The untold data crises at LDOE

Posted on June 12, 2014


There is a data crisis at LDOE. Almost all of the data collection systems are failing. The data, statistics and reports being generated are garbage. Data is being ferried back and forth between the department and school districts using Excel worksheets and through e-mail correspondence. This leaves many students at high risk to data theft and privacy violations. Because the systems impacted are numerous and core to much of the reporting and analysis performed by the Department, it is impossible for LDOE to claim they are reporting accurate or reliable numbers for dropouts, graduates, TOPS scholarship awards, school performance scores, test scores, student counts and breakdowns for MFP funding, program counts. . . the list goes on and on. The situation is really serious and probably just about hopeless at this point.
I will explain how this situation developed and give specific examples of systems, impacted and correspondence I’ve received from school districts trying to work with the department.
This crisis was created intentionally by John White and his second in command that he brought with him from New York, Kunjan Narechania. White did not really care what the data said, because he had already determined the outcome for many of his programs. (I don’t think he was also not planning to be here longer than 2 years when all the cut-backs and destruction he’d wrought really started to impact daily operations.) White undertook a slash and burn campaign on the department’s data and analysis folks and immediately implemented policies that guaranteed data would deteriorate immediately. White abandoned a 4 million dollar warehouse named LEDRS we were just finishing. . . as he arrived on the scene, but not before using it to transmit almost all of the data contained in the Warehouse to CREDO to produce reform friendly propaganda masquerading as true data analysis.
John White immediately set about driving off all of the Department’s programming staff and replaced those positions with 6 figure salaried recruits with only a few years of teaching to their name and pricy vendors that cost 10 to 20 times more than the employees they replaced, and which in many cases were completely ineffective. The fresh faced 6 figured recruits came in with diverse backgrounds that ranged from shoe sales, Exxon intern, and barista and often sported poli sci degrees from expensive private universities. These folks talked about data, claimed they loved data, but they did not understand it, and did not care what the actual data said – only what they wanted it to say. This approach, combined with scrubbing the department website clean of historical data and refusing to produce data requests for anyone but reform biased organizations and cheerleaders worked for years. The data systems languished, bugs developed that were not addressed and workarounds introduced that didn’t work all that well. Eventually institutional knowledge was completely obliterated as data coordinators shuffled out 2 or 3 times and programmers supporting the internal systems dwindled from retirements, furloughs, and better offers – which was any offer at this point.
White sought to contract with numerous vendors like inBloom to house our data in their own warehouse and was planning to contract with them for all of our reporting needs until word of this scheme leaked out and parents fought back. When this plan failed White tried to squeeze IT blood out of the savaged turnip of a former department, but it was too late.
Kunjan, White’s second, fired existing heads of IT and data collections and replaced them with a former Education Technology Specialist named Kim Nesmith. (Education Technology Specialists basically review Ipad learning applications and make sure electronic blackboards turn on and review vendor products that might go to teachers, but they have no supervisory duties and they do not have significant data analysis, programming or reporting backgrounds.)
Kim is now the director of Data Collections and responsible for FERPA compliance, application modifications, state and federal data reporting and data requests. Before becoming appointed as the director of the Data Collections department, she shrewdly added the title “Data Quality Director” in her e-mail tagline. This means she self-appointed herself as a director of data (but not people). To get catapulted to a real director position, Kim worked out a special deal with Kunjan. Kunjan created a special position for Kim that they posted on the Civil Service website for one day to meet the minimum statutory requirements. Kim was instructed to immediately apply by completing an SF10 that would qualify her for the position. Her years of experience updating her church website for events became 10 years of web development. Kim and Kunjan went through the motions of the interview process, and then Kunjan gave Kim the job as they had discussed beforehand. I don’t believe anyone else was even interviewed, not that they would have had much chance to see the posting or apply. Sadly this is not entirely uncommon practice. As in so many things in life, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know that will land you a job, even in Civil Service land. 
Kim comes off as very knowledgeable for people that have no idea what she is talking about. She often makes up jargon and details about processes on the spot to make her The untold data crises at LDOE | Crazy Crawfish's Blog: