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Patty Wycoff: From parent and activist to MFT endorsee for school board

patty wycoff at capital
Courtesy of Patty Wycoff
Patty Wycoff

The story of candidate Patty Wycoff can be told in three acts. There’s Wycoff the mother of two, whose efforts to be an engaged public school parent have delivered lessons about inequity, community and possibility, and who wants to use that knowledge in a grueling, unpaid job.

Then there’s Wycoff the neighborhood activist who was recruited at the 11th hour to run for Minneapolis School Board against a candidate the powerful teacher’s union badly wants to defeat. And who has supporters who have made missteps that made it appear her campaign was prepared to deliver low blows.

And finally there’s the Wycoff who shares a frustration with her opponent, Josh Reimnitz. Namely tensions in Minneapolis over education reform and the teachers’ contract have built to the point where partisans, and not the candidates, are controlling the narrative about them.

A recent morning found Wycoff sitting in the backroom of Sebastian Joe’s, a coffeeshop in the center of the newly created school board District 4, where she and Reimnitz are competing in the only race where there’s a real contest this year. She was determined to wrest her story back.

Education degree from Winona

In 1995, with her first child on the horizon, Wycoff and her musician husband bought “a shoebox of a house” in Bryn Mawr, a tiny oasis of middle-class stability located in a pocket between Interstate 394 and Minneapolis’ near north side. She had a degree in elementary education from Winona State University and experience subbing in Minneapolis Public Schools and Richfield, but she wanted to stay at home full time.

By the time her daughter, who is now a sophomore at Southwest, was ready for kindergarten Wycoff had concluded that her best option was to open-enroll the girl in Hopkins, a great, not-too-far district that was enjoying a boost in attendance from Bryn Mawr parents and other north Minneapolis families who were fleeing the area’s mostly failing schools.

Wycoff joined the PTA and set about organizing fundraisers and book fairs and wrangling volunteers. She didn’t know it then, but it was relatively easy going. At the last meeting she attended, right before her fifth-grade daughter transferred to FAIR, a fine-arts magnet in Crystal run by an integration district that included Minneapolis, the Hopkins PTA treasurer reported there was $52,000 in the account. They voted to approve a teacher’s request for a new laptop.

A very different picture

The next week she went to her first PTA meeting at Bryn Mawr Community School, the neighborhood school where her son was starting kindergarten. There was $520 in the PTA’s account. More than 80 percent of the students came from impoverished families.

A school not far to the north, Bethune, had no PTA at all — and very little parent involvement. The next one to the south of the freeway, Kenwood, had a huge, active group.

“It was eye-opening in the beginning, the gross inequities in our schools,” she said. “They would work so hard to raise so little money. I had to start thinking out of the box.”

Engaging the community

By then she was working for the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association, and it occurred to her that the two roles might generate some synergy. She started talking to people — business owners, childless couples, families — about what she’d seen and about the value of a good school to a community.

The business community in particular stepped up and in two years the PTA had $14,000. Wycoff was both proud and discouraged.

“Even though we took all of these avenues it was still an enormous amount of work,” she said. “It just felt grossly unfair how hard it is to bring things to a school where kids really need things.”

Bryn Mawr’s band program had been eliminated in 2009, which was upsetting for many reasons, created a real problem when its graduates started the sixth grade in Anwatin, the middle school where they were tracked. Students who arrived there without knowing how to play an instrument had to take basic music instead. So Bryn Mawr’s PTA took $10,000 of its hard-earned money and used it to pay for an afterschool music program.

Proposals for changes

The following summer, 2010, MPS began the painful process of changing school attendance boundaries. The district had lost a fourth of its pupils in the preceding decade and was spending a fortune busing kids to a menu of schools desperately in need of pruning.

The district proposed to turn Bryn Mawr from a K-5 program to a K-8, close Anwatin, and eliminate the “pathways” to Southside high schools, leaving parents a choice of North, a dropout factory the administration was considering shuttering, and Patrick Henry, a good option but located on the city’s northern boundary.

