Brokaw Lawsuit Uncovers Hearing Examiner Lied

We have long posed a nagging question: was former quality control office director Sherri Brokaw nothing more than a scapegoat to cover for failures at a higher administrative level during DISD's Procurement Card scandal?

We've posed questions like: how could such a junior administrator be held responsible for the massive failures engineered into the entire program--a program that was repeatedly called into question by high-level audits?

Tonight, we're asking another question: why did Dr. Thomas R. Kelchner, the Chief Hearing Officer at Brokaw's termination hearing lie to Brokaw's attorney, James Murphy, about the existence of the panel's report and findings?


Dallas.Org has obtained copies of letters that show Kelchner wasn't telling the truth about a very important fact at a very important time.

The big question, however, is: did Kelchner do it on his own, or did someone tell him to do it?

During the investigation of the $75 million dollar procurement card debacle, the Dallas Independent School District hired the law firm of Fish & Richardson to lead the effort in sorting things out.

After $1 million dollars had been spent, and a mere 200 of the 1,700 cards investigated, Fish & Richardson placed the blame largely on the back of Brokaw--a mid-level director tasked primarily with training and coordination.

Brokaw's "competence" was publicly questioned by former DISD spokesman Celso Martinez and Brokaw was placed on administrative leave.

Brokaw responded by filing a federal lawsuit against the District which is ongoing. Fish & Richardson, coincidentally, was hired to represent DISD against Brokaw.

Verdict Rendered August 28, 2007A termination hearing, led by Kelchner, was convened last summer to sort through the District's charges against Brokaw.

A total of 4 hearings were held in June and July.

The panel deliberated and rendered it's findings on August 28, 2007 (though a typographical error said "2004").

Among the panel's findings (read the panel's complete decision here [requires Adobe Reader]) was that the District had virtually no evidence to support the majority of its allegations against Brokaw.

The panel was critical of the District's primary star witness: Associate Superintendent David Rastellini--Brokaw's direct supervisor who testified he knew very little about the whole affair.

"The Panel finds the decision of administration to utilize a representative who had no knowledge of the termination decision significantly impairs the administration's ability to bear the burden of proof in this matter," the report states.

The panel was also critical of testimony given by, now, convicted felon Gloria Orapello.

"The Panel, however, questions the credibility of this witness and the motive for testifying," the report states.

Orapello was convicted of embezzling $100,000 from DISD using her District-issued procurement card. Much of the evidence used to incriminate Orapello was uncovered by Brokaw.

The panel ultimately found Brokaw "guilty" of using "poor judgment" under certain circumstances--such as purchasing a department refrigerator using a fellow employee's procurement card number.

But did it recommend she be fired?


The panel recommended, on August 28, that Brokaw be disciplined, and demoted, but not fired.

So why, on August 29 (the day after the panel rendered its decision), did Kelchner write this to Brokaw's attorney on DISD letterhead (view the entire letter here [requires Adobe Reader]):

Excerpt from Kelchner's Letter

Did Kelchner decide to take matters into his own hands? Or did Kelchner show the August 28 report to a senior official at the District?

And did the senior official "go ballistic" and tell Kelchner to deny the report's existence until after Brokaw's contract, which was due to be up August 31, had expired?

Perhaps time, and a few depositions, will tell.

More reading:

Report on official contradicts Dallas schools in credit card case (Kent Fischer, The Dallas Morning News)

Murphy's Law (Jim Schutze, The Dallas Observer)


Dr. Tom Kelchner

Is Dr. Kelchner continuing with DISD for the school year 2008-09? His reputation should not be tarnished over a blunder.

Kelchner's a Good Guy

I'd be very surprised if Dr. Kelchner decided to lie on his own. He's a good person and has been a boon for the district for several years.

[Ed Note: Yes, we've heard this from many people. I sat in on a couple of the hearings, and he seemed balanced, fair and asked all of the right questions.

The conclusions and quality of the judgment doesn't strike me as being written by someone who is underhanded. I think there's much, much more to this story. And I bet we find out what it is very soon!]

