News

Stuck with a half-million-dollar bill

Emails show how MV Whisman ran with expensive math program, hoping Google would pay for it

The Mountain View Whisman School District had what seemed to be a slam-dunk plan to improve student performance: a tech-savvy math program called Teach to One.

The school district, faced with one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation, would adopt a comprehensive, computer-based math program for its sixth-graders that would use algorithms to tailor lessons to each students' needs. While the program would be expensive -- about $521,000 in total costs to the district for this school year alone -- district officials relied on an assurance that a corporate donor would pay the bill.

By the first day of school in August, however, that well-heeled local company -- Google -- had turned down the district's solicitations. Mountain View Whisman rolled out Teach to One anyway, only to drop it abruptly in January, amid vociferous complaints about the program from parents.

The corporate donor "fell through," Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told the board at a post-mortem study session on Jan. 17, and the district failed to adequately prepare for the program in August in time for the start of the school year. The company that created Teach to One, an East Coast nonprofit called New Classrooms, rarely stepped in to help with the challenging implementation, leaving it up to district staff to resolve one problem after another.

Rudolph announced in Jan. 12 that the district would immediately drop Teach to One and revert back to teacher-led instruction, blaming mixed results on math tests. But district emails obtained by the Voice through a California Public Records Act request reveal a different story.

Although the district acknowledged publicly last month that confidence in Teach to One had eroded and philanthropic donations were no longer available to pay for the program, email correspondence between the superintendent, New Classrooms and a local contact who promised to broker a deal with Google to pay for Teach to One shows that the district began implementing the expensive program before it had any assurance of philanthropic funding. And when it became clear that Google was unlikely to pay for the program, district officials chose to move full-steam ahead anyway.

Teach to One was adopted by the district at the start of the 2016-17 school year as a broad pilot program for all sixth-grade students, and essentially replaced the existing math curriculum. Teach to One quickly became a target of complaints by a large group of parents, who called the program flawed, incoherent, poorly paced and a poor replacement for teacher-led instruction. The district attempted to walk back the program in December by having students and teachers spend only half of math class time on Teach to One, only to announce that it was dropping the program altogether a month later.

Behind the scenes, decisions regarding Teach to One happened at break-neck speeds. In early April of 2016, district officials toured a charter school in Oakland using Teach to One, and just weeks later, announced that the district would move forward with the pilot program for the 500-plus sixth-grade students at Crittenden and Graham middle schools. After the buy-in, the district was contacted by Aila Malik, the founder of Venture Leadership Consulting, who would act as the main conduit between the district and high-ranking staff at Google and other tech companies being asked for funding.

Malik told Assistant Superintendent Cathy Baur that New Classrooms employees needed to fly in from New York between April 28 and 29 to start preparations for adopting Teach to One, and that a "simultaneous" strategy for "leveraging Google" would start in early May. Subsequent emails between Malik and Google's public affairs team show that she tried to sell that idea that Teach to One expanding right into the company's backyard would fall "very much in line with Google Inc.'s initiatives around STEM and increased diversity in the tech workforce."

Malik told the Voice Wednesday that she was hired by New Classrooms as a consultant in hopes of spreading the use of Teach to One in California. During the first half of 2016, she said she also worked with school districts in Oakland and the Central Valley.

Early signs that the school district wasn't going to lock in a corporate donor in time for the start of the school year began popping up in May. Staff from Google indicated on May 18 that no deal would be brokered until a replacement could be found for Davis White, the previous public affairs director for the company. Malik sent a more urgent email to Google staff in June, pointing out that the district was already planning to train teachers and reconfigure class space for Teach to One.

"We cannot do the partnership without an anchor funder because the start-up costs are so significant," Malik told the Google staff member. "I am wondering if you think that investment from Google is likely or whether we need to halt the partnership. We have been looking at other funders, but many of our biggest partners (Start-Up Ed. through Zuckerberg, Gates, etc.) have been funding at the national level and are not particularly interested in Mountain View. They see it as Google's turf."

These worries subsided in July, when Malik told Rudolph her meeting with a member of the Google's public affairs team went so well that the district "should go for more of an ask." She also stated that she would begin soliciting for donations from Microsoft and LinkedIn to fund other parts of the district's new five-year strategic plan under the assumption that Google was going to pay the bills for Teach to One.

Despite the assurance, in August Malik met with John Igoe, Google's real estate director, to make another appeal for Google's support. She urged Igoe in a subsequent email to "put in a good word" for the district at the company.

