Heather Wright has traveled — or will travel — 45ish times in 18 months

Late update:

There are some duplicates among those pages. Heather Wright passes along this forceful email to her district public records person, who is far more responsive than she is:

Ann, I wish that this had been run by me before being sent out. As you can see from the TDAs, there are multiple TDAs listed for single trips since my secretary has had some challenges with this. This is very misleading, and if a correction could be sent, that would be greatly appreciated.

To which I responded: “What is the exact number you would give, Heather. You gave me three.”

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Take a look at Heather Wright’s travel records in her very short time as director of “accountability” for Polk County. As you’ll see, it takes multiple screen shots.

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Sometimes I am a very stupid person.

When I began to probe Heather Wright’s peculiar role and job responsibilities, I made an overly specific request for her travel records. Here’s what I asked the School District’s very responsive and cooperative public records folks few days ago.

Good morning. I would like to see a copy of the grant that Heather Wright brought from Lake County when she was hired here. I’d also like to confirm that it was for $4.3 million. Can one of you do that?

Also, I would like to see a listing of where she’s traveled to talk/present about the ITBP [Item Bank and Test Platform] and for how many days at each.

And what follows is what I got back, which I posted in a previous essay. I just confirmed this afternoon from the School District’s very responsive and cooperative public records folks that Heather Wright wrote this herself and provided it to them.

Summary:
These trips are related to the Career/Technical Education grant that was awarded to the district. The IBTP was the software platform used by the CTE teachers to author and review test questions, so I’m including them as IBTP-related.

TDA 15102
Date: January 14, 2015
Location: Lake Buena Vista, FL
Purpose: Central Florida Assessment Collaborative (CFAC) leadership meeting
Updating district stakeholders on progress of the CTE grant and the development of test questions
Cost: $0.00 (Since my home is located in close proximity to Lake Buena Vista, I did not submit for reimbursement for mileage)

TDA 16500
Date: February 11, 2015
Location: Orlando, FL
Purpose: Central Florida Assessment Collaborative (CFAC) leadership meeting
Updating district stakeholders on progress of the CTE grant and the development of test questions
Cost: $0.00 (Since my home is located in close proximity to Orlando, I did not submit for reimbursement for mileage)

TDA 18761
Date: March 26, 2015
Location: Lake Buena Vista, FL
Purpose: Central Florida Assessment Collaborative (CFAC) leadership meeting
Updating district stakeholders on progress of the CTE grant and the development of test questions
Cost: $5.00 (Since my home is located in close proximity to Lake Buena Vista, I did not submit for reimbursement for mileage. The $5.00 expenses were for a parking fee at the meeting location.)

Here’s where I am stupid.

I did not, until this morning, actually look at Heather Wright’s Linked-In profile. It says very clearly there that she is the acting chair of “Central Florida Assessment Collaborative,” from 2011 until now.

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What does she do in that capacity?

Provide leadership for organization of 55 K-12 public school districts in Florida and 3 school members, to develop assessments for 120 courses across 7 different content areas

That sounds like a pretty big job. And it seems rather obvious that the CFAC is the umbrella organization for all of the stuff I’ve been poking into — the $4.3 million CTE test item grant, Wright’s role in developing the IBTP, etc.

So when I assert that she has acted as a state and federally-funded contractor masquerading as a Polk County school official, the CFAC chairmanship seems to be the vehicle for that. Always hidden in plain sight right there on Linked-in. Bad Billy.

Thus, when I noticed, thanks to an eagle-eyed reader, that Wright had organized a CFAC leadership conference in Sarasota in January of this year, I thought to myself: hmmmmmmm, perhaps I was a bit too specific in how I phrased my request for her travel records.

I asked for everything this time; and you see what I got.

Chicago is my kind of town

My eyesight isn’t great, but I count 54 line items on Wright’s travel record. Of those, my best guess, accounting for duplicates, is 46 distinct instances of travel since November of 2014. That is an 18-month period. Forty. Six. Some of the travel hasn’t even happened yet, including fun-sounding trips to Philadelphia, Ann Arbor, and Chapel Hill already booked and funded.

You guys can figure out for yourselves which are duplicates. Or which trips might relate to Polk County — and which might be funded by grants or our tax money. I’m not going to waste my time, except to note I’m sure many of our teachers would have enjoyed attending the Orlando “women’s conference” on someone else’s dime back on October 28th.

