Thursday, August 09, 2007

Judy Benestante leaving top TYC ed spot

One of the senior TDCJ transplants at the Texas Youth Commission and a close ally of executive director Dimitria Pope will leave soon, having barely been at the agency long enough to get her feet wet.

"Effective on August 15th, Judi Benestante will no longer be the superintendent of education at TYC," declares an email forwarded to me this morning by someone in a position to know. Third-hand reasons supplied to me were vague, along the lines of 'the job wasn't what she expected it to be.' So far I'd heard good things about her, but she hasn't been there long.

I'm sorry to learn the TYC central office remains in turmoil, and this will only contribute to it, but it does gives top administrators a chance to break out of the pattern of cronyism that has dominated TYC hiring patterns since Pope and conservator Ed Owens seized the agency's reins.

IMO, TYC should either hire a respected, long-term education specialist from within the agency's ranks for the task, or spend what it takes to hire away a top gun in juvenile corrections education from another state. A stack of worksheets is not a lesson plan. Use this as a chance to reinvent TYC's education system, not to replicate what they do at TDCJ.

And finally, let's stop pretending, Ms. Pope and Mr. Owens, that you and your friends from Huntsville have all the answers. From where I sit, you don't even appear to know the right questions.

61 comments:

Anonymous said...

TYC will have a difficult time filling this opening with a capable competent person.

The thing is - at this point they have to get it right no matter what it takes.

One more foul-up and the current top leadership will have to be replaced.

Anonymous said...

Well, so much for our Principal and Assistant Principal meeting taking place on the 23rd and 24th to meet and greet her! Some, for the first time. Oh well, she has been at Al Price for most of her time at this job!And she told us all that she was going to be working from her home, near Gulf Coast Trades Center in New Waverly( with permission from her good friend Pope )for most of her time. She wanted to be close to her family.

That is the reason she is giving for leaving this position. To be close to her family.

Now What?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Roger Clemens retired from the Astros to spend time with his family. Then he took a job in New York.

Anonymous said...

TYC only has two (2) people with a Superintendent Certification. Ene mene moe?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So who's the meenie and who's moe? ;)

Like I said, go outside the agency if nobody fits the bill, or outside the state if need be, just not back to TDCJ! Pay what it takes to draw a really sharp mind in there with national credentials who's capable of reinventing the program (and by extension, empowered to do so), then go back to the joint lege committee to get the money if need be, is my suggestion.

The first commenter is right, they can't afford more foulups, so they should get this hire right!

Anonymous said...

Just how many foul-ups are the TDCJ people entitled to before they are replaced? There have been so many, that I have lost count.

Anonymous said...

Actually TYC has four people inside with Superintendent Certification, Two of them are not in principal positions.

Dr. Benestante is a good person, and I am sorry to see her go, but it is right. You cannot replicate TDCJ in TYC.

The foulups at the top are highly discouraging for the people in the ranks. Maybe a special session of the whitmire is needed to "fix" the new problem at the top of TYC.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are correct. There are four, with only two as Principal's.

This could be the same as having Dr's in Education that have never taught a DAY in a school!

Which one do you want as your leader?

;-)

Anonymous said...

"same as having Dr's in Education that have never taught a DAY in a school"

In that case they could always just give it to one of the ex TDCJ wardens

Anonymous said...

Hey Grits, I know this is a little off topic, but I wanted to post it anyway.

I've been reading Ranger Burzynski's report on WTSS for the first time, cover to cover. And I came across this section where he explains to a nervous informant exactly why what happened was a crime. It immediately made me think of the DOJ's contention that they couldn't investigate TYC because it couldn't show coercion.

"Student #38 expressed his tremendous concern that
in his family, there were no homosexuals and that he would
be an outcast if he let another man do something to him.
Ranger BURZYNSKI explained that his identity would be
protected by using a pseudonym ... Ranger BURZYNSKI also explained that, if anything
happened, it was different inside TYC when a person in a
powerful position did something to them than it would be if
Student #38 was in the free world and had participated in
the same type of conduct. In the free world, such conduct
would be consensual, but in TYC, with a staff member having
authority over a student, it was not consensual."