"We are taking a leap of faith that Google will support this request, which is the first major step towards carrying out the district's strategic plan," she said to Igoe in an email.

The bad news that Google wouldn't fund Teach to One came on Aug. 15, the first day of school in the Mountain View Whisman district. A member of the company's public affairs team told Malik in an email that "issues" arose with the company's budget and that it could not commit to any funding until at least early 2017. The next day, Rudolph said the implementation plans would not change in light of the news.

"We are still moving forward," Rudolph said in an email. "(We) just need to create a little peer pressure for Google."

Malik said her consulting services for New Classrooms ended in June, so any engagement she had after that month was done simply as a community member and as a way to "pass the baton" to New Classrooms and the district. She said she doesn't know what efforts were made after June to secure philanthropic funds.

The first apparent call for a contingency plan came from a New Classrooms employee, who told Rudolph in an email on Aug. 17 that while she "appreciates the push with Google," that they need to "discuss finding alternatives as well as what the district can support" in the meantime.

The Voice was scheduled to interview Rudolph about the emails Wednesday morning, but Rudolph and the district's public information officer, Shelly Hausman, both fell ill and canceled.

During this lengthy, months-long process of seeking a corporate donor -- which ultimately fizzled -- the Mountain View Whisman School District and New Classrooms began adopting the new math program without a contract in place. The earliest mentions of a contract in email correspondence between the two parties started in August and continued even after funding from Google fell through.

The first draft of the unsigned contract, which publicly surfaced at the Dec. 8 board meeting, included two major costs: $128,250 for a per-pupil licensing fee, as well as $350,000 in service fees to New Classrooms. The contract states that both parties will "put forth best efforts to raise philanthropic funding" to pay for the service fees. In the event that this donor money doesn't materialize, the agreement will be amended "to reflect an obligation by Mountain View to pay all of the service fees." The contract was pulled from the agenda without a vote, and the district is currently renegotiating the terms.

The contract was ready for approval sometime in early November, but Rudolph delayed having the contract come before the board. In an email to New Classrooms staff, he said, "We have a new board coming on (in December) and will take it to the new board."

Although the terms of the contract -- figuring out what the district ought to owe for four months of a program riddled with problems -- are still being renegotiated, the district's first interim budget report shows a Teach to One expenditure line for $521,000, roughly one-fourth of the district's entire curriculum adoption costs for the school year.

Because the Jan. 17 study session on Teach to One took place immediately following the announcement that the district was ditching the program, the meeting served as a chance for Rudolph to explain what went wrong and what could have been done differently. He told the board that the district was eager to move forward on plans to reduce the achievement gap, and that Teach to One seemed like an obvious first step. He described Google dropping out as a funder as the "first canary in the coal mine" signaling that the district should have slowed down.

"It should've been sort of a concern of ours, and it's no fault on Teach to One or the district, but it's something that should've been thought about over the course of the process," he said.

Although things clearly didn't work out with Teach to One, Malik said the community ought to rally behind Rudolph for his progressive attitude and his willingness to find new ways to improve student performance.

"Ayinde is an awesome superintendent, and he comes with a wealth of experience and a really great vision for equitable teaching across all of Mountain View Whisman School District students," she said.

Next week, the Voice will explore the technical problems that plagued the rollout of Teach to One, and other major issues that prompted parents to revolt against the program.

Comments

112 people like this
Posted by Disgusted!
a resident of Slater
on Feb 16, 2017 at 9:37 am

No wonder Alia Malik is so enamored with Ayinde. She was paid by New Classrooms to expand its presence in the Bay Area and suckered Ayinde into bringing it to Mtn View.

I am disgusted with both of them.

Ayinde should be fired.


141 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 16, 2017 at 9:41 am

Excellent reporting and use of the California Public Records Act!

"The district began implementing the expensive program before it had any assurance of philanthropic funding"!

Wow. Just wow! What a cast of characters counting chickens before they hatch. And what a great way to throw Google, LinkedIn etc. under the school bus in the process.

Why do Rudolph and Bauer still have jobs? That's the question that needs to be answered. This was a screw up of huge proportions and totally avoidable. How much more damage could they have possibly done that they haven't done already?

Rudolph's ego is way too big for this district and his arrogance toward the School Board and parent community is shocking.

The School Board needs to cut him loose.


