Excellence Happens in Vegas

It’s time once again to climb aboard the rephorm express. Today we’re headed west, to Vegas, baby: home to the legendary Strip, the Hoover Dam, and these days, plenty of excellence, Teach for America style. Alas, what happens in Vegas likely won’t be staying there for long…

First, allow me to lay it on you historical style. Once upon a time, back at the peak of the economic boom, Nevada’s most populous county was opening upwards of 10 schools and hiring 2,000 new teachers—every year. Then the economy imploded thanks to the greed of a great many people who were not teachers. Fast forward a few years and the excellent leaders of Las Vegas have at last identified the source of Sin City’s persistent woes: teachers. You see, it turns out that most of the teachers here are of the low quality, low expectations variety, single handedly stifling the hopes and dreams of Vegas’ youngsters, leaving them without the skills necessary to join the city’s low-wage, low-skills workforce.  Fortunately, reader, where there is a simple, glaring problem, a silver bullet solution lies within easy reach. I give you—drum roll please—Teach for America.

Exellence happens
In recent years, Las Vegas has imported excellence to the tune of hundreds of outstanding young TFA recruits. And just like the Chinese laborers who once tunneled through the Rocky Mountains in order to bring the Transcontinental Railroad west, there is no challenge so tough that excellence can’t bore right through it. Take for example the ballooning class sizes—as high as 50 in required classes—resulting from teacher layoffs and a years’ long fiscal crisis. Here’s TFA alum turned Nevada Board of Education member Allison Serafin on how huge class sizes are no match for excellence.

How do you prepare teachers for Clark County’s large classes, which are among the nation’s most crowded?

Serafin: We don’t allow class sizes to be an excuse for lackluster achievement. You control what kind of teacher you are and what your students learn. If a member is struggling with a large class, we’ll find teachers who have succeeded with many students and see what we can learn.

Problem solved, or as Clark County’s 55,000 English Language Learners might say: ¡problema resuelto! In fact, that is most likely what our young ELL friends will say, given that many of the district’s ELL teachers have been laid off and that Nevada is one of just a handful states that don’t provide any extra funds to educate students who are still learning English.

Excellence rises to the top
But there I go again, making excuses. In the time it took me to type that last excuse, two more TFA alums were elected to statewide office on a “no excuses” platform. I kid you not, dear reader. It turns out that in Las Vegas, the TFA excellence adventure merely begins in the overcrowded classroom—then it’s onto bigger venues, like the Nevada State Board of Education, which is now home to two TFA alum. Armed with nothing more than then high expectations and a combined $300,000, raised primarily from out-of-state sources, these fearless young leaders are introducing the Board of Education to some serious TFA-style excellence. Fortunately Allison Serafin and Alexis Gonzales-Black have some powerful friends, like philanthropist-turned-education-advocate Elaine Wynn, two-time-former-wife of odious Vegas bazillionaire Steve Wynn and the new president of the State Board of Education.

Excellence meets the apocalypse
There remains but one question for us to answer, dear reader: is there a way for the tax payers of Nevada to increase their stake in the excellence project that is Teach for America? Good news again. In his state-of-the-union address, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced that the state is ponying up $2 million to bring still more TFA recruits to the Sagebrush State. Of course not everyone here is rolling out the welcome mat for the excellence express. Take the residents of Towne Terrace, a down-at-the-heels apartment complex in downtown Las Vegas, purchased by Zappos magnate (and Alexis Gonzales-Black employer) Tony Hseih who dreams of repopulating the entire area with more than 1,000 TFA corps members and alum. Except that the residents of the Towne Terrace made it exceedingly clear that they had no interest in being evicted to make way for excellence. Oh well, next time…

Do you wish that you were excellent? Send comments and self-improvement tips to tips@edushyster.com.