So a Texas Ranger understands the spirit of the law better than the chief law enforcement agency in the nation. Another proud moment for the Bush DOJ.

Bill Bush, UNLV

Anonymous said...

I got this hot piece of information from a friend in Central Office.Judi Benestante had a run in with "Mr. know it all" Dr. Novy. (Novy is dumber than raccoon shit and that is whorse than whale shit) Then after the conflict she through in the towel. I don't blame her a bit at all. Pope will soon learn that Novy doesn't know his ass from a hole in the wall. He has no practical expierence in the real classroom and only knows what he has learned from texbooks from going to school all his life. Owens and Pope better use the shit out of him (to go for this and go for that, open the door and go fire so in so) he is a great yes man, then cut him loose before he really screws up. Judi was a fine Admin. person I am sorry she had to leave us. GET RID OF NOVY BEFORE HE SINKS THE WHOLE SHIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken Bill, and I could be, 16 year olds (which that boy was and thus Hernendez got popped with the agg.sex assault of a child). In Texas, 16 YOA can't consent, even in the freeworld. I think there has something to do with the age difference. Look at the DMN, a substitute teacher is being charged for similar conduct, and the vistim was 17. So, maybe our resident lawyer Hickman can weigh in.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Novy had allegedly said some nasty stuff about Grits, too.

Dr. Novy, if you're reading this, perhaps you and I should meet so you can tell your side of the story? Email me at shenson@austin.rr.com if you're game.

Same offer goes for Ms. Bustamante after her employment stint is over Aug. 15. Let's just put the cards on the table and see what shakes out.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone really think Pope will hire anyone other than a crony for that position?

Anonymous said...

To 6:27, a 16 year old can not consent to sexual intercourse with an adult unless they are married, which is not possible in the WTSS case.

The Ranger is in error in his statement about the free world.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

She damn well better not hire Novy! The teachers think he is a joke. Over educated freak. No common since. City Boy, has to squat to piss. His is One big joke. Owens and Pope need to get rid of the counterfit asshole.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many times the letterheads at Central Office have changed. Maybe they should leave it blank for a while... at least until they keep three or four people for a while. I wonder how many states in the U.S. are laughing at what's going on with TYC?

It looks like TYC has too many indians and not enough chiefs.

Anonymous said...

I love reading this blog and being reminded of how lucky I am to be out of TYC and to have a real job.
I worked under Novy and when I heard he was in charge of REHAB I fell out of my seat laughing. Good Grief, whose stupid idea was THAT? Novy couldn't handle Special Ed; the only reason he had that position was b/c he was Dr. Nance's buddy from their TEA days. It's not that he's a bad person, he's just clueless and in over his head 100% of the time. He's a "Yes Man" or "Yes, Ma'am" 'cause he doesn't have his own ideas; all he can do is reflect back what others in power want to hear. Isn't it funny how he's always helped out & protected by women? Anyway, if the current woman-in-charge puts him in charge of Education, well, that'll spell doom for the educators.

Poor TYC, will the agency ever recover its credibility?

Anonymous said...

The Superintendent of Education already reports to Dr. Novy.

Anonymous said...

This is correct! He is over Rehab, Rio-Y, and Education already.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Superintendent who is quitting before she barely got started reported to Novy. Now it makes perfect sense why she's leaving.

Anonymous said...

I was so grateful to learn about this blog. Thank you, Mr. Henson, for your investigative work and your well-written articles. I hope this blog will contribute toward improving TYC. However, I think credibility is lost when it becomes a stage for obscenities and cheap-shots at individuals. (No, I am not one of the individuals who has been targeted.) I don't even work for TYC, but I care about the agency and its mission.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that I will lose any sleep over one of the TDCJ Chosen leaving. I don't know how anyone would believe that someone working from her home in New Waverly could oversee TYC education. Sounds like a sweetheart deal to me. I also don't understand how anyone could be impressed with her administrative abilities since she wasn't there long enough to do anything except go to Al Price. What was her disagreement with Novy?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@9:09 - thank you. I've struggled with this question, because some of these TYC strings DO get pretty nasty. And for a while I tried to referee and tell folks to play nice. But you wouldn't believe the number of people who contacted me privately and on the blog to say, in essence, "we have no place else to vent." So after much consideration and discussion, I have somewhat reluctantly fallen on the side of letting folks vent.

