Friday, July 20, 2007

The Mystery of CEN and Butzon's Power

"Who is Jon Butzon and what is the Charleston Education Network," recently posted in my comments section set me to digging. Here's what I've gleaned so far about this seemingly powerful organization.


First, Jon Butzon does not reside in Charleston but in Berkeley County. As Executive Director of the Charleston Education Network (CEN) he leads an organization that is part of PEN--the Public Education Network. LEF's (local education foundations) such as CEN funded by the Ford Foundation attempt to improve education in urban and impoverished school districts. South Carolina sports several others besides CEN--in Aiken, Greenville, and even North Charleston, where the Education Foundation affiliated with the Metro Chamber of Commerce can be found.

It's not clear whether CEN gets public funds or where it has an office, if any. Butzon uses an email address at the Citadel (cen@citadel.edu ), but no mention of his name or that of the organization appears on the Citadel website. CEN's so-called website remains "under construction" and contains a post office box.

However, the Charleston Education Network does appear on the CCSD website under "Parent" organizations, a categorization that seems a bit off. Its activities are touted there as


"promoting effective School Board functioning through state-of-the-art training in goverance; facilitating leadership and management development for senior district personnel; helping parents transfer children from chronically low-performing schools; working for legislation to reform school district governance; and providing data and analysis on educational performance to be a voice for improved student achievement."

How and when Jon Butzon became Director of CEN is unclear, as are his credentials for the position. Certainly one of the criteria must be to act as cheerleader for the district office and school board. However, according to PEN's website, the motivation for local education foundations like CEN is to change minds gently from within.


Two policies that CEN has lobbied successfully against include the "Put Parents in Charge" bill that did not pass and the powers of the district constituent school boards, which the state legislature gutted recently.


This spring CEN put forth seven goals for improving education in CCSD. According to the P & C article, "members of the advocacy group announced seven policies that they believe will improve the district:


--Staff the lowest-performing schools first.
--Ensure that teachers at below-average and unsatisfactory rated schools have at least three years of experience.
--Assign only experienced principals to those schools.
--Ensure every child without a profound disability is a proficient reader by the end of third grade.
--Fully adopt student-based funding as the budgeting mechanism.
--Identify ineffective employees. Improve their performance quickly or remove them.
--Improve the use of technology in delivering instruction.


"'There is nothing magic in these policies,' said Johanna Martin-Carrington, cochair of the Charleston Education Network board. 'They are all common sense and they all go to the heart of the school district's mission: teach every child successfully to high standards.'" Who could disagree!

Martin-Carrington, Director of Jenkins Orphanage in North Charleston, ran for CCSD school board in 2000, when she was endorsed by BACPAC, a political arm of the Metro Chamber of Commerce. It is unclear how and when she became co-chair of CEN and who else is on its "board."

Superintendent Nancy McGinley should get along just fine with CEN. The Philadelphia Education Fund that she headed for five years prior to coming to Charleston is also an affiliate of PEN and the same type of organization.


Perhaps some of you can shed more light on this non-transparent organization.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

It looks like in addition to his e-mail address, Butzon’s telephone, fax and physical office space is also supported by The Citadel. Coincidentally, The Citadel's in-house legal counsel is Mr. Brandenburg who is chairman of the Buist Foundation's board of directors. He was the author of the highly critical e-mail message reacting to District 20’s position on admissions fraud at Buist. Hillery Douglas's son holds the "minority" seat on The Citadel's Board of Visitors. This is just from a cursory search. I’m sure there’s much more. Oh, how everyone has their hands in each other's pockets.

Anonymous said...

So Jon Butzon and CEN both benefit directly from the use of public resources supplied by The Citadel which is a state agency. Who made this decision? Someone might want to ask Gen. Rosa for his take on this relationship.

Anonymous said...

All I know is that Butzon is one of the rudest nastiest people I have ever met. He's right up there with Hillery Douglas when it comes to lack of civility. They both seem to think of all downtown people (yes, black and white) as the enemy. What are they hiding?

Anonymous said...

The name of Hayes Mizell came up along with Jon Butzon on Google which I found weird. Mizell was a genuinely idealistic liberal back in the days when a young Carroll Campbell was calling for burning school buses. During the integration of Columbia's school system starting in 1970, Mizell meant well but effectively polarized the right wing, directly leading to the rise of the state's political Republican majority we have today. It also led to the false perception that ALL whites abandoned the public schools in SC after 1970. Butzon may associate with Mizell to add to his credentials, but there is nothing socially conscious or genuinely liberal about Butzon or CEN. They can’t be fiscally conservative either because CEN appears to be living off CCSD’s largess. His support for public education is too selective to be anything but self serving.

Anonymous said...

I suspect Butzon and Meyers are both closet segregationists on personal school matters and limousine liberals on everything else. They only pretend to be liberals because, at least for them, it just feels good. They talk the talk on public education, but when you look closer they want others to walk the walk on schools. A genuine liberal could only be appalled at what CCSD has allowed downtown schools to become. A genuine conservative would be equally appalled at the waste of money and human potential under CCSD.

Anonymous said...