16 Comments

  1. The irony of the name Sarafin, heavenly angel, is not lost on me. Angel of educational hell is more like it I’d say. Zappos! Dammit, another company lacking social values I now must avoid. Read up on the TFA boosters, including the US dept. of Ed., so be clear it’s an inside job to dismantle public education and heavily funded. http://www.teachforamerica.org/support-us/donors Most of these same donors bankroll more of the edreform movement; I didn’t even include the TFA spin off refromer groups, such as 50Can, and their spin off groups in various states, and the TFA leaders of public education policy, who coincidentally then destroy public education in the area they “reform” such as John White, Superintendent of Schools for New Orleans. Opps, I almost forgot SFER http://dianeravitch.net/2012/11/11/the-lowdown-on-students-for-educational-reform/ . EduShyster, I need your address and other stats because I want to take a life insurance policy out in you, since so many profiteer$ may not like the truth you write, they may take a hit out on you. You (and all the stupid LIFO dedicated, licensed, career teachers) are just standing in the way of excellence. The reformers are so passionate about a fair and quality education I worry for your safety!

  2. Las Vegas has done everything in growth excessively. I have watched it change & grow for 21 years. We have too big, too many, too much, too fast. It is a crying shame that our education system is as bad as it is.

  3. Let’s not forget that Alexis Gonzalez-Black is also married to Victor Wakefield, Executive Director, Teach for America Las Vegas Valley. In a recent interview Victor Wakefield showed that he is an expert at pushing the TFA propaganda of making gentrification of education a priority over equality of education.
    http://www.knpr.org/son/archive/detail2.cfm?SegmentID=9652&ProgramID=2696

    1. Ms. Gonzales-Black has so many excellent connections that I literally could not find room enough to squeeze them all in. I recommend getting your hands on a bottle of Patrón–alas I don’t believe it comes in boxes–and taking a refreshing sip whenever you encounter a familiar name on this list of her campaign contributors. http://nvsos.gov/SOSCandidateServices/AnonymousAccess/ViewCCEReport.aspx?syn=sIcXN2Eaa5vGj8CGNGxwpw%253d%253d

  4. The Nevada state superintendent of education recently recognized that there were only 2000 or so good teachers in Nevada, he must have been referring to the TFAers! Glad he was able to find a few!

  5. Great analysis and commentary on the sad joke that the educational “reformers” are playing on Nevada. Only one quibble – Hseih’s plan to pack Towne Terrace with TFA hires did not fail because the residents didn’t want to move in. It failed because the TFA hires did not want to live downtown with the icky poor and mostly brown people, instead prefering the tony neighborhoods of Summerlin and Green Valley, thankyouverymuch. Hseih is investing heavily in the Las Vegas’ downtown. He should be promoting people who have a similar faith in the urban core.

  6. I should say that the existing “residents didn’t want to move out,” apologies.

  7. What a debacle. Apparently checking to see if corp members were interested in living there before kicking out current residents didn’t make the “To-Do” list of the project. That said- it doesn’t sound like the apartment thing was a TFA-sponsored thing.

    As a former TFA corps member in Vegas (who has since left Vegas for the colder climes of the midwest), I can only say that many of us (from several years ago) remain in the traditional public system (and aren’t located only in Henderson, Somerville, etc). I love this blog and the writing, AND I am appreciative of what I got from TFA- a primer in pedagogy and classroom management, the belief that I could make a difference in my classroom, and the push to stay with the profession when it was the most challenging this I had ever experience. Is there a general mix of arrogance-meets-bright-eyed-do-goodism among many current corp members across the nation? No doubt. It was there when I was a member and I found it off-putting. Did I also meet some of the most talented, committed, and compassionate educators (and human beings) I’ve met to-date? Yep.

    There are many sides to TFA, and one of them is the side of alumni who stay in their schools (or other district schools), work hard on behalf of their students, families, and colleagues, and generally serve as wonderful teachers. But that’s clearly not interesting fodder for the intrawebs. ;)

    1. Did I also meet some of the most talented, committed, and compassionate educators (and human beings) I’ve met to-date? Yep.

      And some of these wonderful humans were not TFA temps? Are you saying some of the people were life long unionized teachers? Is that what you are saying? That wasn’t clear or not worthy clarifying.

      1. CT- I’m going to share soemthing with you now, but only if you promise to never, ever tell Wendy Kopp I told you, ok? (she can hear us typing!)

