Everyone from DOE head Candice “Butterfly” McQueen to (Mis)Measurement Inc were ducking for cover over the TNReady debacle yesterday. But one individual’s pronouncement really stood out as particularly problematic:
“‘Any time there’s a glitch in test administration — because there’s such high stakes — that’s worrisome,’ said Wayne Miller, executive director of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents.”
Well, Duh! Ya think, Wayne?
But despite the insipid nature of the quote from Miller, that was not the worst part. For you see, dear readers, Wayne conveniently failed to mention — and the reporter neglected to notice — one itsy-bitsy fact. Wayne’s organization (TOSS) was founded by Chuck Cagle, who is TOSS’ long-time lobbyist and who hired Wayne to his current job. And Cash Cow Chuck is also the lobbyist for Measurement INC — the incompetent doofuses who caused the the TNReady crash and who paid Cagle big bucks to help them get their $108 million state contract and represent them in the legislature.
Kinda takes Wayne’s credibility and smashes it to all to hell, doesn’t it?
And let’s not forget that Wayne and Chuck have refused to address questions about how their “Supervisor of the Year” and fellow board member Martin Ringstaff got caught texting photos of his junk to another man’s wife and was fired less than a week ago. All Wayne did was take his name off of TOSS’ website. Yeah, that makes it all better, Wayne.
And for all this, RTP names Wayne “The Worm” Miller:
IDIOT of the WEEK
(Note to Wayne: You can pick up your certificate in John Forgety’s office.)
Haslam Administration Royally Screws Up.
Millions of Tax Dollars Wasted in School Test Crash. Teachers Furious.
Chuck Cagle at the White Hot Center of the Disaster.
Oh good Lord – where do we begin?
Just when you thought the Haslam administration’s arrogance, incompetence and corruption of our state’s education system could not get any worse – it does.
The much ballyhooed on-line testing system crashed yesterday – big time, leaving students and teachers hanging out to dry. After millions of dollars paid to scam-artist vendors and for the purchase of computer equipment to take the new test, the whole damn thing collapsed. Now, after months of preparing students to take their tests on-line, students will have to do so with paper and pencil.
There is plenty of blame to go around, so let’s start with the most obvious:
Bill Haslam and his Dept. of Education
Ever since Haslam hired Kevin “I Voted for Obama” Huffman, Tennesseans have been subjected to one corrupt education program after another: Common Core, TNReady, Teach for America….the list goes on and on. Contributors, cronies, mega-education companies, etc. have raked in untold millions in consulting fees and contracts.
The sheer arrogance of the governor and his appointees is hard to comprehend. At every turn in this debacle, Haslam was warned by voters, teachers, legislators and a host of others about his policies. But Haslam, aided by Huffman and his acolytes, blindly plunged ahead, flipping off their critics and engaging in end-arounds and executive orders that would make Obama blush (not an easy thing to do). The result: a bunch of vendors made millions and taxpayers, teachers and students got screwed.
Now the state is faced with giving a test whose results are almost guaranteed to be discounted and thrown into the evaluation waste bin. If it is not, you can count on Haslam and his administration getting their asses sued off in court.
This is not the first time the DOE has screwed up their own test. Remember Erin O’Hara? The DOE has a pattern of incompetence in this area accompanied by a long string of screw-ups. DOE uses these test scores to determine which schools are failing and to require accountability. Shouldn’t the DOE be judged and held accountable for their performance in administering the very test they use to pass judgement on individual schools and school systems? It’s damn near impossible to criticize others when you are failing spectacularly to run your own shop in a competent manner.
RTP’s assessment: It couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of arrogant idiots.
More on this train wreck as it develops. But first…..
Take the Rocky Top Make-up Assessment Test
Since every student in the freakin’ state is going to have to take a make-up test because of the Major Fail that occurred yesterday, we thought it might be helpful for our readers (both of them) to take a practice test of their own as an expression of solidarity with the teachers and students who got screwed over.
The short quiz focuses on the individual perhaps more responsible than anyone else in the state for the recent
disaster: Chuck Cagle.