Kelchner Controversy?

Kelchner is not the nice guy you think. His record is not that impressive and he has constantly tried to start businesses that benefit from school districts using meetings with vendors in the DISD to his possible advantage. This news does not surprise me at all.

[Ed Note: Can you cite your sources here? I mean, one could say it's one thing to make claims, and another to substantiate them; don't you think?]

We don't need no Bond Package!

DISD has the money to fix itself.

If you start getting rid of the following folk, you'll have plenty of money.

Adminstrative Assistant 4-5.

Aside from money there is no difference between them and admin. assistant 3.

Clear out some of these Specialists that do nothing at our schools. If all you do is come to school and gossip, you need to be gone.

Get rid of staff development-most folks don't go to it because it's the same thing every year or the topic has nothing to do with thier job. How is a class about helping kids on computers be useful for a school that doesn't have them? Or allow kids to use them?

Get rid of folks that have tons of complaints on them. Especially if they are still causing problems at the schools.

Make some folk RETIRE! DISD needs some young blood that are not Teachers, Hall Monitors, Clerks or Teacher Assistants.
Terminate contracts with outside companies if you already have folk doing the same thing. Especially when the DISD person is making 30 thousand and the contract person is making 70 thousand. Both are paid by DISD. Ask the computer folks about this.

And I know a large group of folk that would vote that bond package down since the last two packages didn't include a certain school. That school was told by the school board (Rojas & Moses era) that they would only provide 10 million to rebuild the school. The cost was projected at 90 million.

The rest would have to be provided from by the former students, staff and whoever else cared. You would think the school that gave us Ernie Banks and is a historical landmark would get a little more respect. The school in question is Booker T Washington.

[Ed Note: Ahh, solutions seem so simple on the surface, don't they?]

Cutting Staff Development

I don't really know much about the bond package but I have been with the district way over 20 years and the summer staff developments should be gone. It is the same topics. The subject does not help you in your area. This is especially true for teacher assistants. We have so many duties that are never covered nor do we get paid for. If the staff development was cut the district could save a heck of a lot of money in just one summer.

Campus Staff Development

DISD should not micromanage staff development. I learn more from our campus staff development than in those trainings offered by professional development department. The same old stuff every year. This is my second year at my campus and I can tell the big difference in the attitude of teachers when the principal, the dean, and the department heads are the ones leading staff development.

Campus Staff Development--right on!

I totally agree with Blinker. The teachers have a wealth of knowledge and experience and should be valued.

Quality Staff Development

The only staff development I've been to worth the time, money and energy involved by all parties has been handled by an outside organization (conference, museum, consulting firm) or by the previous Art Specialist Janice Wiggins, or the technology department.

The countless hours spent in SIOP, Inclusion (except when an outside group presented), CHAMPS and on campus have been huge wastes of time. These sessions can be compared to watching paint dry.

Unfortunately staff development in DISD is made up of some half baked, bootleg copy of a program that the district doesn't want to pay full price for the outside organization to present.

Give me something I can take back to my classroom and better myself or my children.

And They Want A Bond Package?

I guess taxpayers like you and I are going to pick up the tab for the money a jury is going to award Brokaw for the way the District has treated her.

Perhaps instead of calling for a new bond package for facilities, they should call for one to pay off lawsuits.

[Ed Note: I wasn't aware that they had officially announced a bond package. I know they are contemplating one, but I don't think it stands a very good chance of passing right now. Until they get their act together, downtown, I would oppose it.]

We Need a Bond Package

They delayed it from November, because they were afraid that the ones who opposed the toll road in the river way would oppose this.

We need a bond package.

We really do.

What we need is to replace the cronyism and apple-polishing going on at 3700 Ross.

They care about their future careers in consulting with a "Broad Prize" on their CV.

[Ed Note: But wait a minute! The bond money will be managed by the same people who put forth the evil CEIs!