Wycoff was one of a group of parents who lobbied hard to get MPS to reconsider. The chapter received zero outside scrutiny, and district insiders tell two stories about it. In the first, a group of white middle-class parents threatened to leave the district en masse if their guarantee of seats in perennially oversubscribed Southwest High School, the state’s best but miles to the south, was not preserved.

In the second version, Wycoff and her neighbors told board members they feared not just the loss of good options for their kids, but of further segregation. Anwatin should stay open, they said; it was integrated and centrally located. And the two desperately poor, mostly minority neighborhoods to Bryn Mawr’s immediate north should share its menu of Southside choices.

In the alternate, if the district was serious about propelling middle-class families back to North High, it should make Lake Street the dividing line so kids from the Kenwood and Isles neighborhoods would automatically go there.

Wrenching discussions

It was, according to some who participated and who are not Wycoff supporters, a wrenching series of discussions in which a group of sincere, well-intended parents said they valued diverse schools and wanted equity, but believed the district’s plan would further neither end. In the end, they got their way.

And their critique that the new map had been poorly drawn has been borne throughout the district, particularly in southwest Minneapolis where schools are overstuffed and MPS is struggling to market new — or newly spiffed up — programs as palatable alternatives.

“Because of that experience, I bring something to District 4 that’s important,” Wycoff said. “Why is it so difficult to get equal programming in all the schools?”

In part because of this trial by fire, Wycoff said she has considered running for a board seat for the last four years. And when Reimnitz’s Minneapolis Federation of Teachers-endorsed opponent dropped out of the race her “phone started to ring.” She filed for office moments before the deadline.

Immediately seen as MFT backer

The second she did, the MPS grapevine lit up. The MFT had not so much as granted Reimnitz, who taught as a Teach for America corps member, an interview. As much as he was presumed — incorrectly, he maintained — to be anti-union because of his experience as a non-union teacher, Wycoff was presumed to be carrying the MFT’s water in part because her biggest backer has deep DFL roots and a strong relationship with the MFT’s state-level parent group.

Wycoff would like to recast this portion of the story. “The Margaret Anderson Kelliher thing?” she said, in reference to reports that she was recruited by the former speaker of the state House of Representatives. They met when both of had toddlers and they lived five doors apart, before Anderson Kelliher was speaker. They are friends and Wycoff is grateful for the support.

She’s also pleased that the MFT endorsed her. “I’m proud to have earned the endorsement,” she said. “I never imagined I would catch so much flak for it. I never imagined people would make assumptions about me and my opinions as the result of it.”

For the record, she does not think changing the way seniority factors into teacher layoffs will fix the achievement gap, and she is in favor of a longer school day — just not more “seat time.”

And she’s more than a little insulted by the buzz: “I think I am a good enough candidate that we don’t need to be doing this.”

Supporters’ talk against opponent

Yet some of the buzz can be traced to her supporters. In late July, MinnPost and at least one other local education reporter received e-mails from a neighbor of Wycoff’s who asserted that Reimnitz had been caught up in an Atlanta scandal centered on cheating on standardized tests during his time with TFA.

The woman attached a report by the Georgia state auditor that is not the kind of document that turns up easily on Google and did not, in fact, show any irregularities with Reimnitz’s classes. Other Wycoff supporters were said to be talking about it, suggesting that if his own scores were valid he had no right to be asserting that his first teaching job was a meaningful one.

The auditor concluded that the principal at the school where Reimnitz taught fourth grade pressured some teachers to coach struggling test-takers and other irregularities. Reimnitz’s scores were within normal range, however, and his name did not come up during the investigation.

Confronted, Wycoff replies quickly. “That report exonerates Josh,” she said. It was the effort of a second “crazy neighbor” to help. It may look like opposition research, but “Margaret had nothing to do with it.”

This “help” hasn’t been very helpful at all, Wycoff added. It has cemented the notion that she is not her own woman. It took several calls to secure a meeting with Mayor R.T. Rybak, a critic of the union-endorsing process who she said was preparing to endorse Reimnitz without talking to her.