82 people like this
Posted by Money Grows On Trees
a resident of Slater
on Feb 16, 2017 at 10:31 am

Half million here. A half million there. Pretty soon you are talkin real money. They will just ask voters for more. Call it MEASURE B.


102 people like this
Posted by are you kidding me!
a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 16, 2017 at 11:07 am

Ok.. let me get this straight:

1. we hire a man that has never been a superintendent before AND we had pay additional money for a COACH to teach him how to do the job

2. after 1 year of being on the job we give him a raise with no real results within that 1 year of the job and we continue to pay for a coach to teach him how to do the job still

3. He is arrogant to parents when questioned on issues regarding the schools.

4. Push thru A 1/2 millions dollar program based on assumption of it being funded even when presented with facts!!!




I could go on and on because he clearly does not know how to do the job.


When is MOUNTAIN VIEW SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD going to do something right and get rid of this inexperienced man?




24 people like this
Posted by Disgusted!
a resident of Slater
on Feb 16, 2017 at 11:12 am

@ Observer
It seems clear that Ayinde allows for no dissent within the district office and pushed this program through literally no matter what the cost. I don't think Ms Bauer can be blamed for this mess.


57 people like this
Posted by Frustrating
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 16, 2017 at 11:17 am

This whole thing is so frustrating. While I agree a computer program of some sorts might be a great way to help bridge the achievement gap, allowing for kids behind in math to catch up and kids ahead to be appropriately challenged, it matters GREATLY which product is chosen (there are many out there now) and how it's implemented. None of that was considered.

Good intentions, bad, bad implementation. I'm very frustrated. Unfortunately, this does not help the district implement such a program in the future (which I do think is a good idea), or get more bond money approved by voters. Why should I give them more money if they are irresponsible with what they currently have? I'm also not sure the tech companies will be so willing to support the district going forward, which is all incredibly unfortunate for our kids.

It sounds like multiple people supported multiple bad decisions over a 6 month period that cost the district money but also reputation and future income. Something should be done to prevent this from happening again.


100 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 16, 2017 at 11:31 am

@Disgusted!

If you don't think Kathy Bauer, the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment, is not partly to blame, I really don't know what to tell you. The article clearly describes a train wreck in slow motion. We don't pay these people to make careless and reckless decisions or to sit quietly by why money is wasted and a basic math curriculum goes hurling off the tracks. The District's senior leadership is not qualified nor prepared to get us out of this mess.


45 people like this
Posted by Can Confirm
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 16, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Yes, the new superintendent is EXTREMELY ARROGANT AND NAIVE. Especially to parents!


35 people like this
Posted by Crittenden parent
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 16, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Unfortunately, the district would probably be on the hook for a lot of money if the super is asked to leave, just like Goldman. Being superintendent in this district is like winning the lottery!

Hope Baur isn't next in line for the job...


50 people like this
Posted by Crittenden parent
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 16, 2017 at 2:40 pm

PS Will be voting NO on any new parcel taxes for this district!


14 people like this
Posted by @ Crittenden Parent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 16, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Great idea!

You just read a story you don't like. Now you refuse to vote for the parcel tax.

Great! So, the kids not only will not get high-tech math instruction, they likely won't be getting A LOT OF OTHER THINGS...

But don't worry, the schools with the most PTA funds will probably be fine. OH, sorry, that is not your school.


21 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

My former Assistant Superintendent mother wouldn't allow such a program to pass a voting session; we do not spend money for " snake oil " promises and with money we don't have!
Lets see;$521,000 for only 500 students? You do the math. I've already said this once before; The School District will be left holding the bag. Maybe the " smart " staff needs to be let go to pay this bill with their salaries AND NO GOLDEN PARACHUTE offers. If this was a private industry setting, these people would have been fired and a Civil Suit started to get the people to pay for it..That isn't rocket science, people!


36 people like this
Posted by Enough
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 16, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Ayinde seems to think TTO was a success.

He has listed "Supported a personalized digital learning framework for math in 6th grade" as a completed action on the latest Strategic Plan and LCAP review (Web Link on page 184).

Why not be honest and list that as "Got suckered into wasting $1/2 million on digital teach our kids to hate math program"?


19 people like this
Posted by Trudy Palmer
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2017 at 3:59 pm

What about the work MVW IS/was doing w ALearn?

What about asking LASD about their work w Khan Academy & math?

Crazy to go ahead w such an expensive project when funding wasn't guaranteed!'