Seriously, I agree with you. However, I'm not sure that the current administration has a proven track record of managing such amounts effectively. Let's give it a year and see where things stand.

Put another way: we need a bond package. We don't need it now.]

Bonds Can't Be Delayed

Ah, yes, the evil CEI's. They need to go away.

However, if I--who is subject to CEI's--still want a bond package, then you should be able to separate an evaluation system from a building program.

We MUST have a new high school in Southeast Dallas. It takes time to build them! Pass the bond package, THEN we vote out the ones who support the CEI's.

[Ed Note: I don't think anyone is arguing that we need a bond package. We're just posing the question: is the current administration ready to manage it?]

Top Officials Must Lie

You are being terribly unfair here. Top officials have to lie.

Without this, we wouldn't have industry leaders like Enron. We wouldn't have industries like insider trading and land flipping.

We must continue to lead by example and teach our students these important life skills. How dare you bash these role models?

[Ed Note: For the first time in my Dallas.Org career, I'm just speechless!]

Bashing Kelchner

Please, reread what you have posted in the article and stop bashing Mr. Kelchner for doing his job properly.

In the article you yourself point out that the panel had found her guilty and made recommendations for discipline and other actions.

I'm no lawyer, but that to me means no final decision had been made at that time, only a recommendation for an action, as was factually stated in Mr. Kelchner's letter.

As, he continues to state a final decision will be made within 10 days.

I applaud the Administration for taking the time to review the process and notes prior to committing to a final decision.

Once that decision is final, that is when the district is open for litigation.

I support Dallas ISD and feel that this type of unfair attack on a persons character who is only doing his job in the appropriate format is an outrage.

Stop trying to muddy the waters and create another scandal unnecessarily.

Please direct your efforts towards reporting accurately and factually what has happened instead of using your journalistic license to instigate more controversy.

We are asking that the district be held accountable and act responsibly.

I personally view Mr. Kelchners actions as being responsible. Recommendations are only that "a recommendation of the actions that may be taken".

What is done or decided after that point is what is considered actionable.

His letter states that no final decision had been made, the district was going to review the findings and/or recommendations, and act accordingly within 10 days.

No rash actions, good job DISD for taking the time to be responsible and review all the information before making the final decision. Errors do occur more often when there is a rush to judgment or action prior to reviewing all pertinent data.

[Ed Note: OK, we'll make this simple. I want you to click on this link. I want you to read the underlined word after "IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION GRIEVANCE OF SHERRI BROKAW."

Now I want you to click on this link--and I quote (in part): "...a final decision has not been reached at this time. The panel is still deliberating..."

The panel was finished deliberating and reached its DECISION (in case you missed the big underlined word in the first document) on August 28 when everyone put their "John Hancocks" on the dotted lines.

You may well be a fan of Kelchner, but he did not tell the truth. The only question remaining is: why?

Lying for Money? No Way!

I agree.

Let's all cheat on the ACP's and the TAKS. We can then split the bonuses and get drunk celebrating our high CEI's.

And the kids be damned.

All they are now is a number to be crunched. That is what a numerical accountability system will bring.

I just thought of the most weird comparisons I could ever think of:

When they brought JFK into Parkland, and he died, did anyone blame the doctors?

I mean, really, he was their responsibility, right? Wow, some people with gunshot wounds live, you know, if you compare *similar* victims.

Imagine if Pearl Harbor had a CEI, or the Alamo?

General George Washington was chased out of two colonies by the British. How "successful" was he before the attack on the Hessian Barracks in Trenton? After all, he was a losing commander in the French and Indian War as well.

Some things just cannot be compared in a calculator.

[Ed Note: Ahh, I was wondering when someone would work CEIs into this thread!

On the other hand, I've often wondered why we bother to even test or grade students. Just ask them how they're doing, or ask their friends.

No, of course I'm not serious... just making a point :)]

Lying with Statistics

The sad part of all this --held by most citizens and most DISD employees: Those at the top are either corrupt (Peter Principle) or become corrupt once they get there.

