School consolidation would set up an artificial fiscal disaster that
could force the “unified” public school system to turn to private foundations
for funding, at the price of control of public education by private entities.
This is disaster capitalism, or the shock doctrine, right here in
Valdosta and Lowndes County.
“the rapid-fire corporate reengineering of societies still reeling from shock”
She was writing mostly about wars, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters.
Locally here we haven’t had any of those.
But we may be about to create a disaster, a shock,
at the ballot box in November,
if voters fall for the school “unification” snake oil.
After reading the
Ed Weekly article, [slightly earlier version quoted here, referred to
I was struck by a very strong
dejavu feeling. I checked the date twice and only to realize ( twice)
that this consolidation went on more than 15 years ago.
The city schools were in bad shape financially and educationally in
Chatnooga city. That is the major difference with our situation here.
As much as some want you to believe that Valdosta city schools are not
doing well, there are many that can point to the school improvement plan
and it being recognized as one of the best in the state, or other notable
achievements that differ front the view of VCS propagated by the folks
Other than that we are looking at the same issues; racial segregation,
neighborhood schools, professional development monies in the different
district, curriculum changes, busing to attain integration requirements,
and the concerns about redistricting and moving kids to other schools.
Again this was 15 years ago, yet we are now faced with the same issues.
At the time of the article consolidation had passed (19k to 21k).
Teachers and parents Interviewed expressed concern about the poor kids
of the city not getting a fair shake because the county (largely white)
schools had little connection to the issues of the city kids. We would
be faced with that just on a smaller scale.
The other strange likeness to this 15 year old consolidation is that
Steve Prigozhy seems to have some very vague notions of school reform
today that he did back then. These notions have been found to be less
than successful in the ensuing 15 years.
Distancing himself from his failures does not make him a success at
anything but manipulation of facts. The education of my children is
not going to be reformed by a man that spins the truth and panders to
On Thursday 9/29/11 CUEE called a special meeting of their Education
Task Force at the City Hall Annex. Reading on and between the lines of
the VDT article it appears the new, more agressive tactic is to call
into question the conduct and accountability for goverance of education
of the Valdosta City Board of Education. Under the leadership of Steve
Prigohzy they seem to be heading toward usurping this goverance from
the elected school boards to another entity they can control. This is
hauntingly familiar if you read an article titled Tennessee Waltz from
the Education Week Teacher.
Leadership for the post consolidation planning was forcibly taken from
the county superintendent and given to the Public Education Foundation of
Chattanooga, TN, which was headed by CUEE’s own Steven H. Prigohzy. His
specialty seems to be powering school consolidations and overseeing the
resulting planning which does little to improve the academic or financial
conditions of the public schools (actually these get worse). It does
however provide the perfect climate for pulling grant monies to establish
the magnet schools he also specializes in.
The partnership between
Public Education Foundation, headed by Steven H. Prigohzy, and
the consolidated public schools in Chattanooga and Hamilton County, Tennessee
So, how have all those great plans for improving education worked out?
In 1994 Chattanooga city voters voted to turn responsibility for education
over to the county, requiring the two systems to merge. At the request
of the Hamilton County School Board, PEF surveyed 3,300 area residents
and convened 135 community members – educators, civic and government
leaders, residents, parents and students – to help shape the vision
for the new school system. When the newly consolidated system emerged
in 1997, the partnership with PEF continued.
Interestingly, Prigohzy is no longer listed as board or staff with PEF.
Maybe we should ask them why….
In the years 2005 – 2010, Hamilton County Public Schools will meet or
exceed national benchmarks for excellence with continuous, measurable
improvement in reading, mathematics, and in the numbers of students who
progress smoothly from grade to grade, graduate from high school and go
on to college or career-path jobs. Because of this sustained progress,
Hamilton County will be recognized among the very best mid-sized public
school systems in America. The community will be justifiably proud
and more and more people will understand and support the investment
necessary for great public schools. The Public Education Foundation
will be instrumental in these achievements as a champion of school
transformation and will devote its expertise and fundraising capabilities
to the Hamilton County Public Schools as a catalyst for bold ideas that
create real and positive change.
A month after the election, the board voted to ask the Public Education
Foundation to help frame the new system. The move was partly on the
advice of educators in Knoxville, who faced a raft of problems after
consolidating rapidly with Knox County eight years ago.
The foundation, one of the wealthiest local education foundations in
the country, has worked closely with educators in both the city and
county. Its president, Steven H. Prigohzy, is a dynamo with a clear
vision of where he’d like to take education in the new system.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a county
After reading Barbara Stratton’s piece about
Steve Prigohzy screening a movie about magnet schools,
I wondered, who is this Steve Prigohzy, anyway?
CUEE never showed us his resume, as near as I can tell,
and they’re a private organization, so they don’t have to.
But his tracks are all over the Internet.
With the board’s approval and support from the Lyndhurst Foundation,
a committee outlined the necessary steps to develop a Paideia school
for Chattanooga students. First, the group hired Steve Prigohzy as the
school’s planner, promoter, and educational leader. Prigohzy looked for
teachers who were lifelong learners themselves. “I would ask teachers
to talk to me about a book they were reading that I shouldn’t miss. I
wanted people who were acting out their curiosity about the world,” he
said. Prigohzy also sought teachers whose appreciation for discourse would
sustain the school as a community of learners. Limited public confidence,
especially in the city’s middle schools, influenced the planning.