I’ll also note that April and May of 2015 seem to have been quite busy for Wright as travel months.

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This included a weeklong visit to Chicago, April 15-20, for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting. I bet that conference rocked.

This “Storify” link makes it look pretty good. The view was certainly nice.

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I’m sure Heather Wright presented content from this conference to teachers and schools upon her return. Anyone who saw such a presentation, please let me know.

On the other hand, isn’t April a pretty important testing window? Should the person in charge of testing for Polk County really spend that week on the lovely spring shores of Lake Michigan?

I do know that I received an email a couple days ago about something else going on about this particular time, the last 6 weeks/two months or so of the 2015 school year.

At the last minute of last year, us CTE teachers were asked to volunteer (for special pay) to participate in five days of test writing to create our End-of-Year exams for our courses. The basic premise was we had to take online training to become an official IBTP test question writer and then we had to write our questions for the bank. The district staff would then select the questions that would comprise the EOY for our specific course.

During the five day ordeal, spread over five weeks, we learned that there was an original $4-million grant that was intended for the purpose of writing these exams, but there was only $400,000 (I think, maybe $300,000) left to pay us to become question writers and then create our questions.

Two Osceola staff members were paid to come to these meetings to show us what we were doing. They did nothing, and the word was they had no idea either.

This almost certainly was going on as Heather Wright, who has responsibility for the Career Technical Education (CTE) grant, was in Chicago at a conference, I kid you not, called: “Toward Justice.”

Please dig through that link and find all the cool things Heather Wright got to do in the name of justice.

A breathtaking lie? Or just incredibly passive aggressive literalism?

You guys can figure out the distinction. And then let me know. But when I ask somebody about travel, related to their non-Polkish stuff, and they send me 50 or so fewer instances than actually occurred overall, all I can do is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Well, you only said IBTP. Whatever.

You can see why CBEL got the response we got to our good faith testing questions and suggestions. Heather Wright seems to enjoy playing hide and seek in a bureaucratic forest. We, the taxpaying public, are “it.” Like I said before: fine. Game on.

By the way, I don’t hold Jackie Byrd responsible for this. She and I had an excellent and productive meeting Thursday morning. And CBEL has agreed to a face-to-face meeting — not with Heather Wright — to reset the testing/accountability discussion.

I’m going to write a total overview of where I see the district heading, hopefully this weekend, if I can get to it and if my wife agrees not to divorce me.

Here are the cliff notes: Jackie Byrd inherited an astonishingly huge mess from Kathryn LeRoy on virtually every front. None of these, to the best of my knowledge, are of Byrd’s own making. I cannot say that about everyone, certainly not the School Board.

I think Byrd is triaging and moving to fix things as best she can. I think she is rightly focused on getting a contract for teachers ahead of almost anything else.

I also see signs that she’s forcing her administration to take a more responsive and teacher-service oriented role. But it won’t happen all it once. And she needs help and helpful prodding, I suspect. CBEL wants to be a part of that. We have always wanted to be part of that. We want to build.

But I can tell you, from CBEL’s meeting last night, a change in leadership and a commitment to a customer service orientation in the testing/accountability office is non-negotiable. Heather Wright must go.

Worth a million Heather Wrights

Speaking of CBEL’s meeting last night, I met a teacher I had not met before. She works at a traditional school. And her peers hold her in awe. You can see it. They say she pours every ounce of herself into her kids. And because she’s so good and so committed, the school gives her whoever needs her, which seems to be everybody. And she rises to the challenge.

She’s also wiped out. She’s probably going to quit from the exhaustion and frustration. I want badly to keep her — and help her.

Also, today was the annual Kiwanis Honors scholarship luncheon, which I’m in charge of. We recognized five truly compelling kids with exciting futures. All of them were a joy. The young man I introduced had come through Southwest Middle School. While there, Jay Gallman taught him.

I’ve written about Jay before. He’s likely better than any teacher at any Polk magnet or charter school. See this piece.

When I asked my young man, who is graduating from Harrison, about Jay, he lit up: “I love Mr. Gallman. He taught me all sorts of life lessons.”

