Covington: The Serial Quitter
While the media is all a-buzz over Monday’s “abrupt” resignation of John Covington, chancellor of Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority, speculation abounds as to whether he was shown the door by Gov. Snyder with the ultimatum — resign now, or be fired, or if he left of his own accord. After only two years on the job, Covington is walking away from his $1.6 million contract.
This isn’t the first time he’s bailed.
Sure, the governor had plenty of cause to cut ties with the chancellor. Not the least of which would be his exorbitant travel expense budget. He, and his staff, billed the financially strapped EAA a whopping $178,000 in the 2012/13 school year, and another $52,000 was recently disclosed for early 2014. And, yes the state superintendent recently revoked the 15 year contract the EAA had to run the 15 schools it now controls — we could enumerate a litany of blunders and incompetencies…but there’s something more to the story.
Last Thursday, Michigan lawmakers broke for the summer without passing HB-4369, a bill to codify the EAA into law — to expand the district, and confer full autonomy and authority onto the chancellor.
Covington was hand-picked by the governor and the former Detroit Public School Emergency Manager, Roy Roberts. And, as chancellor he has been clear about his determination to win legislative approval. So, when the bill designed to make him king of the hill failed to sail through congress upon introduction over a year and a half ago, the chancellor wrote the following to staff in his 2012 holiday message:
“…I am fully aware that there is much concern relative to whether there is sufficient support for the Education Achievement Authority and the work we are doing. We were all disappointed that the EAA was not codified as a statewide system of schools during the lame-duck session of the Michigan State Legislature, and the we did not make the final list of awardees for the Race to the Top funding by the United States Department of Education.”
Covington may harbor his own reasons for bolting. He’s done it before.
After only two years at the helm of the troubled Kansas City Public Schools, in late August of 2011, Covington surprised the school board with his unexpected resignation. At the time, the struggling school district was being evaluated for reaccreditation. Covington cited conflicts with the school board as reason for his leaving, and his staff hinted at possible malfeasance on the part of the school board chair as reason for the departure.
But that was all a smoke screen.
Within hours of his KCPS resignation, media broke the story that Covington had accepted a new position with Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority as their chancellor. It appears he jumped-ship when he understood that the failing Kansas City School system was about to lose accreditation — which it did.
At least one guy in the media called it like it was. An editorial writer for the Kansas City Star put out a prophetic Tweet that day:
Yes, it seems Covington has more in common with the captain of the sunken cruise ship, Costa Concordia, than a true school administrator.
Yet for the EAA, Covington’s legacy will live-on through his protegé, Mary Esselman, who followed the former chancellor from KCPS to lead the implementation of the controversial “student-based” learning model. She is credited with the roll-out and general administration of the failed plan.
The EAA board moved quickly to shore-up flagging confidence by immediately appointing an interim chancellor in the person of Veronica Conforme, a former COO from the New York City School System.
The rapid appointment certainly indicates that the-powers-that-be knew in advance of Covington’s departure, but it does not necessarily mean it wasn’t of his own volition.
He may have been the one cutting the line.