“I will never look at an endorsement the same way,” she said. “Did you talk to all of the candidates?”

(Reimnitz, who did get the mayor’s backing among other endorsements, would probably agree. He was unable to get a meeting with the MFT, which he has asserted would be surprised at his views on teachers unions.)

‘Shocked and saddened’ by criticisms

 “I have been shocked and saddened by some of the things that have been written and said about me,” Wycoff said. “I can take the criticisms, but if I am elected I hope it is the decisions I make that will be criticized and not me personally.”

At this Wycoff laughed. If her education as a candidate has proven anything, it’s that whoever is elected, she or Reimnitz, will be sorely tested on this point. Wycoff is running anyway.

“I’m here. I’m invested. I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “I have kids in the system. Both are going to graduate from Minneapolis Public Schools.”

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Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/17/2012 - 09:39 am.

    Cheating

    “The woman attached a report by the Georgia state auditor that is not the kind of document that turns up easily on Google and did not, in fact, show any irregularities with Reimnitz’s classes.”

    Beth, have you actually read this report? Can you attach a copy of it? I ask because your description of the cheating scandal is really at odds with other news reports about it. There may be no evidence that Reimnitz cheated himself, but should he be claiming that his two years of teaching produced significant improvement in scores when there was widespread cheating?

  2. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 09/17/2012 - 09:41 am.

    ” the powerful teacher’s union.” That’s common trope for you Beth. Where’s the proof?

    • Submitted by David Brauer on 09/17/2012 - 11:04 am.

      Politically powerful, anyway

      Rob, I think we can at least say the MFT is politically powerful. I don’t have a full roster in front of me, but I don’t think very many school board members have won without their endorsement. 

  3. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 09/17/2012 - 09:48 am.

    Has the teachers’ union been able to stop the harmful policies of NCLB? RTTT? Has the “powerful teachers’ union” stopped the killing of public schools, say, in North Minneapolis? Been able to stop the “drill and kill” schools of Eric Mahmoud? Been able to stop TFA enabling legislation that allows untrained elite students into schools? Been able to stop being rated by student test scores (to comprise 35 percent! of their ratings soon). Been able to stop a narrative, often perpetrated by you, Beth that there is an epidemic of bad teachers (which by the way, there is no proof of). Been able stop the mass firing of teachers in “turnaround” schools?

    Teachers and their unions have been fighting for quality schools and for the rights of students, as they are now in Chicago. Where is your reporting on Eric Mahmoud, of whom this site has written glowingly many times, who is now shown to be a convicted mortgage scammer? No mention here. No mention here of the ZERO PERCENT efficiency of fifth graders in science at his two schools. NO mention of Mahmoud classifying real employees as contract workers to escape paying benefits.

    I wish there were a “powerful” teachers’ union. But the opposite is the truth – they are hanging on by a thread.

  4. Submitted by Beth Hawkins on 09/17/2012 - 10:27 am.

    A link and a caution

    Dan:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/59655401/Atlanta-Public-Schools-2011

    I read the report when it was first sent to me, and checked my understanding of what I read with people who are better versed in this type of investigation. I did not think the murmuring around it–How can Reimnitz claim to have gotten good outcomes during a cheating scandal? Does this suggest he is exaggerating his successes?–was supported by its contents.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/17/2012 - 12:25 pm.

      You talked to the wrong people

      Sorry Beth, but you got this completely wrong:

      You describe the cheating at Reimnitz’s school as:

      “The auditor concluded that the principal at the school where Reimnitz taught fourth grade pressured some teachers to coach struggling test-takers and other irregularities. Reimnitz’s scores were within normal range, however, and his name did not come up during the investigation.”

      That is completely false. Reimnitz’s scores were not in the normal range. Reimntiz’s classrooms got flagged because of an unusual number of erasure marks changing wrong answers to right answers. The math scores were 3.88 standard deviations above normal, while the reading scores were 6.6 standard deviations above normal. The possibility that this occurred randomly was approximately 1 in 10,000 for the math scores, and 1 in several million for the reading scores.