Question #1 – Reading Comprehension
Cash Cow Chuck Cagle is a lobbyist who gained previous notoriety making tons of money as the #1 conflict-of-interest lawyer/lobbyist in town, representing education giant Pearson while it tried to jam Common Core down the throats of every state in the nation and charge taxpayers billions in new textbooks and programs for the privilege.
Based on the above passage, would you say that Chuck Cagle is:
- A grotesquely conflicted piece of bovine excrement.
- An ethically-challenged lobbyist whose primary professional qualification is a law degree from a school that doesn’t allow him to practice outside the state?
- A flaming butt wipe?
- All of the above.
Question #2 — Math
Cash Cow Chuck Cagle now works as the Tennessee lobbyist for Measurement Inc, the company whose testing program crashed and burned yesterday. As such, he helped Measurement Inc. get a $108 million contract to create and administer that test while collecting a handsome fee for his services. Based on your calculations (please show your work), would you infer that Cagle and Measurement Inc:
- Are guilty of misfeasance, malfeasance and a whole bunch of other feasances we haven’t thought of yet.
- Should both be tarred & feathered and ridden out of the state on a rail.
- Should be required to pay back every dime they have been paid to date and assessed criminal and/or civil penalties until they bleed through the nose.
- Should be covered with honey and staked to the ground over the top of an ant hill.
- Should never be allowed back into the state Capitol.
(Hint: there is more than one correct answer. Circle all that apply)
Question #3 – Language Arts
Now that Measurement Inc.’s reputation has been totally destroyed in the Volunteer state, it has been highly recommended they change their company’s name (if for no other reason than for them to be able to travel through the state without taxpayers beating them to a pulp). The following are suggested new names for the company. Which one do you think is the most applicable?
- Measurement RED Inc.
- Mis-Measurement Inc.
- Unethical Charlatans Inc.
- Flaming Bags of Dog Poop, Inc.
Question #4 – Social Studies
Chuck Cagle has made a small fortune off taxpayers by representing companies who produce crappy, self-serving education products that damage the reputation of our state and our deprive students of a quality education. Despite this, he is welcomed with open arms in the offices of some legislators. Based on what you have observed, are those legislators:
- Harry Brooks
- David Byrd
- John Forgety
- Any other legislator who has previously had his/her brain surgically removed.
Time’s up. Put away your laptop — uh — pencil & paper, close your exam booklets and bend over and kiss your chances of getting into a prestigious university goodbye.
Test scores will be posted just as soon as Measurement INC and Chuck Cagle cash their last paychecks or until sometime after your sophomore year in college – whichever comes later.
To close this segment, we took a poll of taxpayers (okay, okay, the RTP crew went to Loser’s and asked every drunk in the place) and we came up with the following questions:
- Who is going to be held financially responsible for this disaster? Measurement Inc. got a $108 million contract to administer the test. How much have they been paid, and how much can/will we demand they pay back?
- It has been 24 hours since the crash. Why has Measurement Inc. not already been fired?
- Why is Chuck Cagle even allowed to enter Legislative Plaza? Shouldn’t all the troopers at the guard stations be given a picture of this creep with orders to shoot-to-kill if he tries to lobby anyone?
- How much of his $3 billion will Bill Haslam have to pay in order to buy a clue?
- Is anyone going to have to do a “perp-walk” over this? And if not, why not?
The RTP crew will offer more insights in later posts as information seeps out of the cesspool that has become the Haslam administration’s education policy.
Until then, we leave you with RTP’s next topic for discussion:
John Forgety: Representative of the 23rd District – or just Chuck Cagle’s butt-boy?
And no, we will not grade on the curve.
McCormick had first-hand knowledge of the Durham accusations nearly a year ago.
At first, both Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and Speaker Beth Harwell could barely hide their glee at the opportunity to take a shot at one of their political opponents (Durham), who handed them the opportunity on a silver platter as the result of his extracurricular shenanigans. What better way to strike back at the controversial cocky architect of the legislation that eventually killed InsureTN?
Now, as Harwell desperately thrashes about trying to find cover from the result of her (continuing) incompetence in handling the Durham matter, we are treated with the metaphorical image of Majority Leader Gerald McCormick hiding in his office with a bag over his head, hoping no one will ask him questions about exactly how long did he sit on the Durham information before the public learned of it.