Here's my only commenter rule, and the only time I'll delete one: I tolerate personal attacks (though I discourage them) when they are coupled with a public policy argument, any argument, however poor, ill-informed, misguided, or opposed to my own views. When someone, almost always a consciously antagonistic troll, just resorts to name calling or spewing bile at others without contributing to a discussion, I do delete the comment, but honestly that's happened very rarely.

I'll take responsibility for my own statements, but other commenters, not me, are responsible for their own, legally and otherwise. I try to keep Grits an open forum for everybody, including those who disagree strongly with me, and that means sometimes things get a little raucous in the comments. Best,

Anonymous said...

Grits, along those lines, it's interesting to me that Dr. Novy, who I don't know and have never met, seems to provoke more angry personal comments than any other TYC administrative staff.

I go to the TYC web site and see that he is the only one listed with a Ph.D. And I notice that his rep with posters here is someone who is book smart but not street smart, "in over his head" with the kids themselves, and with the direct care staff, and with the tough environment of the TYC facilities. As an outsider, obviously I have to take this depiction with a grain of salt, even though it may well be true.

I find this dynamic interesting for a couple of reasons.

In my historical research, this clash is pretty common. PhDs dating back to the 1910s and 20s have really struggled in juvenile corrections, not just with the kids and employees, but also with politicians who didn't want to fund rehab programs and local populations who feared that anything less than a prison-like environment would endanger public safety. (My personal favorite was when a Gatesville attorney alleged in 1942 that there had been "148 escapes in 153 days")

In fact, the only PhDs to last longer than a few years were those who made some pretty severe compromises, usually at the expense of the kids. James Turman, the executive director of TYC from 1957-73, is probably the best example, but certainly not the only one.

Is a PhD a handicap to working effectively in this environment? In other words, are these complaints specifically about Dr. Novy or can they be generalized in some way?

(I should add that I personally don't think a PhD is a handicap but am curious what staff who work with the kids every day think. And I guess a disclaimer is in order here: I have a PhD, but it's in American Studies rather than the social or behavioral sciences.)

Bill Bush, UNLV

spearshaker said...

One of my favorite interactions with Howard involved the consent issue. Anyone who does not enjoy legal game playing, please skip the rest of this:
In Texas, a child of 14 can get married with the ok of a county judge. The usual reason for marrying is that the child is pregnant. At the ceremony, the child's "I do" amounts to consenting for marriage due to an act for which she could not give consent. The secondary concern is did the parents (who petition the judge for an okay for the child to marry, since she cannot ask for permission herself) or the clergy who is asked to perform the service or the judge who grants the permission (all or in concert) report the aggavated sexual assault of a child by the soon to be husband? As I read the penal code (as a non-attorney), failure to report sexual abuse of a child is a crime.
{Howard noted that the judge's obligation regarding the permission is to weigh the needs of the state against those of the individual. A working father supporting his wife and child is the best example of a benefit to the state and it may be detrimental to the child}
So, if I fail to report sexual abuse in TYC or even fail to report information indicating sexual abuse has or is going on in a student's home (from information provided by a student) I can go to jail, but a judge, parent, or clergy gets a pass?

Anonymous said...

In answer to Bill Bush. It's not the PHD per se that gets the bum rap in TYC, but the PHD who has not ever worked in the field directly with the youth. In Dr. Novy's case, the criticism is well-founded and based upon his demondstrated lack of understanding of the field of corrections, the field of education, and the dynamics of youthful offenders.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 11:59 that it is not the Ph.D. that is the problem. There were 3 Ph.D.s in Central Office that were terminated in March and April of this year. The former Supt. of Education was a Ph.D. and there are Ph.D.s at most of the institutions in psychology positions. Dr. Novy is unlike the others in that he does not seem to be in touch with the reality of juvenile corrections and has had difficulty gaining the respect of others (his colleagues in CO and the educators in the field) because of this. His Ph.D. is in special education and he does not have any practical or theoretical knowledge of treatment or juvenile corrections. He also has difficulty focusing on the topic at hand, is unprepared for meetings, micromanages to the point that nothing gets done, forgets what he has told people, and misinterprets critical information. That he is in the position of being over treatment is a huge mistake made by the new administration. It also sounds like being over education is a mistake.