I want you to think for a second about my exhausted new acquaintance and the daily life-altering work of Jay Gallman.

Then I want you to think of Heather Wright sitting in judgement on them. I want you to think about Heather Wright sipping Chardonnay at some trendy northside Chicago bistro yammering on about “justice” and data with fellow PhD and “policy” wonks. And then I want you to think about the fact that she makes three times as much money as either Jay or my new acquaintance — and she doesn’t even live here.

Jay Gallman is worth a million Heather Wrights. Indeed, I don’t think there are enough Heather Wrights to add up to one Jay Gallman.

If it infuriates you as thoroughly as it does me to do that math, please let your School Board members know.

18 thoughts on “Heather Wright has traveled — or will travel — 45ish times in 18 months

  1. It’s Friday night. I tested my students for four days this week. Four days. I have two more days to go next week before we are finished. Eleven days total. I am mentally and physically exhausted. When I read this, I burn with an anger that I can’t put into words. My fifth graders are at the mercy of money hungry educrats looking to profit off children and teachers. I truly don’t know how much longer I can be a part of this. I’ve dedicated 33 years of my life to something I thought was meaningful…only to have these people come in and rip it to shreds. Please help us.

  2. I hope your research leads to a change. My daughter, 7th grade, has had extreme test anxiety this year. Vommiting before school, not eating at lunch, showing paranoia, and withdrawing at school. Some teachers are becoming so cut throat, they are building up student gangs to spy on one another and report back to the teacher, then passively aggressively attack students and sabotage them. Even the band director has felt the stress to over practice for the band MPA, which is her assessment as to whether to continue funding for the program. (A program once a refuge from academic challenges for students). Yesterday, I went to the school to face to face talk with one of the administrators or counsellors I have been dialogue get with. The guidance secretary says “they are all in testing”. My response was “find me some one”. An assistant principal, polite as can be, responded 30 minutes later, clearly noting that she could only give me 2 minutes before her next testing shift. We did not accomplish much! Guidance secretary mentions there is another 3 weeks of this madness. I am ready to take my child out of school for 3 weeks, to return when the teachers are allowed to teach again and administrators allowed to be administrators. I feel the teachers concerns, I share them, I am ready to walk the line in unity with your cause. Forgive me, in the meantime, for calling and demanding a quality education. It’s may not be in the teachers control, but your the person whom is on the front lines.
    Parent – Lake county

  3. Keep it up, Billy, keep it up! News of a tentative 2015-2016 contract agreement came through last night…Oh boy, I THINK I calculated an $.49 an hour raise! I am supposed to feel excited a grateful! I am a veteran teacher with a Master’s degree and I make, in this county, less than the starting salary of many first year teachers across the country. I feel insulted.
    Reading stories like yours about how our school board wastes our money on people like Heather Wright instead of finding ways to compensate the people in the trenches who make the differences with the students further convinces me that we need a thorough house cleaning! Thirteen thousand teachers need a school board that works in the best interest of the teachers, who, when all is said and done, do whatever it takes to teach the children. The current board has to go! They’ve given us LeRoy, her hand picked subordinates(who have brought us unnecessary school and classroom level micro-management), Wright, frivolous spending on a non necessary new logo, Byrd’s non-transparent hiring, delay tactic negotiations, and who knows what else! Please start a Dump the Board movement! Polk county needs new blood! Thanks for all you are doing to shed light on what goes on behind closed doors.