After jumping on the Destroy Durham bandwagon, Gerald has now retreated to uncharacteristic reticence about speaking publicly on the matter, except in the vaguest terms. The reason for this is simple: Gerald has more exposure, but fewer resources to mitigate the damage than does Beth.
Beth has squandered her powers while simultaneously shooting herself in both feet, but she at least has the power to do things like call on the AG to investigate (even though she managed to screw that up too — asking for the investigation before clearing it through House rules. Sheesh.). Gerald, on the other hand has only his previous actions to fall back on, and increasingly those actions aren’t a very good fallback position.
If the coming AG investigation does its job, it will likely reveal McCormick knew about at least one of the women who complained about Durham as long as nearly a year ago. McCormick followed his conversations with the woman by offering a desultory suggestion she report her complaints to someone. McCormick essentially threw her and a second woman who complained to him later under the bus and possibly risked their reputations and safety so he could sit on the information he had on Durham until it was more politically profitable and expedient to roll it out in a political hit piece. His first ham-handed attempt allegedly came when Durham visited Chattanooga and criticized McCormick’s leadership abilities on a local radio station. McCormick, always quick to lose his temper, called Durham to yell at him and, in the process, used the information about the women’s complaints to try and intimidate Durham into silence. Talk about two rattlesnakes in the same feed sack.
These revelations about misbehavior followed by political intimidation and malfeasance have not been lost on members of the House caucus. Nosiree.
Can caucus members be certain McCormick and Harwell won’t try a similar political hit-job on one of them? No, they can’t. In fact, they already know of numerous instances of leadership employing similar tactics against legislators who dare stray from the governor’s and leadership’s agenda. Remember Advance Tennessee? And where do you think all those primary opponents running against conservatives come from – the Tooth Fairy?
It is also comical the way the InsureTennessean repeatedly inserts “temper” and “bullying” references into their stories about Durham. But McCormick’s bullying and tantrums are the stuff of legend, yet the media continue to give him a pass. Perhaps Dave Boucher is reluctant to burn one of his best sources?
McCormick better pray to the Almighty the investigation doesn’t include what happened in the run-up to the Durham news stories and that they do not look back at Gerald’s own complicity in the matter. If that happens, he’s toast.
It is for these and other reasons, RTP votes McCormick as the leader most likely to lose his job over the Durham Debacle.
Former state senator Paul Stanley presented his analysis about the Durham Affair. Stanley knows whereof he speaks, since he was forced to resign over his own affair with an intern that turned into a blackmail attempt on Stanley by the girl and her boyfriend back in 2007.
His take seems to closely parallel what the crew at Ricky Top published earlier this week. If he plagiarized any of our thoughts, he is welcome to them. That’s what we’re here for…
“This entire situation is a sorry spectacle.”
— former State Sen. Paul Stanley
TOSS Board Member gets caught taking photos of his member and texting them ala Anthony Weiner.
As “Cash Cow” Chuck Cagle gathers his Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) together for a $15,000 reception at the Hermitage tonight, attendees may want to ask Chuck if the TOSS 2015 “Superintendent of the Year” and TOSS board member, Martin Ringstaff, plans to attend the soiree.
Ringstaff’s appearance is decidedly doubtful, since he has been quite the subject of conversation down in Bradley County, where he is the head of Cleveland city schools. It seems Ringstiff, er, Ringstaff got caught with his pants down — literally.
Ringstaff was apparently having a torrid affair with another man’s wife, sexting graphic sexual messages back in forth with her. He also allegedly sent a nude picture of himself holding his (uh, how can we put this) — his “junk.”
All this in the town that is home to the international headquarters of the Church of God. Want to know how conservative Bradley County is? Compared to Bradley, Williamson County is like San Francisco.
You can check out this link for more on the story. The crew at Rocky Top have seen the texts and we were passing them around like kids in the 8th-grade boys bathroom before determining they were NSFW. Even RTP has certain standards below which we will not go (but which are apparently higher than those of lawyers like Chuck Cagle). That said, we did decide to publish the photo of Ringstaff’s privates (below):
Nah, that’s just a photo of Chuck Cagle — but trust us, the resemblance is remarkable.