Anonymous said...

11:47,
I only interpret the law and do not try to rationalize it. Creating the law is generally the province of the legislature, who seem much of the time to suffer from lack of much in the way of any foresight - evidence SB 103.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

"I go to the TYC web site and see that he is the only one listed with a Ph.D." Bill Bush


Sorry, but, he is not the only one with a PhD. at Central Office.

They also have a Dr. Welsch, in Education. Now, she is GREAT! As a matter of fact, everytime I have met her, she tells everyone to not call her Dr. but, just Marie.

She actually means this and has never acted (infront of the group she is meeting with) as if she is above us. ( those with JUST a masters or Bachelors Degrees. Now Forrestt is another matter all together. Good man, book smart man, likes to micromanage (this new position must be killing him). I have nothing bad to say about him, just wanted to say that he is not the only one with a PhD. in Education and/or Central Office.

Anonymous said...

12:30 I agree . I could have not said it better myself.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, you are correct. There are four, with only two as Principal's."

There are 3 Three Principal's with Superindendent Certifications:
1.Mart I
2.Gainsville
3.Ron JacksonI

What I want to know is who is the fourth one??? Let us know.

Anonymous said...

There are also a number of Ph.D.s left in CO. Chuck Jeffords was former director of research (now demoted because they hired someone to be his boss while he was on vacation), another researcher, Eric Fredlund, Robin McKeever over finance and Tracy Levins, Marie Welsch in Education are all Ph.D.s. They all appear to be respected by staff and subordinates.

Anonymous said...

yes. You are correct!

Anonymous said...

Has everyone seen the article in the Austin American Statesman this morning about TYC investigating who leaked info to the press and legislature about the release of violent offenders? It is a must read and says lots about the "transparency" the agency is trying to achieve. It also suggests that there is an atmosphere of intimidation. The employees are right to be scared.

no novy fan said...

As someone who worked with Forrest on numerous projects, I can say that he is one of the more difficult people I had to work with.

He's not respected by others in CO or the field, and is clueless when it comes to the practical application of ideas. He's also arrogant and bullheaded, making it very difficult to get him to consider any direction or ideas other than his own.

I was stunned when he was promoted to head up Rehab. But then again, there really isn't much rehab happening at this time anyway.

Anonymous said...

Novy's name is interesting because he can't see the forest for the trees. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for these replies on Dr Novy. They clarify a lot. I was pretty sure he wasn't the only PhD but the only one on the administration page listed with one... laziness on my part, to be sure.

Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

The problems with Dr. Novy, and I will limit it to just a few, is his lack of knowledge. I cannot speak for his role in the education department, but he is not a clinician and has no idea on how to approach treatment. He bases all of his decisions on education.

Granted, he has had to fill rather large shoes. Dr. Corinne Alvarez-Sanders spent time in the field as a psychologist and director of psychology; Dr. Linda Reyes spent time in the field as a psychologist; Dr. Don Brantley spent time in the field as a psychologist, Director of Psychology, and Director of Corrections. These three individuals had practical experience for their positions, had clinical expertise, and could guide treatment for all of our youth - not just those with special education needs.

Anonymous said...

Donna Bone also has a PhD. Don't forget, Dr. Brantley also served for 6 years as Supt. of the Corsicana Residential Treatment Center.

Anonymous said...

You are right!!!!!!!!!!! 5:24 Admin. or CO need to cut the "HEAD" off of that poisnous snake and give him the "gate". He is dead weight . He can relate Rehab to Education but he doesn't know his a-- from a knot hole about education. Wait a minute he CAN quote you the law and what needs to be done in Special Education BUT he has no idea how to apply it. Beleive me I have worked with him on many projects.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone ever find out for sure if Judi left TYC because of her run in with "Sissy" Novy. I mean worthless Novy. You noticed I did not place Doctor in front of his name, because he does not deserve it. He is a cancer that needs to be cut out.