The waste and inequities that CCSD has forced on Dist. 20 are common issues that unit both white & black downtown public school advocates. Butzon & CEN have been noticeably absent on all fronts. A united downtown is a scary prospect to some. It would seem that all the special interest groups that live off the crumbs that CCSD throws them, from Dot Scott to Jon Butzon, the NAACP to the Chamber of Commerce (what a strange mix), none can afford to have a bunch of loose cannons downtown calling for public school reforms.

Anonymous said...

Why was Butzon present and given a voice at the Policy Committee's discussion of the Buist admissions process? Hillery Douglas has officially deferred to Butzon more than once on Buist and other D20 issues that Butzon had never publicly participated in their discussions before. Privately Butzon has said that Buist is none of Dist. 20's business. He doesn't care how the admissions process is manipulated against many. Yes, he is rude and unwilling to consider ideas other than those officially supported by CCSD for downtown. His statements and actions don't jive with what the Public Education Network, I assume his parent organization, says should be the tact of the Charleston Education Network. They say you should follow the money when investigating waste, corruption and graft. Where does CEN's money come from?

Anonymous said...

CEN continues to get Cook elected so when they speak she not only listens but jumps. He is the silent board chair. He runs the show, but, what is most bizarre he is actively involved with a local religious group. HUH! with his nasty attitude one would find that hard to believe

Anonymous said...

This story gets more bizarre with each entry and most of this is only scratching the surface.

Anonymous said...

You say CEN owns Nancy Cook. Then that’s probably true for most on the county school board and may explain why Toya Green appears so chummy with Butzon. Why else would they tolerate a person they obviously don’t like? He must be bringing sometime they value to the table. Trouble is the seat at the table for District 20 that Marvin Stewart often refers to as needed appears to have been claimed long ago by Jon Butzon.

Anonymous said...

Butzon is a Georgia carpetbagger who has read our voter lists very well. D20 was politically gutted years ago and Butzon knows it. City council seats are tied to far away Daniel Island. The recent reduction of its CCSD representation gives D20 only 1 token at-large seat on the 9 member board. So many fractions of legislative districts for the State House have carved up the peninsula leaving it with no resident representative in Columbia. All this gerrymandering gives downtown no unified voice on any political level. Even 2 of South Carolina’s 6 US Congressional seats now split the peninsula.

Anonymous said...

How are issues unique to downtown public schools to be heard if it has no representation or if officials believe downtown no longer matters? To Butzon D20 is now just a list of failing schools and high value real estate tracts. He possibly believes both the failing schools and the real estate should be quietly dispatched by CCSD when downtown residents aren’t looking.

Why was Butzon so eager to get every D20 child transferred off the peninsula under NCLB as early as 2002? He almost succeeded. The loss of almost 25% of its 2001 enrollment is testimony to the success of his efforts to depopulate downtown schools between 2001 and 2004. We can only speculate as to what Butzon’s plan was for all the vacant school properties that would have been left behind has he succeeded.

Had enough said...

I’m all in favor of a parent’s right to request and receive a transfer out. But with that right of every parent goes a responsibility for CCSD to meet the educational needs of those remaining in downtown or who want alternatives programs offered. CCSD has a responsibility to repair what's broken. Butzon and CEN have never presented such a plan for D20.

Anonymous said...

Butzon has strong ties to Riley. That explains so much.....

Anonymous said...

Riley is facing a reelection with serious questions developing about where he's going. He should be aware that many of these people like Butzon and Goodloe have been extremely abusive and have actually been counter productive to gaining public support for what he says he's for. Unless of course he is saying one thing and they are pursuing what he really wants.

Anonymous said...

The downtown public school district has no administrative leadership or advocate within CCSD. It has no control of its resources and is only a shell of its former self anyway. Much like its public schools, all of downtown Charleston is rapidly becoming a cartoon of its former position of importance in the region. The infrastructure needed to maintain its position has been weakened and this includes the very public schools that were designed to sustain it. The mayor's office refers questions about public schools to Butzon. That doesn't make sense. It sounds like Mayor Riley wants it this way.

Anonymous said...

Butzon lives in Goose Creek. What does he care about downtown Charleston anyway? He wants its tax base to support his pet projects, but based on what he's already said he has no use for the people who live there or its schools. I'd like to see the CEN agenda and have a chance to consider if supports downtown schools. I'd also like to know who wrote.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Butzon ran at least an arm of the B-team campaign. He was in charge of the school movement blog which was quite nasty and partisan. He hired a young woman to run it to cover his tracks. Butzon's role provesthe reality of Joe Riley's political control of the school system. Of all things why must the school system be run by Joe Riley too? He is doing such a terrible job these past 31 years he is wise to not take credit publicly for his huge role in CCSD.

D20 parent said...

The State Ethics Commission is required by state law to oversee all governmental lobbying and campaign activity in SC if these involve any public or governmental body within the state. Lobbyists and candidates for local school boards are not exempt from these rules.

If someone is using public resources (money, telephones, e-mail hosting or office space) to support what amounts to lobbying activity, then it's a violation of state ethics rules and may be subject to fines and/or criminal prosecution. Political activity in support of a candidate that has a value of more than $25 in cash or in kind also has to be reported to the state ethics commission by the candidate giving the name and address of the donor. Fines and/or prosecution may also apply to if this involves campaign reporting violations.