      There is no evidence that Reimnitz himself was responsible for the cheating – anyone could have changed the answers. But the evidence that the test scores were the product of treating is conclusive. Reimnitz’s claim that he improved test scores is false, and he needs to stop making that claim.

      • Submitted by Josh Reimnitz on 09/17/2012 - 01:09 pm.

        Facts

        Greetings,

        I’ve had the chance to read over the comments here and I’d love to clarify this situation.

        Ms. Hawkins does have it correct in that I was never accused of anything and I was only interviewed to share my perspective on the incident. I think the missing piece of information is when my improved test scores took place. The year this report talks about was my first year of teaching and I would completely agree that we cannot use CRCT (Georgia state test) scores to measure my performance in the classroom, just like we could not use that data for anyone at my school and dozens of others in Georgia.

        I made significant gains with my students the following year, when we had extra security on the tests, additional proctors from the state, and did not test our own students. That year, unfortunately, my classroom was only one of two in the school to meet or exceed our targets.

        Mr. Hintz, I’m not one to make false claims but I am someone who will take responsibility for my words and actions. I can confidently and demonstrably say that my students made significant gains while I was teaching. I hope in the future, like Ms. Hawkins did here, you’ll make the extra effort to find all the facts before stating my claims are false.

        • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/17/2012 - 01:58 pm.

          Fair enough

          I appreciate that you understand that the scores from the year analyzed in that report are no good. If your claims of improved scores are based on testing other than these tests, then I have no basis to say that your claims are false. I assumed that you were including these tests, was wrong about that, and I apologize.

          I need to point out, however, that my assumption was based on Beth’s story and comments. Her explanation of what happened was not the same as yours. You and I agree that your test scores from the year of the report were the product of cheating, but Beth incorrectly stated that the scores were within the normal range. Beth actually did not make the extra effort to find all the facts, and got the facts all wrong. It isn’t your fault that someone did a poor job arguing your case, and maybe I am to blame for trusting in what turned out to be just miserably bad reporting, but that is how we got here.

          Just curious – have you posted the test scores you do rely on anywhere?

          • Submitted by Josh Reimnitz on 09/17/2012 - 04:22 pm.

            Thank you, Mr. Hintz. I appreciate your willingness to recognize that.

            When I mentioned Ms. Hawkins made the extra effort it was a couple months ago when she clarified these points with our campaign. While that one piece of when all this occurred was missing in this most recent article, she did her due diligence but didn’t include it here. I won’t speculate on reasons, but I’m sure she can’t include all the information she gathers in every story.

            Much like these scores would not have been posted (nor asked for) were it not for a state investigation, I have not posted the scores from my students and will not be doing so. I’m happy to talk more (much more!) about my thoughts on issues within Minneapolis and my goals for the Minneapolis School Board, but as for this topic with Atlanta that’s all that needs to be said. It’s an unfortunate situation for those thousands of students and families, but through it I’ve learned a lot about district, school, and classroom administration, and hope for the opportunity to bring that knowledge to the Minneapolis School Board.

            • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/17/2012 - 06:01 pm.

              Not quite

              The problem with Beth’s article wasn’t just leaving out her due dilligence or not including all the information she gathered – it was falsely claiming that there wasn’t cheating on the tests in your classroom and that the scores were in the normal range. What she needed to convey – if she was going to convey anything – was your explanation that the scores that were the product of cheating were part of your claim about improved test scores. Had she done that, there would not have been an issue.

              Are you prohibited from posting the scores, or do you just not want to do it?

              I ask because Michelle Rhee, another TFA alum, made a career out of claiming drastically improved test scores, and her claims turned out to be false. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until large scale cheating under her watch in Washington D.C. came to light, and the result was false claims of school improvement and millions of dollars being paid out to wrongfully fired teachers. TFA teachers also generally perform worse than regular public school teachers, so there are some grounds to be skeptical about huge improvements from a new teacher.

            • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/17/2012 - 11:02 pm.

              Help me out here

              According to the letter linked to by Ms. Sommers, the CRCT testing was deemed invalid for BOTH years you taught at the school. Its not just the first year that is detailed in the report, but the second year as well.

