-16/2012Item #6- LESC Minutes 6/18-20/2012Item #7- Email w/ attachment from Christy Hovanetz to Hanna Skandera 1/24/113)
Altered the job qualifications
of the
fully federally funded
 
with Title I funds
 “Education Administrator-Advanced NAEP Coordinator” (A contractor position for theUS Department of Education) in order to ensure that the position went to the wife of Keith Gardner, Governor Martinez’s chief of staff. A string of emails show that Gardner was kept in the loop for the hiring of his wife—a direct financial benefit -- a conflict of interest under federal procurement rules.The job qualifications for this advanced administrator position were altered to require
classroom teaching experience within the previous 12 months
and eliminated aneducational requirements for course work in statistics or assessment. Requiring recentclassroom experience
eliminated anyone who worked as an administrator
within thelast year including the acting administrator, who had extensive administration experience.Despite several very qualified applicants only Ms. Gardner was deemed qualified.Item #8- Email (Gardner/Skandera)- Skandera Request Letter for PositionItem #9A-D- Job Descriptions changes 2011 vs. 2010, 2007,2006.Item # 10- Federal contracting conflict of interest definition.
 
3CONFLICT OF INTEREST/ETHICS ISSUES:1)
Paid Christy Hovanetz
over $86,000 as a contract consultant. Hovanetz was at thesame time a full-time paid senior fellow at Foundation for Excellence in Education(“FEE”) who lives in Minnesota. Hovanetz used boilerplate legislation from FEE (below)to draft all of the Martinez admin education reform bills.
FEE paid for Skandera’stravel during the contract with Hovanetz while Skandera used its services toprepare the reform bill
.FEE was formed by Jeb Bush, Zachariah P. Zachariah and Brian Yablonski. Zachariahwas sued by the SEC for fraudulent insider trading and sued in a class action lawsuit for refusing to pay legally required overtime to his employees. Yablonski was a long-term board member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission—which a Florida grand juryfound rife with “
massive fraud and abuse
”, which was “
 so prevalent that it had to becommon knowledge within and outside the agency
”. Yablonski was also a vice-presidentat the St. Joe Company, which is under investigation for fraud by the SEC.Item # 11- Contract between Skandera and Hovanetz/invoices/purchase orders.Item # 12- Reuters article “Writing Bills, Finding Funds.”Item # 13- Emails from Hovanetz to Skandera (and lobbyists for FEE includingJohn Bailey) with accompanying draft bills/revisions for A-F (see virtual academy below), 3
rd
-grade retention (with email that says Florida has not conducted any studies oneffectiveness of retention), graduation exam, and teacher effectiveness. Also, emails of list of funders of conference Skandera helped put on for FEE.Item # 14- SEC documents on Zachariah fraud/ Lawsuit coversheet on overtime.Item # 15- Florida grand jury report on fraud/ St. Joe Company doc on fraud.2)
Forced the taxpayers to pay tens of millions of dollars
for new technology bychanging from Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, who New Mexico had partnered with to transition to the new common core standards to PARCC. Skanderaswitched consortiums because FEE (Chiefs for Change) pushes PARCC over SBAC.APS, while the largest is just one district. Other districts will have to spend money too.SBAC is set up to work with new and old technology. PARCC requires districts buy thelatest equipment.According to minutes of the LESC meeting 11/13-16/2012- APS may have to purchase asmany as
36,492 new devices
because 56% of APS’ computers do not meet PARCC’srequirements. The existing equipment owned by APS and other districts worked fine for SBAC.
 
The estimated cost to the taxpayers for this upgrade is up to
$17 Million
.One of the other out of state consultants that Skandera hired along with Hovanetz andBailey, Chad Colby, is the director of communications for Achieve Inc. the parentcompany for PARCC. PARCC rewarded Skandera by appointing her to its board of directors.

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