29 people like this
Posted by oldtimer
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 16, 2017 at 4:32 pm

to: a resident of Cuesta Park

Why should Taxpayers of Mountain View pay for this district folly?
They had no input yet are expected to pick up the bill, sorry not this time.

Guaranteed if you do vote yes they'll just frivolously spend it.


32 people like this
Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 16, 2017 at 5:12 pm

It is insane that the district spent even one thin dime on this program when LASD, the district RIGHT NEXT DOOR, has been using Khan Academy with excellent results. The kids learn the math, the teachers can see who is struggling so they can help and it's FREE. LASD was even written about in The Economist, so they can't even claim not to have known.

Maybe it's time to look around and see what is working in other districts in order to fix the problems. It is clearly NOT the time to run an experiment on the children just so a newby administrator can try to make a name for himself.


24 people like this
Posted by Fan123
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 16, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Love the story, full of satisfying details. Looking forwards to seeing more articles from Mr. Forestieri


15 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens PhD
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 16, 2017 at 5:25 pm

This just strengthens my belief that grade school boards are run by naive 2nd rate people with good intentions and substandard educations and intelligence --- just like most grade school teachers. Google doesn't need Mountain View schools. It has its choice of the best college grads from all over the USA and the rest of the world. My limited experience with online education, at Foothill College, is that it is a total disaster and that only face-to-face (aka F2F) classroom education by their VERY BEST instructors is truly educational. The rest all is mediocre at best.


16 people like this
Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 16, 2017 at 6:15 pm

I find it absolutely stunning that ANY school district would agree to any contract that had a licensing fee of $128,250 PER PUPIL! My God, if it were legal to do so, the district could have put that money into a college fund for each pupil to attend 4 years at most colleges in the US! And that money was spent for just ONE class? For ONE YEAR?

When I was home-schooling my daughters, I taught them to do basic Algebra when they were 8 years old and it cost nothing but a little bit of my time.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics ( Web Link ), the United States is 3rd in the world in spending per pupil for education when measured by GDP. Since this is a National average, I am making the assumption that California spends more per pupil than Norway and Switzerland who are the top 2.

One question I never see a dollar figure attached to is "How much money is enough per pupil to spend on education". The only answer I have seen is that "We need to spend more". I know some people may read that to mean that I don't think any money should be spent on education, so let me nip that in the bud now. I think that using a percentage of the State GDP would be a definitive way to measure how much we are spending, as well as the results per percentage of GDP. I don't know what that number should be, but at least once it is established, it would allow for a reasonable debate on this issue.

For example, let's assume that we choose 4% as the number and we have graduation rates of 60% and each pupil's average grade in the state is a B-. Let us also assume that the next year, we raise the percent of State GDP spent on Education to 5% and further assume that the GDP remains at the same level or higher, but the graduation rate drops to 55% and student grades drop to a C+; this would then indicate that the problem is not money, but methods and/or other external factors that have nothing to do with money and would allow us to then identify the real factors and address them.


Jim Neal
Old Mountain View


9 people like this
Posted by Bad Statistics
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 16, 2017 at 6:42 pm

@Jim Neal,

"Since this is a National average, I am making the assumption that California spends more per pupil than Norway and Switzerland who are the top 2."

This is a really weird assumption to make, since California only recently moved from dead-last among the states in per pupil spending to #46. (Web Link)


12 people like this
Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 16, 2017 at 6:55 pm

@Bad Statistics - According to the article from your own link, that data is from 2011-2012. The article further states:


Education Week’s annual state rankings on K-12 education had welcome, though outdated, news for California: No longer rock-bottom, California moved from 50th to 46th in per-student state spending in 2011-12, the latest data cited.
That was the year before school districts felt the benefits of the temporary tax increases from Proposition 30, which voters passed in November 2012, and of a rebounding economy. In the state budget scheduled for release Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to announce K-12 and community college education spending that will be 39 percent higher than it was in 2011-12. Unless other states have increased that much, California’s ranking will rise in coming years.

However, to be fair, I did say that it was an assumption on my part. Nevertheless, I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the most pertinent part of my post which is to measure performance against GDP as a way to determine whether or not the problem is money, process, or something else?


Jim Neal
Old Mountain View


13 people like this
Posted by Bad Statistics
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 16, 2017 at 7:16 pm

@Jim Neal,

The article: "The first draft of the unsigned contract, which publicly surfaced at the Dec. 8 board meeting, included two major costs: $128,250 for a per-pupil licensing fee"

You: "I find it absolutely stunning that ANY school district would agree to any contract that had a licensing fee of $128,250 PER PUPIL! My God, if it were legal to do so, the district could have put that money into a college fund for each pupil to attend 4 years at most colleges in the US! And that money was spent for just ONE class? For ONE YEAR?"