For the last 15 years, how many people have been on the board or in the Supt's chair and said they would end corruption? Then they find something and only *some* heads roll, *some* things are looked at hard.

And yes, CEI's were brought into this because of the subject of lying... people who support the CEI's turn around and vilify the very same people over the credit card fiasco.... So, I ask you: You trust the SAME people who handled Brokaw to handle MY CEI's???

[Ed Note: I've asked folks in administration to respond to some of this thread. As I've said... I'm willing to acknowledge that CEIs may not be the panacea of metrics. But give me something better.]

Evaluations Around the World?

Hmmm, Wouldn't it be great if a reader of this site looked up how teachers in England, Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia or South Africa were evaluated?

How about San Francisco, Chicago, Waco or Miami?

[Ed Note: I think in the Sudan they probably beat them or send them to jail!]

Strange Logic

Teachers spend much of their time giving grades.

They are extremely insulted by students who want to pass simply because they "tried."

They will give monologues to anyone who wishes to listen about how many of their students deserve to fail because they didn't deliver the products the teacher requested. They think nothing of impugning the moral character of students they deem lazy or unteachable.

So where is the rub for teachers on getting evaluated on their products?

The achievement and attendance of their students are the daily work products of teachers.

Yet the daily givers of grades think themselves inscrutable, or they hold dear the notion that giving bonus money to those who actually produce above the average will destroy their esprit de corps.

Great. From now on, every student in a public school will get a C for average no matter what their school products indicate. Rewarding the student who actually produces might make the other students feel bad about their lack of achievement. Or the grading might be subjective or imperfect, therefore students should be able to "opt out" of a D or F.

Those of you who are laughing at this ridiculous idea have a superintendent who also has not delivered the goods, yet his contract was extended into eternity.

It seems the only people who suffer consequences under this system are the taxpayers and students.

My Students "Earn" Grades

I do not "give" grades, my students "earn" them. Doing nothing in my class "earns" them a 50, because I am not allowed to give anything lower.

Kids in my classes who turn in all their work, participate in class, attend class and do well on tests--well, they "earn" a 90-100.

Teachers do NOT object to an evaluation system. What we want is a FAIR and equitable system that has been proven---I say again---PROVEN in a peer reviewed study--- to be valid and effective.

And since I would probably be one of the teachers to get the bonus---I will NOT sign on to it. The system will not be validated by my participation.

Your slight attempt at sarcasm shows your lack of understanding of education in Dallas. My achievement as a teacher should NEVER be limited to what my kids can do on a test. It should also include:

*how I console a kid when her mother dies of cancer.

*how a young man's family calls from Lew Sterrett, asking for an attorney.

*how I help a mother escape from a boyfriend who is threatening to kill her.

* how I stand up to a Probation Officer on behalf of a kid who makes one misstep on his way to a change in lifestyle.

*how I help fellow teachers bury their husbands, children, parents.

* how I help new teachers get over the feeling that they have failed because the kids just won't listen to them.

* how I have to constantly justify my choice in profession as not a momentary lapse in judgment.

* how I break up fights in the hallways--endangering MY life.

*how I "loan" kids lunch money or bus fare, knowing I will never ever see that money again.

*how I attend the funerals and graduations of students and former students.

What am I "given" for that? That never shows up on our PDAS evaluation forms, now does it?

But you did get one thing right---

Pretty soon, the top brass at DISD want to change how assignments are graded. Nothing below a 50, even for a single piece of work. Now, does that make you happier? You ironically stepped on an actual idea being pressed on as we speak. You see, if the kids get too many low grades, they might stop working altogether. We have to boost their esteem by pretending they did better than they did---not our choice, those above us want to do this.

Only way to stop is CALL your DISD Board rep and DEMAND that honesty in grading remain.

You see, again, it isn't the teachers who are afraid...if you are fair.

[Ed Note: I'm very interested in this concept that you're not allowed to give a grade below 50. Where did this originate and who put this in writing?]