              Are you basing your claim on a test other than the CRCT? Because if you are relying on the second year for CRCT testing for your claims, you are using testing data that the school district has deemed invalid.

  5. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/17/2012 - 11:07 am.

    Where did he teach?

    Reimnitz’s website does not have the name of his school. Do you know which one it was?

  6. Submitted by Beth Hawkins on 09/17/2012 - 11:19 am.

    Sorry, Dan;

    Reimnitz taught at Cook. That portion of the report starts on page 117 of the report.

  7. Submitted by Beth Hawkins on 09/17/2012 - 12:57 pm.

    Dan

    I checked out Reimnitz’s response when this argument was raised two months ago, and I stand by my reporting. But rather than interject myself into this debate, I have invited him to join this thread or to have someone from his campaign do so.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/17/2012 - 01:29 pm.

      Argument?

      Where exactly is the argument? This is about facts.

      You stated:

      “Reimnitz’s scores were within normal range.”

      According to the report, that isn’t true. The report states that the scores from his classes were far above the standard deviation for answer changes from wrong to right. That’s why they were flagged.

      That isn’t my opinion. That isn’t my argument. That is just a fact. Are you saying the report isn’t true? Or are you saying that when you stand by your reporting, you don’t care if you got the facts wrong?

      As far as the chances of those standard deviations being random, that isn’t my opinion either. Those are mathematical principles. If your scores are 6.6 standard deviations above normal, the odds of that occurring randomly are one in several million. There is no opinion or argument involved.

      The only argument is my conclusion that, given widespread cheating throught the school – including confessions of cheating – the extremely abnormal scores in Reimnitz’s classroom were also the product of cheating and not a one in several million chance of good luck. I don’t think that I am going too far out on a limb with that one. I’m not saying that Reimnitz himself cheated – there is no evidence of that – but that his scores were the product of cheating, and that he should not be taking credit for them.

      I would, however, love to hear what Reimnitz has to say about this.

      • Submitted by Josh Reimnitz on 09/17/2012 - 04:23 pm.

        Please See Above

        Mr. Hintz, I know you’ve seen my response but for those readers who skim down, please note my response above.

        Thank you!
        josh

  8. Submitted by Florence Sommers on 09/17/2012 - 09:32 pm.

    Patty Wycoff Josh Reimnitz

    I am the person who discovered the report. I also discovered a letter written by the principal of Cook Elementary, where Josh taught, informing parents that the scores for 2008-2009 AND 2009-2010 had been invalidated. (Google:Cook Elementary November 18, 2011 letter the website written in red under the title is http://www.Atlanta.K12.ga.us/…/Cook%20Choice%20letter%202011.pdf)
    Unless Josh can show otherwise, there is no official record that his classes made gains in either year. The official record is that the data for both years is invalid. The school has been closed.

    I resent being called a “crazy” neighbor. I was a delegate at the convention in May and although I am a teacher, I voted for Josh, not the candidate endorsed by MFT. Then I met with Josh at his request. During our conversation, I had concerns that he didn’t really have a grasp of teaching after all, but I told him I would be willing to meet with him again after he researched his ideas. I went home and started reading about TFA, (I had mistakenly thought TFA was a volunteer organization), and I came upon the cheating scandal in Atlanta. I had not talked with Patty Wycoff, the DFL or MFT; I was still open to supporting an enthusiastic individual who might have innovative ideas after he’d had time to develop them. I emailed Josh that I had read about the scandal, a predictable outcome of tying teacher evaluations to standardized tests. I had not connected the scandal to Josh’s time in Atlanta, but when I did not hear from him, I began to wonder, so I did more research and that is how I discovered that his classes were flagged for wrong-to-right erasures and that he was mentioned as citing concerns about the accuracy of the data. I shared my information with a neighbor who had also voted for Josh at the convention, and she decided to contact the media. I have never accused Josh of cheating, I have stressed in my conversations that he was not implicated in any way, and it is my understanding that my neighbor has never accused him of cheating as well.