        Here it is: many of the wonderful people I met WERE in fact life-long unionized (I believe the CORRECT term is actually LIFO lifers, but let’s not quibble about who cares less about kids… I kid!) teachers- and we worked together as educators. I still stay in touch with a handful of the master teachers I met in Vegas today.

        Stay with me, because here’s where the ish gets cray: I ALSO met many outstanding people in TFA. (In a weird, tripping-the-light-fantastic twist, many of the TFAers I knew also happened to be a part of the union!)

        Fact: Many TFAers don’t make a career in education.

        Fact: Many do. (I call “no questioning the term “many.”) Many make outstanding teachers and because great teachers are people who work at their craft, who learn from experts and their colleagues, who sometimes DO fail but stay with it, and who believe in and care for their kids in and out of school.

        Opinion: The Kool-Aid is strongly flavored, but it goes down so smooth and so sweet.

        Opinion: I would loooooooooove to see the same outrage at TFA directed (even by a tenth as much) at traditional teacher prep programs who teach classes that (having gone through them myself now) do NOT prepare a person for the classroom and the challenge of educating students in a complex world and society.

        Fact: Finland’s overrated. There, I said it! We were all thinking it!!!

    2. Michael Fiorillo February 7, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Nor is it the purpose of TFA as an institution, which is avowedly more interested in developing school leadership cadre, rather than career teachers.

      Those committed, compassionate educators who’ve stayed with teaching do so in spite of TFA the organization, not because of it.

  8. [...] Cross posted from EduShyster’s blog. Keeping an eye on the corporate education agenda. [...]

  9. [...] Cross posted from EduShyster’s blog. Keeping an eye on the corporate education agenda. It’s time once again to climb aboard the rephorm express. Today we’re headed west, to Vegas, baby: home to the legendary Strip, the Hoover Dam, and these days, plenty of excellence, Teach for America style. Alas, what happens in Vegas likely won’t be staying there for long…First, allow me to lay it on you historical style. Once upon a time, back at the peak of the economic boom, Nevada’s most populous county was opening upwards of 10 schools and hiring 2,000 new teachers—every year. Then the economy imploded thanks to the greed of a great many people who were not teachers. Fast forward a few years and the excellent leaders of Las Vegas have at last identified the source of Sin City’s persistent woes: teachers. You see, it turns out that most of the teachers here are of the low quality, low expectations variety, single handedly stifling the hopes and dreams of Vegas’ youngsters, leaving them without the skills necessary to join the city’s low-wage, low-skills workforce.  Fortunately, reader, where there is a simple, glaring problem, a silver bullet solution lies within easy reach. I give you—drum roll please—Teach for America. [...]

  10. It is well-documented that TFA, with its 5 week teacher prep model, is anti-traditional teacher preparation. Contrary to the position of some TFAers, there are a lot of us who took the ass-backwards alternative approach to becoming educators by teaching first and learning later in traditional teacher prep that got a lot out of those programs.

    I believe the value of traditional teacher prep from career educators and education scholars who’ve had decades of classroom experience trumps 5 weeks of indoctrination by “teachers” with a couple years of experience. Although corporate sponsored “reformers” will trot out their think tank economists to convince the world the 5 week TFA training model and two or three years of experience at most are needed for effective teaching, that is contrary to a large body of research across disciplines indicating that it takes a minimum of 10 years of experience and deliberate practice, with a concerted effort towards improvement, to become an expert in virtually any field, aka “the 10 year rule.”

  11. Nevada is a complete hole when it comes to education. It has been that way for a long, long time. Lots of corruption, lots of cronyism, lots of disrespect for anybody older than 50 who is a teacher.

    I have written about Nevada extensively because I had lived there for 26 years and had been a mid-career changer until I was illegally fired by Washoe County School District. As bad as the district was under Paul Dugan, it is much worse now with Broadies at the helm. Pedro Martinez, the current WCSD sup, has NO teaching or principal experience whatsoever, yet he is allowed to be a superintendent. He was a crony of Arne Duncan’s in Chicago, a CPA by trade.

  12. Some of the most wealthy people in the world live in Nevada.

    What do billionaires and business people do for fun in Nevada?

    Reform public education of course!