Try Social Work

Having taught a lengthy time in DISD, responses like this from teachers are very common. Care-taking and good intentions should count for a majority of their appraisals according to them. Other outcome measures are beyond their control because of the student population they teach.
These perceptions and a lack of instructional integrity in principals might account for the majority of DISD's comprehensive high schools being on the low-performing list. Even the few high schools outside of the magnets who didn't make the list are producing few college-ready students.

Urban teaching includes compassion, but some extremely ineffective teachers are also very compassionate people. Unfortunately for their students, their teachers' attentiveness to their personal lives may give them a Hallmark moment, but it's not going to translate into the ability to make a living.

A teacher who is abrasive to the point of limiting instructional effectiveness will surely receive a poorer evaluation, but abrasiveness can also produce pearls.

My compassion is currently saved for those students in many DISD neighborhoods who can now look forward to entering a low-performing elementary school, moving on to a low-performing middle school, and then a low-performing high school unless something is done to drastically improve the quality of teaching in these schools. And all the kind-heartedness in the world on the part of teachers who really view themselves as martyrs isn't going to change one thing.

[Ed Note: I was hoping someone would bring this forward. Some of my best teachers in high school were not the ones I'd invite over for dinner.]

Excellent point, but...

You bring up an excellent point, that a teacher is still the TEACHER--first, last and foremost.

No argument there from me, but you cannot teach in a vacuum. To just lob Algebraic formulas at kids without getting to know them is a gamble. Teachers spend more waking time with the kids than the parents so, you can't help but get to know them.

And for what it is worth--and I really do get your point---but being compassionate AND being effective as a teacher are not mutually exclusive terms. In fact, many observers of DISD teachers find that the ones who punch in, teach by the book, then punch out--without ever looking into the faces they teach--they rarely have good results.

My favorite teachers were the ones who taught me the most--and not just from a book. Later on, years later, we found out how much hidden work they did to get a friend to graduate--or get a kid out of a jam. They were doing it for us way back when, but the need wasn't as great, and it wasn't as obvious.

And Allen, you---know---what--- I---am---going---to--say----

Your favorite teachers didn't have a CEI! Ha!

[Ed Note: In fact, my teachers did have metrics by which they were measured. They weren't as complicated as the CEI, but there were metrics.]

Response to Editor's question regarding grade of 50

If you follow this link to DISD Board Policy, you will find the board policy regarding grading. I believe it is on page 9, and it clearly states that no grade lower than 50 will be reported for 6 weeks or semester averages.

Grade of 50

I mean no disrespect to Allen when I say this, but Allen, if YOU, the guy who blogs and watches DISD, didn't seem to know about the Magic Grade of 50, then do you think the Dallas Achieves people do? Do us a favor, ask the president of the Dallas Citizens Council, EDS, SMU, The Mayor's Office and the Chamber of Commerce if any of them would accept that policy in their training or pay system? How many of the readers are aware of it? Blog back! Ask your coworkers!

Again, and again, you see postings from several DISD employees--or their spouses, actually, who are trying to let out a scream to the public. When the playing field is FAIR, then use the CEI. When parents are also held accountable for the costs of educating their kids over and over again when they repeatedly fail classes, then nail teachers for failure rates. (Yes, teachers are told to not have too many failing kids--or too many passing. Might send up a flare.)

The sheer number of posts on this subject should tell the Board that they are not being told the whole story by the DISD staff. The local media ignores this as well, for some reason. Hard to sell papers if it doesn't involve plasma tv's, gold-plated silverware or sexual misconduct. Teachers unfairly evaluated?? *Y-A-W-N*

In your spare time, ask the Catholic schools or charter schools if they do this....

[Ed Note: Still looking into this--and started thinking about it. A final grade of 50 is just as much an "F" as a final grade of 0. This doesn't bother me as much as mandating the lowest grade that can be given during a semester is "50." Again, I'm still looking at this.]

Discipline: The Real Problem

The problem is not the 50, not the CEI,not the poor condition of the schools,not even the portables.