    Why do you call us “crazy” because we took the trouble to educate ourselves about a candidate we voted for and shared the information we found? It troubled both my neighbor and me that he never shared the context for his educational experience. If Josh had said, “I actually taught in a dystopian system, I’ve seen first-hand the corruption that ensues when teachers are harassed to raise test scores, I was frustrated because I never was able to have a valid measurement for my students…” I would have viewed him as straight-forward, as someone who was able to reflect upon his experiences and discuss what was unhealthy for educational systems. To act like it never happened and reference “gains” struck us, who gave him our votes at the convention, as disingenuous. Additionally, when he stated to me, “Tenure has no place in K-12 education,” I asked him if he was aware that teachers could be put at risk because they might disagree with their principals. He did not respond. After I read about the scandal, it was clear that Josh’s own principal had, according to the report, harassed and humiliated teachers. He had witnessed first-hand a principal, who was implicated in the cheating scandal, threatening teachers. And his principal was not a rogue principal; 38 principals were implicated. Josh’s actual teaching experience was molded in a major cheating scandal where principals created an atmosphere that was “Mafia-esque” and yet he made a blanket statement that all power should be in the hands of principals. “No tenure” would benefit TFA, the organization that arranged for his teaching contract in Atlanta, an organization that is now fielding political and school board candidates around the country. TFA may never have given Josh’s candidacy any money, but promoting a policy that benefits TFA when he came from a system where teachers were not rehired for even questioning the validity of falsified data is a huge red flag to me, and I have the right as a voter to express my concern and provide the context. We have concerns that Josh is either unable or unwilling to recognize the dysfunction of his experience, and we have every right, as citizens, to share our views. Referencing the websites is about fairness – voters can read the report and the letter about invalidated test scores for themselves.
    You can disagree with me as to how you feel about the report, but to call me crazy for exercising my voice and providing evidence is completely uncalled for.

  9. Submitted by Florence Sommers on 09/17/2012 - 10:12 pm.

    Patty Wycoff Josh Reimnitz

    Per my earlier post, Ms. Hawkins, you’ve completely missed the point. Again, no one is accusing Josh of cheating. The issue is that Josh had no teacher preparation aside from TFAs 5-week training, and then taught in a dysfunctional system amidst a scandal some headlines describe as the worst teaching scandal in the U.S. involving 56 schools (including his), 38 principals (including his), and 178 educators overall. The data from both years that he taught has been invalidated, (per the already cited letter of Nov. 11th). The school was already east Atlanta’s worst performing school, according to the East Atlanta Patch and it has since been closed. Josh might be the nicest person in the world, but there is no evidence that his two years in the classroom gave him any opportunity to observe effective teaching or teach effectively himself. There is the possibility that he developed distorted ideas of effective teaching. He could have been highly effective; he could have been clueless. The actual context of his teaching experience is not what jumps to mind when people hear “former educator whose students made gains.” There is nothing to prevent you from supporting him after hearing all the information. But you should not be using your column as a bully-pulpit to ridicule those who think the context is relevant, or to try to prevent others from knowing the information and making up their own minds.

  10. Submitted by Rebecca Miller on 09/17/2012 - 11:15 pm.

    Can’t sleep

    I wasn’t going to post but after reading this I can’t get to sleep with out responding.

    “Reimnitz, who did get the mayor’s backing among other endorsements, would probably agree. He was unable to get a meeting with the MFT, which he has asserted would be surprised at his views on teachers unions.”

    This is just not true. I am part of MFT’s endorsing committee and I personally contacted Josh last spring to screen with us. He not only sent us written responses to our screening questions and sat with us for the screening interview (I know this because I was there and have notes from the interview) but Josh also participated in a forum with the other school board candidates at MFT in front of about 50 teachers before the interviews occurred. So I don’t think we would be surprised about his views on teachers unions, unless of course he was not honest with us when we met with him.