D20 parent said...

If Butzon hired someone to manage a blog that was obviously designed to further the election of a specific candidate or a specific slate of candidates then the details involving this campaign contribution should be a matter of public record. If there is no explanation of this activity on record then it should be reported to appropriate officials. If the rules are allowed to be ignored then our system of campaign disclosure and public trust in governing bodies like the Charleston County School Board is greatly undermined.

The Citadel and the State Ethics Commission might want to hear comments on all of this to determine if it in compliance with the law or not. If no one raises a question then it is unlikely that those who lead either state agency are aware of any problems or violations of state law. The military college’s official position lately has been one of risk avoidance and promoting good PR for the institution. I would think that The Citadel would want to be seen as supportive of quality and equitable education, particularly on behalf of the downtown schools in its neighborhood, and not as a contributor to a partisan lobbying effort.

Anonymous said...

Butzon brags about having a very close relationship with the mayor even though Charleston city officials say public schools are beyond their influence. Butzon openly supported the same candidates for the school board as Mayor Riley endorsed last fall. This may imply that CEN also endorsed them.

Anonymous said...

Butzon was given the boot by Berkeley County School Board Members. That is why he is down here all a buzz. CEN was also booted from the Citadel last year but we see they and he have wormed their way back in. I encourage all of you to drop a note to the governor concerning this very nasty 501c getting free rent, phone services and email services on the same premise that receives state funding. Ask the governor and Attorney General to throw the bums out of the Citadel

Anonymous said...

I agree. Public resources and equipment shouldn't be used to push political interests. I'm curious if a major campaign contribution to school board candidates made by Mayor Riley was reported. I don’t think Mayor Summey has ever done anything like that. Joe sent out more than 6,000 solicitation letters last fall to raise funds for Toya Green and at least two others running for the CCSD board. The mayor’s fund raising letters represent a value significantly higher than $25 for materials, printing and postage. It was very clear the letters were sent out under Mayor Riley's signature to potential donors asking for contributions to elect a specific slate of candidates. This campaign should have been reported. Was it?

Just a thought said...

It’s starting to look like the P&C isn’t asking any questions because it may be financially involved in some way through the Evening Post Foundation. What a story that would be if it was, but don’t expect the P&C to cover it.

Anonymous said...

You bet the Post and Courier is going lightly on the school district. I asked a certain reporter to FOIA the thousands of dollars spent in 8 months on Ms. Jordon's board travel and that has yet to be done

Anonymous said...

Ruth Jordan's travel?? Please tell more...

Anonymous said...

Jordon has been to Hilton Head twice.... San Francisco and Myrtle Beach, and these were all 4 Star hotels . Wasn't part of her campaign the slam against Engelman for her travel. Jordon's is more for 8 months than Engelman's was for two years

FOI? No Problem! said...

Any individual can submit an FOI request. It has to be in writing and in theory can even be via e-mail.

I'd suggest that someone just send an e-mail to Nancy Cook asking for a tally of all current board member expenses identified by individual that incurred the expenses. You might also include a tally of the meeting stipends received for the period as a check. The period the request is for should be identified as the fiscal year just ended. Unless you really want ALL the board member expenses for last year, you might specifically ask that the figures only include the current board members which would include those just elected.

Copy the original e-mail to members of the press, CCSD's communications office, the superintendent and any others who might serve as a "witness" to the request. They have no more than 45 days to supply you with the information and only can use that delay if they acknowledge their intentions to comply within 10 days. Otherwise the information must be made available within 15 days.

They may require that the person making the request sign the request. No problem. Print a copy of your e-mail. Sign it, date it and mail it with a copy to the communications office. Say it somewhere in the e-mail that a signed copy is in the mail so they don't try to wear you down with a delay by saying you didn't do it exactly right.

These are budget line items which should require no real research or efforts to reinvent the wheel. Don't let them claim there is a "research fee" of $100 per hour or a "copy charge" of $5 per page. These are defined in the law as illegal delaying tactics. The most they can charge you is a couple of dollars for postage...but you can pick it up for them at with no postage needed. You don't have to even pay copy charges because under the law you can request to see the originals and take notes from what you see. School districts in SC are some of the worst violators of the state's otherwise fairly well worded Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

This is a simple and specific request which is directly related to a recent policy change that the board passed. It would be interesting to see if the new board is already in violation of its own rules...again.

We'll also soon see if CCSD's new communications officer is worth her salt.

Anonymous said...

CEN on Google lists their address as 705 St. Andrews Blvd. I peeked in the windows of this duplex. No CEN there

Ian kay said...

Wow,
I stumbled onto this site and I am excited by the revelations. I just finished a book called "New Money for Old Rope," and its an e-book on Amazon with a companion i-book of the same name, that details much of the hancky pancky fro my days as a teacher up north. I know that you would be interested in some inside revelations on thje level of corruption that exist in the educational administration circles.
Ian Kay (not afraid to use my name, by the way.
IKay7711@gmail.com