  4. This is a very good article and spot on. This is just the tip of the ice-berg. In addition to testing and accountability, it is quite disturbing that teachers and other staff members fear retaliation and intimidation by their administrator or immediate supervisor if they voice their concern or challenge the status quo. I have been in contact with many educators, retired Principals and Vice Principals that have contacted me regarding our School Board campaign. It is disturbing to hear stories and the resentment that has developed between teachers and the School Board. Recently, a retired Principal made the comment to me “now that I am retired I can speak the Truth because I don’t have anything to lose.” A Vice Principal recently sent me the following comment via email “And…if you get in there do something about this blasted testing…as that is all we do after spring break…do they really think teaching is going on with all the testing schedules in place….get rid of EOYs….and the teacher eval is subjective….don’t let them say otherwise….” Others have expressed similar concerns such as accommodations and modifications being ignored and those teachers that provide those accommodations and modifications are penalized for doing so during their teacher evaluation observations. A fact. In regards to the new superintendent Jackie Byrd; those that I come into contact with are very disappointed that the Polk County School Board did not do as they promised by taking it slow and involving the community in the process. Unfortunately my only experience with Jackie Byrd was a negative one as Chair of the Polk County School Board District Advisory Council Executive Board. Ms. Byrd had an excellent opportunity to build support with teachers and the community by attending our general District Advisory Council in which Testing and Accountability was the topic which was presented by Heather Wright. It was evident that Ms Wright does not have the knowledge of how much time is actually spent in the classroom preparing for the student assessments. However, Ms. Byrd decided at the last minute she could not attend. This was the meeting right after the LeRoy resignation and would have been a perfect opportunity to reach out and begin building positive relationships.
    When it comes to a change to a customer friendly environment in the Polk County School System; that will only occur with a change of those on the School Board.

  5. Thank you for continuing to hold these educrats reponsible. I have taught for 20 years and can not imagine doing 20 more. The testing this year has been unreal. Computer labs are not used for projects or activities because they are being scheduled for tests or practice tests the entire year. My son is in middle school where they began testing the week after spring break until June 1. While he is not testing this time his schedule is constantly changing to accomodate testing. Teachers are pulled to administer tests and students are left to do “busy work” or watch non educational movies. I am seriously questioning why I send him to school right now. Not to mention with all the upside down schedule changes and off topic assignments the students are behaving as if school is out which is becoming an unsafe environment. Bullying and fighting is becoming more prevalent. In a school of 1300 one can only imagine the chaos…

  6. I hope that Heather Wright does resign. Not for the reasons that you give but because she is clearly too good for our district. Look back over the “articles” you’ve written. She brought grant funds to the district? She traveled to present research and to learn from others in the field? She’s getting a doctorate degree? You first say she’s spending too much money traveling, then you get angry because she didn’t bill the district for local trips. Wow.

    Let’s move on to the whole “skin in the game” argument. Do you think that you and your little group have more skin in the game when it comes to the Polk education system? Let’s compare: someone who is spending her life working for the students of Polk versus disgruntled former employees who quit the district and never looked back. How many of the people in your little group are either active Polk employees, or have their own children enrolled in Polk’s public schools?

    Finally, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. She’s a Jewish woman, hired by a black woman, working in a district not known for its tolerance. Your articles are very personal, very nasty, and not very fact-based. I have to question your true motives. Have you attempted to interview her, to hear both sides? What work have you done to fact check? You admit yourself that you don’t know anything about some of the topics and then proceed to sling accusations around without bothering to do your research. Sloppy work. I’m guessing your professors taught you better than that.

    If she does resign, it will be exactly what your little crew deserves. Keep sending your kids to charter and private schools and enjoy your 5 minutes of fame, while the less fortunate children of Polk public schools get to enjoy remaining at the bottom of the state.

    • Actually, moron, she was hired by a white woman named Kathryn LeRoy. And I had no idea/have no idea whether she is Jewish. It’s not something I’m in the habit of researching.

    • Also, I don’t think I’ve ever written anything about her getting a dissertation. But that’s probably worth exploring. Can you confirm how many hours she’s spending on that per week. And is she using Polk County data? Do her data needs affect her test policies? Can you help? I’d ask her; but she lies and and plays bureaucratic hide and seek with us.

    • One thing is for sure. Her concern for the children is not in Polk County as it doesn’t seem like she spends much time here especially during the testing season when she SHOULD be here the most. She knows that April and May are testing times of the year and all travel for anyone who deals with testing should be banned…PERIOD. It seems to me she has run out of town. I would want to make sure the wheels were turning.

      Also, according to what I have read on one of the documents, if she was so concerned, why did she take a trip to Chicago and leave everything up to the people of Osceola County who knew nothing according CTE EOY’s? If she is so concerned, she would be here.

      I too have looked over her resume and I must say, it seems that she is only in one place for an average, from what I can see, of about 1.5 years. That was gathered from LinkedIn. The longest that I saw was Cabarrus County School District for 3 years 3 months. Eleven jobs since 1999. That’s an average of 1.5 years over each job. Needless to say, the teachers of this community of have poured countless hours and years above her. Why did Osceola let her go with the money? That is my big question??? If she is as wonderful as you claim, why, why WHY?