    What do Casino Tycoon Elaine Wynn, Amazon.com Jeff Bezos, and Zappos Tony Hsieh have in common? Teach for America and ALEC inspired education reform. The return on investment model should be applied everywhere!

    All this experimentation with public education – without research or time tested results , wouldn’t bother me so much if the situation were not so financially dire in the State of Nevada. Last in the nation in funding, huge at-risk populations, and limited funds to siphon for billionaire fly-by-night ideas.

    Did you know that Nevada will vote on a 2% tax on businesses earning $1 million or more in November 2014? This has our education reforming billionaires really twisted. Nevada is one of the few states that does not tax corporations. This attracts billionaires who are adverse to paying . . . anything.

    Did you know that Jeff Bezos the founder and CEO of Amazon.com has a warehouse outside of Fernley, Nevada in the desert?

    Did you know that this ecommerce company pays taxes based on location of warehouse?

    Did you know that Amazon.com has a history of union-busting and treating labor poorly to maximize income?

    Did you know that Amazon.com is a known tax evader and does all it can to not pay its fair share?

    Did you know Jeff Bezos belonged to ALEC and ALEC aided him with his Amazon.com loopholes?

    Did you know that Jeff Bezos is really excited by charter schools, privatization and union-busting? Bad news for public schools.

    Did you know that Amazon.com bought Zappos?

    Did you know that Tony Hsieh is the founder and still works at Zappos – which is now located in downtown Las Vegas – revitalizing the area?

    Did you know that Tony Hsieh is involved with Teach for America and plans to continue to bring at least 1,000 TFA to Vegas?

    Teach for America are young and excited but they aren’t trained to be teachers – unless you think a few weeks is enough. 150 Teach for America were hired in Vegas at the same time 1400 fully licensed Teachers were pink slipped resulting in union-busting.

    Did you know TFA mingle with Zappos employees, even going on spring break trips and retreats together?

    Did you know that Victor Wakefield, Executive Director of Teach for America, is married to Nevada State School board member (former TFA) Alexis Gonsalez-Black, Zappos?

    Did you know that Elaine Wynn, Casino Tycoon, and Tony Hsieh, Zappos donated heavily to the Nevada State Election Campaigns of Alexis Gonsalez-Black and Allison Serafin? President Elaine Wynn, Alexis Gonsalez-Black and Allison Serafin who all have connections to big money and Teach for America sit on the Nevada State Education Board. Hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars spent on unpaid board seats — one has to ask . . . why?

    Did you know that during the last legislative session the NV assembly prevented TFA from receiving additional tax payer funds for its non-profit. And TFA then went to CCSD and asked for additional funds – this was rejected. And then TFA went to the City of Las Vegas – and received money from the city . . . unprecedented “education funding” to a cash flushed non-profit? Public Schools recently endured one billion in budget cuts but there is money for this?

    Did you know that Teach for America is becoming a major political player and national campaign contributor – as a non-profit?

    Did you know that Governors in other states refused to give TFA money because they had so much? $350 million in net assets.

    Did you know that education philantrophy makes a nice non-profit tax shelter.

    Did you know that Elaine Wynn is President of the National Non-Profit Communities in Schools- which declares an unbelievable and most likely unprovable – drop out prevention (return on business investment) success story?

    Wynn donates hundreds of thousands across the nation to Communities in Schools – she is so kind!

    And her international $135 million giving to Macau was even cause for investigation! The SEC called the gift suspicious; More suspicious is Wynn’s appointment by the Governor of Reno to the Nevada State School Board while being investigated?

    Does anyone see a pattern with these business oriented billionaires and their plans for public schools? When public education is a large portion of the state budget and you are a billionaire partially because of sketchy business practices and tax dodging . . . it makes sense that you want to distract everyone by reforming public schools instead of paying your fair share and funding schools adequately.

    Nevada needs the community to vote for the TEI in November 2014.