The article is clearly stating that the $128K is the amount allotted total for licensing, not that they're paying $128K per pupil.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


25 people like this
Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 16, 2017 at 7:43 pm

@Bad Statistics - Are the personal insults really necessary? I was merely participating in what I thought would be a civil discussion.

To me, what was written was not completely clear. It may be stating what you said, but I would have written it as "$500 per pupil for 257 students totaling $128,500" or whatever the actual per pupil cost was so that it was more clear.

It is your right not to discuss the merits of my suggestion, but I hope that we can at least be courteous.


Jim Neal
Old Mountain View


44 people like this
Posted by Time to go
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 16, 2017 at 8:03 pm

If there ever was one (and there have been!), NOW is the time to clean house and start fresh.

It's time for Ayinde and Bauer to resign.

I pulled my kids from MVWSD (THANK HEAVENS) this year, but I'm a taxpayer and I care about the kids stuck at our schools with these nitwits in charge, spending my money and throwing is all under the bus.

Resign! Just walk! Please!


34 people like this
Posted by Props to google
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2017 at 8:12 pm

From the article:

"We are still moving forward," Rudolph said in an email. "(We) just need to create a little peer pressure for Google."

Sounds like the superintendent tried MULTIPLE times to bully Google into paying for this program, making up excuses as to why other companies couldn't pay, etc etc along with the above. Is that really how we should be thanking Google for their prior support in our schools?? Is nothing good enough anymore? Where's the gratitude for prior large donations? No wonder there are Bully problems in MV schools...just look at our top dog. Absolutely pathetic.


46 people like this
Posted by Props
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 16, 2017 at 9:34 pm

Just want to give Kevin Forestieri props for his excellent reporting on this whole issue. This is some great local journalism.

One conclusion I'll draw is this: If you have a problem with the way Rudolph is conducting business, you have got to put pressure on the Board. If you deal with them, you'll see that Ellen Wheeler only sees stars when she talks about Ayinde. And Jose Gutierrez seems enamored too. So long as they back him, Ayinde and his amateur act are going to be around for a while.

Anyway, good job Mr. Forestieri, keep up the good work

By the way, did you see that this whole fiasco got mentioned in The Wall Street Journal?

Here's the piece:

Web Link


[Portion removed due to possible copyright infringement]


12 people like this
Posted by title is misleading
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2017 at 7:56 am

Look forward to when the MV-Voice learns the true final cost: maybe it will be $500,000, maybe not, but the title suggest a definite answer when the article does not. This is the type of emotion triggering bait that we would hope to see less in media. It's the district's duty to get the real number out as soon as they can, and it's the paper's duty to not lead with an uncertain number.

From the article:
"Although the terms of the contract -- figuring out what the district ought to owe for four months of a program riddled with problems -- are still being renegotiated, the district's first interim budget report shows a Teach to One expenditure line for $521,000, roughly one-fourth of the district's entire curriculum adoption costs for the school year."


21 people like this
Posted by Crittenden parent
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 17, 2017 at 8:44 am

@Cuesta resident

You're assuming that I was in favor of the parcel tax before this article, and that this article alone influenced my decision. Not true.

You're also assuming that my experience and interest is only in what may benefit Crittenden. I have seen (and paid for the exit of) at least 5 superintendents in this district. I have had children at both middle schools, and three different elementary schools. I have worked for the school district, both as an employee and a volunteer. How is funding their poor, expensive decisions helping the kids? If you want to make sure kids benefit, donate directly to individual classrooms, with your time and money.


29 people like this
Posted by There are no shortcuts or magic bullets
a resident of Gemello
on Feb 17, 2017 at 8:57 am

This whole thing smacks of wishful thinking.

It would indeed be nice if there existed a computer-based math program that could help struggling students pull ahead and advanced students be challenged, all on their own.

But my impressions from looking at how public and public charter schools are implementing blended learning is that it is just not there yet. Kahn does some of this already but works best with very motivated students. Who knows if computer-based learning will ever be able to replace a qualified human being at the front of the classroom. I suspect it will not, and I believe that humans learn best from humans.