  7. Really, “your little group.” What I hear Jon is someone this is annoyed that this won’t go away, so you attempt to throw racism and religion onto the discussion table in a pathetic attempt to change the subject. Your petty use of cliche’ in attempt to sound relevant to this story is the big fat pile of elephant dung in the room. Your attempt to marginalize the former employees as disgruntled, illustrates your physical connection to someone close to this story that is under scrutiny. I personally know many of these former employees. They gave their careers to this school district. They live here and still live here. They are still vested in the future of our children and our broken education system. They are taking the opportunity now to use their pens and voices to share with the voting tax payers and community at-large the cancerous policies and hiring practices that have landed us arguably in the worst state of our Polk education system since our Fl. legislators mandated a free, public education for all. So Jon, what vested interest or position are you throwing your meek attempt to redirect the changing tide from? The pendulum is swinging hard in favor of the students and career teachers that are the heart and soul of Polk County Public Schools. I suggest to you that the district schools could run just fine without the district office administrators, but the schools will not function a single day without the teachers and students. The students are the reason we exist. Maybe you should listen to the people that watch these children and offer knowledge to them daily, so you can go to work and not have to baby sit your offspring. Do us all and Mr. Poe a favor and offer some continuing lines to his literary classic by jumping directly in front of the pendulum.

  8. Wow…this gets better and better. I always knew that something wasn’t right when she was hired and drastically started making changes to the testing department and how those changes negatively impacted schools, students, and teachers. I didn’t realize that her position required so much travel. How does her travel compare to the former staff member who held that position? I am sure it would be an interesting comparison. Sadly, we are currently stuck with her and her policies unless J. Byrd and J. Bowen step up and STOP the madness. They can pause and evaluate these decisions before our students are screwed academically…screwed out of the grades the rightfully earned, and screwed out countless other items. Not to mention the teachers who are screwed out of valuable teaching time and instead spending countless hours administrating test after test after test. As Jon stated, she is too good for the county. Well, let ‘s cut our loses and let her move on, let her cause chaos somewhere else. Polk has had enough of her and her manipulation. Jon is also right that Polk families will continue to send kids to charter and private in order to AVOID her testing decision and to AVOID HER rule of the testing department in Polk County. I just read the agenda for the last board meeting and saw that she has so much work (maybe because of all her travel) she had to hire a director. hmmm… a new position for her already over staffed department. Have you checked out their page on the Polk website? Finally, it was mentioned that she is working on her dissertation. The school district has a policy in place that requires a formal request be submitted and reviewed prior to anyone using Polk data, schools, teachers, etc for research. Ironically, that is also handled by Heather’s department. So, did she follow these rules? Did a committee review her request and approve/deny it? Just a few more unanswered questions for Heather.

    • Your right. She came in, made lots of changes, and fired almost everyone who had been in the department before she got there. Then she replaced them with her cronies who all have Ph.D.’s. But don’t know anything about testing or research. The person over state testing is one of her friends from Osceola and is also a joke. She bullies the schools and makes there lives miserable. And she never even interviewed for her job. One day she just showed up in the position. A little LeRoy magic?
      Get rid of them all and bring back the people she got rid of.

  9. This is great stuff. It seems like you are Lakeland’s Glenn Beck and Heather Wright is Polk’s Hillary Clinton. Very entertaining! Keep the fun articles coming.

    • I am certainly not Glenn Beck. Heather Wright is not Hillary Clinton. Not everything has to be seen through the tired lens of national politics. But I thank you for reading.

  10. Where might I apply for a job like this!? I love to travel. I love kids. I love marketing.

      • Especially during testing season, the EOY testing season that you create! I see that she has taken several trips during the month of May. That is when EOY’s are held (April and May). I even saw one of the trips during that time was for a time management”Dissertation conference” held in May 2015. Yes, she is definitely all about the testing aspect and concerned about the kids, testing, and raising scores. Booking those trips during testing time proves it. Going to a “Dissertation Conference” paints a picture of a 1000 words on the real “Heather Wright.” Now they hire an Assistant for her? Why? To cover her duties while she continues to take more trips??

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