    The high rolling billionaires need to pay their fair share this time around instead of coming up with “great education ideas” that don’t work.

    http://www.theeducationinitiative.com/

    Notes and Links:

    Jeff Bezos
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/amazon-founder-jeff-bezos-known-for-patience-focus-on-detail-in-his-business-ventures/2013/08/05/477a8806-fe13-11e2-96a8-d3b921c0924a_story.html

    Amazon is required to collect the tax only in states where it maintains a physical presence, such as a warehouse. But Amazon now is supporting the bill, which has passed the Senate and is pending in the House. State sales taxes no longer pose a real threat to Amazon; with an emphasis on same-day shipping, the company is building distribution warehouses across the country and would have to pay the tax anyway.

    The Bezos Family Foundation — whose board includes Bezos, his parents and other family members — gave more than $11 million in 2011 to an array of national organizations such as Teach for America, Stand for Children and the KIPP Foundation, according to tax filings. The foundation also gave grants to scores of individual schools around the country as well as several charter school chains, including Uncommon Schools, which operates schools in New York and Massachusetts.

    http://askville.amazon.com/address-Amazon-warehouse-Sparks-Nevada/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=9142399

    Amazon.com Inc
    1600 Newlands Dr E
    Fernley, NV 89408

    (775) 575-8000

    http://www.amazon.com/Locations-Products-Careers/b?ie=UTF8&node=14237861

    Fulfillment and Warehouse Centers

    We receive, pack, and ship tens of millions of items from our global network of fulfillment centers.
    North America
    * New Castle, Delaware
    * Coffeyville, Kansas
    * Campbellsville, Kentucky
    * Hebron, Kentucky
    * Lexington, Kentucky
    * Fernley, Nevada
    * Red Rock, Nevada
    * Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
    * Carlisle, Pennsylvania
    * Lewisberry, Pennsylvania
    * Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

    http://www.kolotv.com/home/headlines/41846337.html?device=tablet
    Close of facility in Red Rock, Nevada – Fernley still opened

    http://www.housmans.com/boycottamazon.php
    Amazon are Union Busters
    Amazon have a little-reported, but undeniable record of preventing their work force from unionising. In 2001, Amazon.co.uk hired a US management consultancy organisation, The Burke Group, to assist in defeating a campaign by the Graphical, Paper and Media Union (GPMU, now part of Unite the Union) to achieve recognition in the Milton Keynes distribution depot. It was alleged that the company sacked four union members during the 2001 recognition drive and held a series of captive meetings with employees.
    Unionbusting

    http://www.housmans.com/boycottamazon.php
    Tax dodging and union busting

    Amazon’s workplace practices have come under fire in recent years. News outlets have detailed everything from the exhausting nature of warehouse work (employees can walk as much as 15 miles daily) to ambulances waiting outside a facility to collect workers who overheated because of a lack of air conditioning. Warehouse workers in Germany have walked out several times over wage issues. Some later traveled to Seattle to picket in front of Amazon’s headquarters.

    Read more: How Amazon Crushed the Union Movement | TIME.com http://business.time.com/2014/01/16/how-amazon-crushed-the-union-movement/#ixzz2tHJIic4x

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Bezos
    Purchase of Wasington Post

    http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2013/aug/16/jeff-bezos-washington-post
    Bezo’s Politics called into questions

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/08/07/the-politics-of-jeff-bezos/
    Donations to keep from being taxed
    Family big support’s of charter schools
    Donations on both sides of the aisle.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2013/08/05/jeff_bezos_inscrutable_libertarian_democrat.html
    Donation to gay marriage equality
    Donations to various candidates
    Donations to defeat taxes

    http://www.alternet.org/media/what-will-washington-post-be-under-jeff-bezos
    But what has not made news is Bezos’ careful activism on behalf of big business and some of the richest Americans. In 2010, a coalition of Washington state public interest groups, teachers and socially minded wealthy Americans like Hanauer and Bill Gates Sr. supported Initiative 1098, which would have established the first-ever income tax in the state. If passed, the initiative would’ve established a tax on adjusted gross income for individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and $400,000 on married couples or domestic partners. By taxing high-income Washingtonians, the initiative would also have allowed for a reduction in property taxes and the expansion of certain business tax credits.

    http://www.thenation.com/article/168109/protesters-confront-amazon-founder-jeff-bezos#
    Amazon has also taken heat for its membership in ALEC—the American Legislative Executive Council—a corporate-funded group that backs right-wing politicians. ALEC also drafts and promotes laws like those that effectively disenfranchised large numbers of minority voters, the “Stand Your Ground” legislation that has resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin and a number of other people, and the anti-union laws brought to national attention by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

    And Amazon was behind the curve in withdrawing from ALEC, lagging well behind companies such as KFC, Taco Bell, Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Intuit, McDonald’s, PepsiCo and Kraft Foods. Most of these companies left ALEC more than a month ago, when revelations about its role in “Stand Your Ground” gave renewed momentum to demands that corporations leave it.