All this is all the more problematic for Cagle and TOSS, since they have repeatedly trotted out Ringstaff as the very epitome of education administrative excellence.
No word from the Hermitage whether Ringstaff was in charge of this evening’s entertainment. If you do go to the TOSS reception, you might want to take some Handi-wipes or something.
And stay away from the weiners.
Rep. Timothy Hill defeated Rep. Ron Travis in what almost everyone considers an upset. Travis was recognized as the candidate most acceptable to leadership and his defeat is seen as a repudiation of that leadership.
Is this the harbinger of rough days ahead for Beth Harwell and Gerald McCormick?
Damn right it is.
Beth Bets Her Speakership on the Expulsion of Durham
It has come to this. After failing repeatedly to handle the problem that is Jeremy Durham, Harwell has astonishingly raised the stakes even higher. In so doing she has placed her political career and her current position on the table, while enraging a rapidly growing number of her GOP colleagues who are furious that she has put them in a bad position of her making.
It began when Harwell learned of complaints from women who claimed Durham had sexually harassed them. At first she tried to imply she had only recently learned of the rumors. Everyone at LP knew that was a laughable lie. She knew at least the day before she sent Connie Ridley to “talk to” Durham, and probably a considerable time before that. Rumors of Durham’s alleged peccadillos were common knowledge around Legislative Plaza. Even the interns knew. If Beth didn’t know about Durham, that would make her the last to know. That is impossible to believe.
Once the Tennessean had the story, Beth went into full panic mode. She started with a carefully parsed sentence worthy of Bill Clinton: “I did not have any first-hand knowledge of any sexual abuse.”
At first she demanded Durham step down as Majority Whip. When he did that, she then demanded his resignation from the House. When he countered with resigning from the caucus and taking a leave of absence (which incredibly Beth signed off on earlier this week), she raised the stakes even higher and demanded expulsion. She apparently made her call within hours of the Tennessean turning its guns on leadership with an article about how all three of the top leaders of the House had known more information and for a longer time than they had claimed. And it is by moving for expulsion that Beth is desperately trying to save her own skin by hiding behind the 66 votes it will take to expel Durham.
Beth even allowed Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey to “troll” her by revealing the legislator with whom Durham was alleged to have had an affair. He also exposed her weakness as a leader by musing: “It’s only going to get worse,” They (i.e., Harwell) need to work to bring an end to it.” Beth drew the Governor into the fray by having him say Durham should “probably resign” and then she recruited his best friend and legal lap dog, AG Slattery, to try and help clean up her mess. The Governor has so far remained silent on actual expulsion. Maybe he’s saving it for his State of the State speech.
Beth cashed in her Rolex and her savings bonds to raise the stakes even higher when she assigned a legislative outsider like the Attorney General to investigate the entire Durham situation (although no one can tell how long it will take the AG to release his findings and whether or not the entire House will even be allowed to see those findings). In so doing, Beth bet the farm – and her gavel.
No Expulsion, No Speaker Harwell?
So now all the bets have been placed, raised and called, and Harwell is left with having to actually get Durham expelled. Can she do it? She had better, or the already pissed-off GOP caucus members may begin to openly call for her to resign as speaker following the session or at least announce she will not run for another term as speaker. They are that angry.
RTP friends and spies in the LP are all telling the same story: because Harwell didn’t act to take care of this problem early on, because she and Gerald McCormick chose instead to sit on the information for months with the hopes of using it for a political hit on their political enemy when the opportunity arose, and when she raised the stakes to DefCon Five by bringing in the AG and demanding expulsion, she dragged all 72 of her GOP colleagues into her mess and is going to make them cast a vote up or down on Durham to save her derriere.
She has further complicated things by calling for the expulsion before she even determined the procedures for doing so. Legislators in both parties are wondering if Durham will be allowed the right to examine the evidence against him (so far, the public information consists of 2nd and 3rd hand accusations and the rumor du jour). Will he have the right to cross-examine his accusers? Will he be allowed the benefit of counsel? In other words, will he be permitted to defend himself, and how? The General Assembly is not a Star Chamber where constitutional rights are suspended in order to save the leadership. Harwell should have thought of that before she freaked out.