  11. Submitted by Patty Wycoff on 09/17/2012 - 11:22 pm.

    MFT screened Josh

    MFT did meet with Josh. Actually, they met with Josh before they met with me in June. I have also earned the endorsements of Representative Frank Hornstein and City Councilwoman Lisa Goodman. Representative Hornstein and Councilwoman Goodman met with Josh yet chose to endorse me. Other endorsements; Former Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Representative Marion Greene, Representative Jeff Hayden, City Councilwoman Meg Tuthill, City Councilwoman Barb Johnson and 4th District Park Board Commissioner Anita Tabb.

  12. Submitted by Beth Hawkins on 09/18/2012 - 08:27 am.

    That MFT screening, & Ms. Somers

    The MFT did indeed screen Reimnitz in June. I did not know that because they did not screen him earlier, when they endorsed Darrell Washington, who dropped out of the race after the DFL endorsing convention. 

    Ms. Somers, I did not call you crazy. That was Ms. Wycoff’s exact quote when I asked her about the report. The other thing she said–and quite plainly–was that in her view the report “exonerated Josh.” She did not repeat your assertions about his teaching or his scores to me, and indeed indicated she wished the report had not been circulated in support of her.

    • Submitted by Rebecca Miller on 09/18/2012 - 09:22 am.

      MFT screening

      That’s right Beth, I remembered the timing of the events wrong. Josh called for a screening right after our executive board had endorsed school board candidates, so it was too late to screen. So after Darrell Washington dropped ou,t I called Josh and asked him to come in and screen with us since we no longer had a endorsed candidate from district 4. Which he did. So he did not participate in the MFT forum like I said because we did not yet know he was running when that occured. I was remembering him speaking at a different community forum and confused the two events. Sorry. That’s what I get for being on the computer late at night.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/18/2012 - 05:08 pm.

      High quality journalism?

      Before writing that Reimnitz could not get a meeting with MFT, don’t you think you had an obligation to find out whether or that was true? Or do you just think that if after the fact you say “I did know know that” then its all good?

      This whole piece was a journalistic embarassment. The information about the test scores in Reimnitz’s classroom was not a low blow – it was information from the Atlanta school district stating that there was probable cheating in Reimnitz’s classroom and that the scores for both years he taught there were invalid. Since Reimnitz is claiming that he drastically improved test scores as part of his qualifications for the school board, the fact that the scores on which his claim is based are invalid is pretty relevant.
      The fact that Wykoff did not want to go into this issue and disparaged the source of the information, does not mean that the information wasn’t true. A real journalist would have actually figured out what was true – it wasn’t hard – but instead you just took the word of the parties involved.

      The worst part is that even after I pointed out you were wrong – with a source you provided – you said that you stood by your story. And then your story wasn’t even consistent with Reimnitz’s story – Reimnitz even agreed that the scores were abnomal. The only person who believes that “Reimnitz’s scores were within normal range” was you, and that belief – which is apparently something you just made up out of thin air – is objectively false.

  13. Submitted by Florence Sommers on 09/18/2012 - 09:01 pm.

    Josh Reimnitz Patty Wycoff

    Ms. Hawkins, in your MinnPost article of June 18, 2012 you quote Josh as saying, “My students made significant gains BOTH years I was teaching, especially the second year.” (My emphasis on BOTH).
    After it was revealed that Josh’s classes were flagged for being far above the standard deviation for wrong-to-right erasures and that two staff members and his principal were implicated in the cheating scandal, Josh writes in the thread above: I think the missing piece of information was when my improved test scores took place. The year the report talks about was my first year of teaching and I would completely agree that we cannot use CRCT (Georgia State Test) scores to measure my performance in the classroom.

    He is the one that claimed success in his first year, according to MinnPost.

    I’d say there is a major credibility issue. As a journalist, I hope that in the future you will seek verifiable independent corroboration for a candidate’s self-promoting claims. Given his conflicting answers, I assume you will no longer accept his claims of “significant gains” without evidence beyond his saying so.

  14. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/19/2012 - 02:20 pm.