    But then, ALEC has treated Amazon very well. It has defended the “Amazon loophole” that allows online sellers to avoid charging sales taxes the way other businesses do. This unfair advantage has given Amazon a lot more clout against neighborhood bookstores and retail book chains—clout it has used to drive many of them out of business.

    Bezos is a libertarian who reportedly exults in the fact that Amazon’s loophole prevents the government from collecting taxes. He appears to exemplify a certain kind of Internet or computer entrepreneur—call them “digital libertarians”—who can be visionaries in technological and cultural ways and yet blind to social and economic realities.

    http://news.rapgenius.com/The-bilderberg-group-list-of-attendees-for-2013-bilderberg-group-meeting-annotated#note-1837452
    Bilderberg Group

    http://dianeravitch.net/2013/08/06/jeff-bezos-worse-than-we-thought/
    Privatization and Union-Busting

    http://www.thenation.com/blog/175627/jeff-bezoss-other-endeavor-charter-schools-neoliberal-education-reforms

    There’s one area where Bezos has been hyper-active, but it is largely unknown to the general public: education reform. A look at the Bezos Family Foundation, which was founded by Jackie and Mike Bezos but is financed primarily by Jeff Bezos, reveals a fairly aggressive effort in recent years to press forward with a neoliberal education agenda:

    • The Bezos Foundation has donated to Education Reform Now, a nonprofit organization that funds attack advertisements against teachers’ unions and other advocacy efforts to promote test-based evaluations of teachers. Education Reform Now also sponsors Democrats for Education Reform.

    • The Bezos Foundation provided $500,000 to NBC Universal to sponsor the Education Nation, a media series devoted to debating high-stakes testing, charter schools and other education reforms.

    • The Bezos Foundation provided over $100,000 worth of Amazon stock to the League of Education Voters Foundation to help pass the education reform in Washington State. Last year, the group helped pass I-1240, a ballot measure that created a charter school system in Washington State. In many states, charter schools open the door for privatization by inviting for-profit charter management companies to take over public schools that are ostensibly run by nonprofits.

    Other education philanthropy supported by the Bezos Foundation include KIPP, Teach for America and many individual charter schools, including privately funded math and science programs across the country.

    But will Bezos’ interest in changing education policy affect his control of the Post? Only time will tell.

    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/18129-jeff-bezoss-other-endeavor-charter-schools-neoliberal-education-reforms

    The most troubling part of Amazon’s record, as it might relate to Bezos’ ownership of thePost, is Amazon’s December 2010 decision to shut down WikiLeaks’s server access after the group published a trove of State Department cables. Robert McChesney, citing Amazon’s move to pull the plug on WikiLeaks, released a statement today condemning the sale.

    Tony Hsieh – Zappos
    The http://www.inc.com/magazine/20100601/why-i-sold-zappos.html
    acquisition closed on November 1, at a valuation of $1.2 billion (based on Amazon’s stock price on the day of closing). Our investors at Sequoia made $248 million. Our board was replaced by a management committee that includes me, Jeff, two Amazon executives, and two Zappos executives. As CEO, I report to the committee every quarter, and Zappos is responsible for hitting revenue and profitability numbers. But unlike our former board of directors, our new management committee seems to understand the importance of our culture — the “social experiments” — to our long-term success. In fact, one Amazon distribution center recently began experimenting with its own version of Zappos’s policy of paying new employees $2,000 to quit if they’re unhappy with their jobs.
    The acquisition closed on November 1, at a valuation of $1.2 billion (based on Amazon’s stock price on the day of closing). Our investors at Sequoia made $248 million. Our board was replaced by a management committee that includes me, Jeff, two Amazon executives, and two Zappos executives. As CEO, I report to the committee every quarter, and Zappos is responsible for hitting revenue and profitability numbers. But unlike our former board of directors, our new management committee seems to understand the importance of our culture — the “social experiments” — to our long-term success. In fact, one Amazon distribution center recently began experimenting with its own version of Zappos’s policy of paying new employees $2,000 to quit if they’re unhappy with their jobs.