Our school leaders owe it to the students and the taxpayers to ask tough questions, query their own assumptions and motivations, and generally do a much better job than they did in this whole mess. As the WSJ pointed out, MVWSD is in a tough spot with lot of kids at the top, a lot of kids struggling and it's hard to reach them all equally well. But you just can't take the lazy way out.


77 people like this
Posted by Make Ayinde pay
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 17, 2017 at 10:11 am

It seems like California law is quite clear on who should pay for this mess, see the last portion of Web Link.

In the event of malfeasance in office, the school district official invested by the governing board with the power of contract shall be personally liable to the school district employing him or her for any and all moneys of the district paid out as a result of the malfeasance.

Ayinde rolled out the program without proper vetting, decided without board involvement to move forward when external funding fell through and kept the board in the dark for a month. The story states : "The contract was ready for approval sometime in early November, but Rudolph delayed having the contract come before the board." We know that Ayinde did not submit the contract for legal review until November (see Web Link). Was this after he finished negotiations with New Classrooms?

I see no reason taxpayers should pay for his malfeasance!


13 people like this
Posted by g8teach
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2017 at 11:36 am

g8teach is a registered user.

Why does MVWSD need outside consultants?-As a former teacher in SCC and former union president, maybe with the offer of a stipend and program funding, (since the District Administration is so willing to drop half a mil for a program and the extra cost of a consultant) you might convince some of the really talented teachers within the District to design programs appropriate for the students of the District. They are the experts and know our kids.
Seems like our Superintendent, as many in Santa Clara County and throughout the state do, are hearing about programs thru their pipeline of contacts and jumping at the latest money waster- yet another new program and a consultant to implement it.


71 people like this
Posted by Dear School Board Members
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 17, 2017 at 11:44 am

Dear School Board Members,

I presume (hope) that you are all following this story and reading the comments. I also presume that you did not have visibility into the extent of the mis-management and poor judgment exercised by the district office until you read this article. At the end of the day, the fault lies with the district office, but the buck stops with you. This TTO debacle was not simply a lapse of judgment or a mistake. Along the way, there were multiple opportunities for the superintendent to avoid saddling the district with a half-million dollar bill for a failing product. The district office made many bad decisions and, even worse, failed to recognize that it needed to seek advice from more experienced people (such as the board and the district's lawyers). Although a single bad decision might warrant a second chance, the extensive pattern of poor decisions and judgment exercised here, over the course of many months (up to and including Dr. Rudolph's failure to accept responsibility at the Study Session), demands a change in leadership. It is abundantly clear that Dr. Rudolph and Ms. Baur do not have the skills or judgment to serve the district in their current positions. I would like to have seen Dr. Rudolph succeed in his position. But he has not. It is now up to you to make a change and fix things. This is jeopardizing the parcel tax and the community's trust in the district. Please do the right thing and fulfill your commitment to exercise leadership and re-build trust between the community and the district.

Thank you.


79 people like this
Posted by @Make Ayinde pay
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 17, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Excellent point!

Let me add a note to the trustees:
You have a fiduciary duty to fulfill. If you do not hold Ayinde accountable, you may be personally liable.

I for one am willing to contribute $100 to fund a lawsuit to make sure this happens. I think it would be pretty easy to raise $10,000 or so via a gofundme campaign which should be enough to get things started.


9 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2017 at 11:10 am

Hi,
Been following this stunning story from Palo Alto.
It shouldn't be this difficult to run a small school district.
Your children do deserve a decent Math curriculum.
Questions: will any of the local district management be held responsible for this debacle? Would you consider merging with the other Mt View School District? (If I am correct that there is another). Perhaps there would be savings in such a consolidation.
Should the State of CA be notified? (State Dept of Education or State Superintendent of Instruction?) ( forget if they still have both of these bureaucratic structures, but if there is ever an appropriate time for intervention from state authorities, this may be it.)
I am also thankful for the high quality oversight and reporting by our local journalists on this topic. (I don't want this happening in my own school district, and I am sympathetic to the mistakes made in yours that are affecting your children and I hope there is a way to fix this ASAP.)