The due process procedure is a key point for legislators in both parties. For if this is a demonstration of Harwell’s leadership and her reaction to difficulty, then any one of them could be the next target – deservedly or not – of Harwell’s incompetence. Getting Durham to resign back when it would have made a difference had broad support in the GOP caucus and Beth spectacularly failed to make that happen. It is abundantly clear that far fewer legislators have the stomach for expulsion, particularly if it looks like a kangaroo court.
RTP will pause here for one of our patented predictions. Our sources are telling us it is highly likely that if and when Beth moves an expulsion resolution on the floor, that one or more of her Republican colleagues will introduce an expulsion resolution on Democrat Rep. Joe Armstrong. Let’s see how many Democrats vote for Durham’s expulsion if they think Armstrong is next in line. And remember – you heard it here first.
So let’s recap the Speaker’s dilemma: If Durham is expelled and especially if it looks like he was railroaded, it’s bad for Beth. If she doesn’t get the votes needed for expulsion, it’s worse for Beth. If the AG draws out his “investigation” – it’s bad for Beth. It will appear (accurately) that she convicted Durham and set the date of his execution before she had all the evidence and before there was a trial. If she backtracks from expulsion it isn’t just bad for Beth – it’s a disaster. Legislators from both sides of the aisle will be asking why the hell she put them through this.
Even if the Tennessean runs a story with photos of Durham shagging farm animals (always a possibility), the damage to Beth is done – unless she can get him expelled and out of her hair (which would be difficult if he runs for reelection). At this point, failing a horrific additional revelation or Durham’s resignation may not be enough to keep her from getting fired as speaker – that’s how bad she has screwed this up.
NEXT: Why Gerald McCormick is likely to lose his job because of Le Affaire Durham.
Excerpt: “Gerald has more exposure, but fewer resources to mitigate the damage than does Beth (even though Beth squandered her powers to shoot herself in both feet).”
Senator gives TEA’s Jim Wrye a major comeuppance.
The greasy tables in the LP cafeteria were buzzing today with word that TEA lobbyist, Jim Wrye, crossed way over a forbidden line and was slapped down by a respected member of the Black Caucus.
After the devastating vote on banning paycheck dues deductions for labor unions on the Senate floor earlier this week, Wrye apparently stormed into the office of the always impeccably attired Sen. Thelma Harper and proceeded to read her the riot act on her vote. Harper, along with Sen. Reginald Tate voted with the Republicans to stop the practice where teachers have dues for the TEA taken out of their paychecks automatically. Those dues are then spent on politicians, lobbyists and big salaries for TEA staff. For the first several decades of its existence, almost 100% of the money contributed to politicians went to Democrats. In the last couple of years, in an attempt to buy his and TEA’s relevancy with the GOP controlled legislature, Wrye began giving more money to Republicans. As the Tennessee Watchdog discovered, a lot of the new “GOP” money was diverted from the campaign coffers of the TEA’s long-time and most loyal ally, the Democratic Black Caucus.
According to the prevalent rumor, Wrye not-so-gently told Sen. Harper that the TEA had played a huge role in her political success and that Harper “owed us (the TEA)” big-time.
Not understandably, Sen Harper took offense and politely told Wrye to: “Get your skinny [CENSORED] ass out of my office.”
To that, RTP can only say: “You go, girl!”
Yep, those moving vans are headed to your house as we speak, Jimbo. We hear the Alaska Education Association is advertising for a new Director of Eskimo Outreach. Maybe you should check it out.
Rocky Top (including the entire RTP crew and our usual gaggle of informants, snitches, spies and hangers-on) has been absolutely inundated these last two days with phone calls, tips, rumors and unsolicited opinions.
We ask our readers (both of them) to be patient while we sift through the rubble and try to make sense of all the messages wrapped around the bricks being thrown through our windows. Rest assured we soon will have expert commentary and analysis sure to rattle the cages at LP and beyond.
In the meantime, we encourage all you malcontents to go to our patented, award-winning Rocky Top Tip Line (www.RTPtipline@gmail.com) to deliver your flaming bags of political poop. As usual, we encourage you to use an anonymous email address if you do not want RTP to know your identity.