    http://retailindustry.about.com/b/2013/07/22/happy-amazappian-anniversary-for-jeff-bezos-and-tony-hsieh-how-two-visionary-leaders-leveraged-success-in-four-short-years-amzn.htm

    Four years ago today on July 22, 2009, Amazon.com finalized an agreement to acquire Zappos.com for $807 million. Since both of these internet-based retail companies have a global reputation for their customer-centric missions and associated fanatic customer loyalty, the union of Amazon and Zappos was logical, expected, and controversy-free. By all reports today is an anniversary of AmaZappian bliss for leaders Jeff Bezos and Tony Hsieh, who have both been busy leveraging their success over the past four years.

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/nov/10/add-education-zappos-downtown-investment-forays/

    As Zappos prepares to relocate to downtown Las Vegas, its growing list of investments in the area now includes more than $1 million to lure dedicated teachers to the area’s schools.

    Teach For America, which trains teachers to work in schools that serve children from households in poverty, will receive a donation of $300,000 from the company and $1.2 million from CEO Tony Hsieh.

    Allison Serafin, a special consultant to Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones, also went through Teach For America’s program after graduating from Texas Christian University in political science and social work.

    “It completely changed my life,” Serafin said. “I was able to see firsthand through the experience of teaching my sixth-graders that the students were brilliant and capable.”

    Serafin, who works by contract with the School District, called Teach For America one of “many excellent partners who share the same commitment to students … and a commitment that all children can achieve.”

    http://vator.tv/competition/las-vegas-valley-alternative-spring-break

    Zappos Spring Break – Teach for America
    What is it?
    The Teach For America – Las Vegas Valley & the Zappos Family of Companies Alternative Spring Break is intended to spark bold, new innovations that expand opportunities and close the achievement gap in the Las Vegas Valley community. Applicants will submit a response to one of three challenges being posed via video by three Las Vegas Valley corps members. Twenty five students from across the country will be selected and will be invited to join Teach For America- Las Vegas Valley, the Zappos Family of Companies, and Las Vegas Valley community leaders for an all expenses paid alternative spring break trip to the Las Vegas Valley in March. Programming will be Monday to Friday (with travel on Sunday, the 18th and Saturday, the 24th) and will include travel, all meals, activities, and housing, which will be with current Las Vegas Valley corps members. Participants will continue the spirit of social innovation and tackle community, school, and business challenges in Las Vegas with the Zappos Family of Companies, Teach For America corps members and staff, and other Las Vegas Valley community leaders.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teach_For_America
    According to a 2009 USA Today article, Teach For America has been criticized by opponents who claim that the program replaces experienced teachers with brand-new employees who have had only five weeks of training during the summer and are brought in at beginners’ salary levels. John Wilson, executive director of the National Education Association, sent a memo in May 2009 stating that union leaders were “beginning to see school systems lay off teachers and then hire Teach For America college grads due to a contract they signed.” Wilson went on to say that Teach For America brings in “the least-prepared and the least-experienced teachers” into low-income schools and makes them “the teacher of record.”[16]

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/may/20/legislative-showdown-brewing-over-2-million-teach-/

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/21/magazine/what-happens-in-brooklyn-moves-to-vegas.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    Fixing Cities: Fixing the world
    For Hsieh, though, this was part of the appeal. Transforming downtown Vegas would “ultimately help us attract and retain more employees for Zappos.” For the city itself, it would “help revitalize the economy.” More important, it would “inspire,” a word Hsieh uses often. Hsieh closed his presentation at the faux log cabin high above the desert with the sort of fact he seems to always have on hand: up to 75 percent of the world’s population will call cities home in our lifetime. “So,” he concluded, “if you fix cities, you kind of fix the world.”