26 people like this
Posted by $$$
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 18, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Back to the topic of TTO cost: $521K for about 400-450 6-graders. That's more than $1000 per student. That's outrageously expensive. I could not find a math curriculum, paper or computer-based, that would cost that much. Let alone there are lots of free online products. I did only a quick search, maybe a missed something but the article mentions that the cost of TTO would amount to 1/4 of all curriculum costs for the district. So it does look unusually expensive.
Next, what is TTO - it's a new product, basically an "early beta" delivered by a well funded non-profit called New Classrooms. The cost of this pilot adoption should have been borne by New Classrooms themselves as part of their research and development costs. Early hi-tech products, including ed-tech, are usually distributed for free or for a nominal fee.
Now look at the breakdown of the cost: about 1/3 is licensing fees, okay, and the rest is a mysterious "service fee". What the heck is it?! Where did you see a piece of software with two separate price tags that you gotta add up? This looks like price gouging, a cute little scheme where the price is inflated threefold, and the buyer is put in a situation where they cannot get away from the deal. In this case, the buyer was allegedly made to believe that the kind uncle Google would pay all or most of the price. Maybe there were other incentives, who knows. Not sure who'd gain from that, but the district (that's us) would lose $521K anyway, because even if Google did pay for TTO, the money would be pretty much wasted, rather than spent on things that could really benefit our kids.


30 people like this
Posted by Another Neighbor
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 19, 2017 at 2:06 am

Thank you, Kevin Forestieri and the Voice for the excellent investigative journalism!

Questions to our superintendents:

Q. Why adopt a program with little track record?
Q. Why did you not do an actual pilot first? (Switching over the entire grade level is not a pilot.)
Q. Why did you not measure and monitor to ensure the program was in fact an improvement? (Waiting for vociferous complaints is neither.)
Q. Why was there no fallback if the program didn't pan out?
Q. Why do (in essence) a beta test of commercial software without the company's help fixing problems?
Q. Why pay for beta-level software (which is typically provided free in exchange for testing)?
Q. Why pick such an expensive program when there are free programs available?

Rita Mae Brown said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” How much experience did the district gain from this bad judgement?


13 people like this
Posted by Money Grows On Trees
a resident of Slater
on Feb 19, 2017 at 8:02 am

Since the Superintendent has not answered posted questions, maybe the explanation for this boondoggle begins with so-called "consultant" Aila Malik - a member of the City's Human Relations Commission. What was she paid and promised?


6 people like this
Posted by @Money Grows on Trees
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 19, 2017 at 9:36 am

I think you may be confused. The Mountain View Voice is not a government entity, and the Town Square is not a place to post questions to government officials if you want answers. It is a private newspaper.


14 people like this
Posted by @psr @Another Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2017 at 10:40 am

The questions that @psr & @Another Neighbor posted are what the school board should be asking. We have so many talented people in Mountain View, I hope they run for the school board in 2018. In the end, it's the board, not the superintendent that is responsible to the public.


20 people like this
Posted by Next steps?
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Feb 19, 2017 at 11:27 am

I think there were a lot of good points raised in these comments but my question is what happens next? Is there any reason to think the school board even thinks this is a problem? Do we expect them to take any steps to hold Ayinde accountable and get as much money back as possible? I'm also hoping that some accountability is put into place so this kind of thing cannot happen again.


18 people like this
Posted by Money Grows On Trees
a resident of Slater
on Feb 19, 2017 at 12:06 pm

The Superintentent and School Board Members read these posts. If they have no response, fine. Here is mine: VOTE "NO" ON MEASURE B.


63 people like this
Posted by Alan Wessel
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 19, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Thanks indeed to Kevin for providing this well researched news story to our community!

I'd like to add to the chronology based on my own Public Records Act request for emails between the Alia Malik and MVWSD going back to Jan 2016. All quotes are unaltered excerpts from the emails I obtained.

Jan 11: Alia Malik asks to meet with Ayinde Rudolph to introduce New Classrooms

Jan 31: Alia Malik emals Ayinde Rudolph with details regarding their meeting the following day:

"I work with high-performing non-profits across the country and I have been very impressed with one of them delivering personalized math learning for middle schoolers--New Classrooms. They were funded by Mark Zuckerberg's blended learning initiative to expand to 10 schools over three years across the US and I am helping them expand to CA. They piloted the program at 3 schools in Oakland this past year and are exploring their next partner schools for 2016-17 school year."

Feb 1: Alia Malik meets with Ayinde Rudolph

Feb 22 Rudolph attends a dinner at Doppio Zero in Mtn View with Alia Malik and New Classrooms "Chief Growth Officer" Lizz Pawlson

Feb 23: Ayinde Rudolph attends a tour of Lazear Charter Academy in Oakland along with Cathy Baur and Phyllis Rodgers

March 2: Ayinde Rudolph emails Alia Malik:

"The high school district wouldn't embrace teach to one, even though you and I know that its what's right and what is best."