    Final thoughts

    Both the report and the letter came out in 2011, well before Mr. Reimnitz gave his interview to Minnpost and began claiming that the students in his classrooms had made significant gains on their test scores. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he either did not know or did not understand that the Atlanta School District had determined that the scores from the testing in his clasroom both of the years he taught had been deemed invalid. At this point, however, as someone who has commented on this thread and has access to the linked documents, I will assume that Mr. Reimnitz now understands that the testing was invalid in both years. The real test of his credibility will be whether he continues to make claims that have now been proven false. I realize that may be hard for Mr. Reimnitz to accept that, contrary to his belief that he made a real difference for the kids he taught, he may not have accomplished anything at all, but that is the reality of the situation. As of this afteroon, his website still states that he improved test scores. If Mr. Reimnitz is an honest person, he will remove that claim from his website and otherwise quit making that claim.

    As to Ms. Wycoff, I think she owes Ms. Sommers an apology. Ms. Sommers brought forward information from a credible source – the Atlanta School District – which directly contradicted Mr. Reimnitz’s claims of improved test scores. I understand that Ms. Wycoff may not have been interested in going negative on Mr. Reimnitz, but to misrepresent the information brought forward and to insult the messenger certainly was not the way to handle the issue. I expect that as a school board member, Ms. Wycoff will be confronted with other inconvenient truths, and I hope that she does a better job than she did in this case.

  15. Submitted by Annie Morris on 09/19/2012 - 07:24 pm.

    Fair reporting?

    Ms. Hawkins, why didn’t you include the important fact that Patty Wycoff won the primary with 60.32% of the votes? Why didn’t you include any of her other endorsements? I read the article you wrote in June about Josh Reimnitz. Your profile of him was much different than Ms Wycoff’s. It seems as though your article about Candidate Wycoff is somewhat slanted. Your sympathy for Reimnitz regarding the MFT endorsement screening is suspect. You have referred to Ms. Wycoff as the “11th hour candidate” in 3 separate articles(June, August, September) you have written. It’s very obvious to me who you are supporting on Nov. 6th.

    Mr. Reimnitz, why didn’t you correct Hawkins statement that MFT didn’t screen you? It seems you are perfectly comfortable letting the public believe you were unfairly overlooked by them when that was not the case.

    Ms. Somers, I applaud your clear and precise explanation of the facts.

  16. Submitted by Kyla Cromer on 09/20/2012 - 03:11 pm.

    Call me crazy

    I’m the one who contacted MinnPost and others. As mentioned by Florence Sommers, I was a delegate at the convention and supported Josh. Shortly thereafter I found when I tried to promote him to friends (including her,) I got questions I couldn’t answer, and didn’t like some of the answers I did come up with. I decided my support had been misplaced.

    I emailed Josh on July 10th, because we had talked at length and I thought it would be polite to let him know. He sent me a nice email, thanking me. This was before Mr. Washington withdrew – clearly nothing to do with Patty.

    My goal in calling the press was to get rumors put to rest and to clarify Josh’s experience in Atlanta working in that dysfunctional school and district. I did not accuse him of cheating personally.

    There had been almost nothing published about Patty . There was just a MinnPost article mostly about Josh dated June 18 which talked about his gains and also stated “earlier this year, he took over as executive director” of his nonprofit. He’s one of three co-directors, according to their website. Big difference. The other glowing language made it hard to consider credible. “Is Reimnitz fazed? Hardly. “He’s in his element,” “He ate, drank and slept the achievement gap and strategies for addressing it.” and “He has a solid understanding of recent Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) history and of education reform,” though he is a recent resident. (Also Interesting, the casual phrasing of “the endorsee dropped out” makes it sound like Washington was flip flopping, or maybe even didn’t think he could beat Josh.)

    From the same article: “Patty Wycoff is said to have the backing of former state House of Representatives Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher.” Well, did she, or didn’t she? A simple phone call would have confirmed it.

    So Patty called me and said her campaign was being accused of trying to stir up dirt and my name had been mentioned. She lives down the street, but I only met her at a campaign event. I certainly wasn’t “with her campaign .” I called Josh then, but he did not return my call.

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