The problem is the total lack of Discipline!!!

How do teach a child that comes to class with a poor attitude, no pen,no paper and sits down and tells you he will not do the days assignment.

If you call his parent you will recive little or no help.

I will not even go into the gang fights and profanity in the halls.

You here all these wonderful plans from downtown but no one ever talks about improving the real problem which is POOR DISCIPLINE!

I have been a substitute teacher for 8 years and it is the same in all the schools I work at.Wake up DISD you have a lot of rude disrespectful kids!

[Ed Note: Hey! In high school, I was rude and disrespectful--once. Then I got my back side beaten by the late, great Mr. Albert Dudley. Problem solved!]

Discipline?? Now THAT'S Funny.

As a teacher at H. Grady Spruce High School, trust me, you guys can't even imagine some of the things that go on here; things that nobody ever hears about.

[Ed Note: Like what?]


Come on over to J.L. Long. Talk about discipline issues. Fights are happening everyday. 6th graders are afraid to go to the bathroom. What is wrong with our middle schools? I can tell you exactly. PARENTS or LACK OF!!!

[Ed Note: I sure would like to interview some of these students and parents (hint, hint)!]

Teachers Would Love To Talk

I can't speak for students or parents, but I know teachers would LOVE to talk were it not for the fear of retaliation. Keeping our jobs means we talk only to each other about gang fights, gunfire in the building, lockdowns, sexual assaults in classrooms, physical altercations between teachers and students, things our campus "police force" does, and all the secrets our administrators keep. In response to an earlier comment you made, we do have a theory as to why the District would need it's own police force. "Back in the day", a campus 911 call to the Dallas Police Department usually included a visit from the Channel 5 News crew. If nothing else, our Youth Action Center (campus-based police station) certainly does a better job than the Dallas police of keeping our dirty laundry hidden .

[Ed Note: Ironically, your best protection is to blow the whistle! I wish more people realized it.]


Ha ha. I was thinking about getting into Teaching since say 1981 and it was in east Texas.

I want to get in for the money they pay teachers but I may be in for a big surprise with the discipline problem in school.

I have heard another sub-teacher say that if one isn't there for the kids, you'll be toast sooner or later.

No, seriously....

No, really. I wonder if they use "CEI's" in Berlin, or in Tokyo.

Do they use CEI's for charter schools that receive government money?

[Ed Note: I don't know, but maybe this would be a good class project for extra credit over the break (hint, hint). I think in many European countries, your career is more-or-less decided for you in secondary school. I don't know about ongoing evaluations, however.]

Extra Credit (hint, hint)

Nope, my kids can't do that research for extra credit.

You see, researching how teachers are evaluated overseas has nothing to do with the TAKS test. There are no direct TEKS objectives tying that info to the test.

Yes, they look at our lesson plans and materials. A history teacher even takes a risk if he/she covers 9/11 on the actual date of Sep 11th, because it isn't in the CPG (Curriculum PLanning Guide). Principals and deans have been trained to look at the CPG's and see where the teachers are---we all sing the same song at the same time across the district.

A funny result of that: In a history class, a really, really good video on a particular subject (TAKS aligned, of course) was always used. Well, if you have 4-6 teachers teaching the same subject, they are supposed to do the same thing at the same time.

They had only 2 copies of the video. So, they thought they were geniuses and went to the Dallas Public Library system. Too late. Another set of genius like teachers already checked them out.

So, they all row together, just like Charlton Heston did in Ben Hur.

p.s. I don't have time to do it, either. I have to get ready for the end of semester grading, create a SPED edition of exams, and prepping for any changes in the Spring semester. I still have to do my Xmas shopping, doctor's appointments --because they discourage us from taking off during the year, as it costs the DISD more money...

Plus, I may not be bright enough to do it. Several of your posters think that DISD teachers are dregs or lazy. Maybe they could do it. Seriously. Look up the major educational systems from 4 continents, see how they do it and get back to us.