April 4: The first group of teachers along with some administrators tour Ascend in Oakland.


38 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 19, 2017 at 8:49 pm

Nice work Alan.

It sounds like Superintendent Rudolph and Malik have been using Mountain View Schools to build their resumes and make names for themselves. Both of their LinkedIn profiles show they never stay in one place for very long. They brand themselves as strategic thinkers, change agents etc. Who wouldn't want bragging rights and name credits up there with Zuckerberg, Google, and turning around a struggling school district at ground zero in Silicon Valley? The problem is that it takes a lot of hard work and depth of experience which neither appear to have and they blew this completely. Our students are now coming up empty handed and behind in math. Rudolph bought into the snake oil Malik was pushing hook, line and sinker. On top of this he's also blown through lots more money with leadership consultants for the school districts administrators. But what qualified him to do any of this last year as a first-year superintendent? The Board appears to be rubber stamping every expensive proposal he puts in front of them. Why?Where's the dividend for the student? For the teachers? He's just good at spending money.


49 people like this
Posted by Ayinde arrogance
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 19, 2017 at 9:52 pm

What arrogance! Ayinde doesn't need to hear from any teachers before deciding that teach to one is the holy grail. Dinner with Alia and a quick tour is enough for him. No need for any kind of careful evaluation. And if it costs $521,000 that's ok too.

And of course he knows better than the high school district. What do they know about education?

So where is the board on this? Why hasn't he been fired? Small comfort in this case is termination would clearly be for cause with no need to even think about offering severance.


47 people like this
Posted by Lon Term Damage
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2017 at 11:46 am

The consequences of this are far reaching. I suspect the extension of the parcel tax is doomed to failure. Will taxpayers really entrust Ayinde with another eight years of funds?

I also doubt Google will be finding any district initiatives any time soon (no matter how worthy) given how hard Ayinde and Alia pressured them on teach to one. Quoting the article:

"We are taking a leap of faith that Google will support this request, which is the first major step towards carrying out the district's strategic plan," she [Alia] said to Igoe [Google's real estate director] in an email.

Oops, we decided to cancel because the program is terrible, please fund my next initiative.

I am torn on this myself. Normally, I would enthusiastically support the parcel tax. I want to support the schools but don't trust Ayinde to use funds wisely nor do I trust the Board of Trustees to provide proper oversight.


13 people like this
Posted by District Survey
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2017 at 11:40 am

The district is currently running a survey in which they ask where parents currently receive information. Not on their bullet list of sources is where we (unfortunately!) have to go to really find out what is happening, namely Public Records requests and Kevin's excellent investigative reporting in the Voice.


8 people like this
Posted by @District Survey
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 8:18 am

Exactly!

Also crazy that the only open public dialogue takes place in the comments section of the Voice.


2 people like this
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 22, 2017 at 9:23 am

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 22, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Is it legal to do what Malik and Rudolph did? I think they overstepped their authority when then implement something without signing the contract to pay for it, and without approval from the board. Malik, from the story, appears to prosper from selling this program to schools, and thus appears kind of like the guy who shows up in Gary Indiana in the Music Man to sell a "think" music program. I think the district and parents of students should seriously consider legal action against these people, if this story is accurate, for misuse and misappropriation of school resources.


4 people like this
Posted by Monta Loma Parent
a resident of Monta Loma
2 hours ago

I think the district is making a lot of bad decisions not just in the math dept
I am not surprised at this article or the super trying to cover his ass.
They should check out their special ed dept and the denial of services to children who needed desperately.
I think mvwsd is in trouble either way
Someone should seriously investigate where all the money goes and what is not getting funded and where the money is getting spent
Just disappointing and I've been in this area with kids going through the school for the last 14 years


2 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of North Whisman
1 hour ago

the_punnisher is a registered user.

The issue here is that whither or not public funds were used in a proper manner. On the face of it, I see several people who should have been terminated without the " Golden Parachute " and formal Civil Suits ( or Suit ) be made to recover the money spent improperly. These people will now have a very important effect on their resumes; that may cause them more damage than the actual Civil Suit does. As I said before, a vetting process would have made in other Districts and this contract would not have been allowed in the first place!
Now that we know what has happened, the BOARD should take steps to create such a " vetting process " and NEVER allow " leaders " to not spend ANY money before a " vetting process " is complete and the decision made public. THE PUBLIC HAS THE RIGHT TO KNOW HOW THEIR MONEY IS SPENT!


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