    http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/01/23/tony-hsieh-las-vegas-zappos/
    1,000 Teach for America Core Members
    But now, he has to build the neighborhood. Much of the plans are already in the works. Plans are being finalized for 21,000 square feet of “co-working” space along the lines of General Assembly in New York. The small business development team is exploring building a back-office technology platform that the mom and pop shops can share to handle accounting, inventory, payroll and the like. Hsieh has made a $1.5 million deal with Teach for America to bring 1,000 core members and alumni to live and teach in the area. He is talking to the creators of the Burning Man festival about supplying art to the neighborhood. Party buses? He and his team are in the process of acquiring and revamping a dozen. Oh, and Hsieh is also part of a group trying to buy the Las Vegas 51s, the farm team; cue the new stadium plans.

    http://edushyster.com/?p=1912
    There remains but one question for us to answer, dear reader: is there a way for the tax payers of Nevada to increase their stake in the excellence project that is Teach for America? Good news again. In his state-of-the-union address, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced that the state is ponying up $2 million to bring still more TFA recruits to the Sagebrush State. Of course not everyone here is rolling out the welcome mat for the excellence express. Take the residents of Towne Terrace, a down-at-the-heels apartment complex in downtown Las Vegas, purchased by Zappos magnate (and Alexis Gonzales-Black employer) Tony Hseih who dreams of repopulating the entire area with more than 1,000 TFA corps members and alum. Except that the residents of the Towne Terrace made it exceedingly clear that they had no interest in being evicted to make way for excellence. Oh well, next time…

    http://downtownproject.com/2012/teach-for-america-has-a-lot-to-celebrate/
    In addition to this week’s activities and the recruiters’ conference in May, our local TFA team has more excitement to look forward to in the very near future. They’ll be welcoming their new corps members for induction week during June and will be relocating their offices to Downtown in July.

    Alexis Gonzales-Black
    Holacracy Implementation Team
    Las Vegas, Nevada (Las Vegas, Nevada Area) Human Resources
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/alexisgonzalesblack?_mSplash=1

    http://www.alexisfornv.com/

    http://www.doe.nv.gov/State_Board_Education_Members/

    $50million in education initiatives? Downtown Projects
    http://downtownproject.com/2011/downtown-project-designates-50-million-in-funding-for-education-initiatives/

    Victor Wakefield ( married to Alexis Gonzales-Blavk) TFA Leadership Nevada
    Attracting and retaining high-quality teachers to Las Vegas is an important aspect of Downtown Project’s education initiatives as it partners with Teach for America. “The largest ingredient in school quality, just like in urban success, is human capital—the talents of the teachers,” writes Glaeser. It’s a sentiment echoed by Victor Wakefield, executive director of Teach for America-Las Vegas Valley.

    Victor Wakefield
    http://www.teachforamerica.org/where-we-work/las-vegas-valley

    Nevada funding for cash flush TFA
    http://www.lasvegassun.com/vegasdeluxe/2013/jul/23/las-vegas-city-council-weighing-support-embattled-/

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/apr/11/money-okd-bring-150-more-teach-america-educators-c/

    http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/teach-for-america-rises-as-political-powerhouse-98586.html

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/25/why-minnesota-governor-vetoed-teach-for-america-funding/

    http://www.communitiesinschools.org/press-room/resource/philanthropist-elaine-wynn-makes-5-million-donatio
    Elaine Wynn Chair National Communities in Schools
    Mrs. Wynn has been a member of the Communities In Schools’ board of directors since 2000, assuming the Chair position in 2007. Under Mrs. Wynn’s leadership, the organization has focused on data-driven results, including the release of a five-year, third-party evaluation, a return on investment report, and annual program results demonstrating that the organization’s cost-effective model is effective in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-17/former-wynn-partner-okada-calls-macau-donation-suspicious-2-.html

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2012/dec/17/governor-taps-elaine-wynn-state-education-board/

    Kazuo Okada, a co-founder of Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) who is locked in a legal battle with his former partner Steve Wynn, accused the company of making a “suspicious” $135 million donation to a Macau university.

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