Anonymous said...

I think that the 4th person with a Supt. certification is not at a facility but is in a district office.

If TYC decides to hire within then TYC needs to hire one of the two people with actual EXPERIENCE as a supt. and not the ones with no experience as a supt. Even better is to hire from the outside.

Anonymous said...

If you can find out - let us know, I really would like to know who the 4th one is?
Thanks

spearshaker said...

To Howard: you do not disappoint. At some point, the rest of us will have to recognize that law and justice are not the same. The legislature or congress may truely want to aleve a situation, but get lost in the grandstanding and verbage. How else could we get the dumb laws that periodically enthrall us on the internet. To date, my favorite allegedly comes from Wyoming where it is illegal "to have sexual intercourse in a meat locker standing up"; makes me wonder if this has been a frequent problem in that state; I guess the same activity lying down has it's own punishment when the one on the bottom finds they are stuck to the hamburger patties...
It is unlikely to happen, especialy in Texas, but we need to have intelligent people in the legislature, but more importantly, we need people with unquestionable integrity. Sadly, it probably means they must come from independent wealth.

Anonymous said...

GET RID OF OWENS AND POPE FIRST! THEY ARE THE TOP IDIOTS, IDIOTS HIRE THEIR IDOITS! DUHHH

Anonymous said...

Does anyone find it odd that on the Agency Leadership list on the TYC website that Stan DeGerolami and Forrest Novy are still listed as Interim Asst. Deputies?

Anonymous said...

Another odd thing on the website is that the last reported incident at a facility was in April. I think a few more things have happened since then.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone find it interesting that Gladys Murry is NOT listed as interim over IRD any longer? She doesn't meet the minimum qualifications for that position, not by a long shot.

Good thing she didn't actually have to apply and compete against anyone from outside the agency.

While I'm generally in favor of promoting from within, and she knows the antiquated M204 mainframe system data well, she doesn't know todays technology, so how can she lead the agency into the future?

Austin doesn't have anyone better suited or more technically knowledgable? Right...

Anonymous said...

8:48, agreed. Pope and Owens must not have had a crony intereted in the job.

Anonymous said...

Bye Judy, best of luck. Sorry to see that the ex-TDCJ/new TYC eats their own as well as others. May God bless you.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't sound like TDCJ eats their own. From what I read, she left voluntarily, a choice many TYC staff did not have.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think the reality of her job set in and she ran like a scared wolf!

Anonymous said...

make that an angry, disgusted wolf.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm sure she was angry and disgusted. I met her, she is really nice and it's a shame we lost her.

Anonymous said...

TYC is revamping the its classroom settings in ways that are detatched from reality.
Any honest person would have nothing to do with it.
I hope that is why she quit.

Anonymous said...

8:07, you must know something I don't. I am a TYC teacher, so please elaborate on what you know. I know something big in education is about to change, but no one is saying anything.

Anonymous said...

"you must know something I don't. I am a TYC teacher, so please elaborate on what you know. I know something big in education is about to change, but no one is saying anything."

No, I just don't doubt what I see.

It is kind of like certifying an eleven year old to stand trial as an adult. Or, certifying a dog as a cat.

TYC now has a way to certify a 16 year old with a 4th grade mastery level in a given subject as an English II, Algebra I student or whatever. Of course,teachers will be shown, by the experts in Austin techniques for raising such students to grade level over night. I'm sure.
EXIT tests will be given and credits will be had. It is as simple as that. Regular classes will be the ticket, just like in Mayberry. Have you got it? Yes, and activities and group learning also.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I see what you are saying. Thanks for your perspective...here's another point to ponder regarding the TYC classroom:

I wonder what we'll do with the 17 & 18 year olds in the classroom who enroll with zero credits, and maybe not even a 5th grade education, who know they are now going to go home at the completion of their MLOS, regardless of whether or not they are passing, or even awake during school. W/O 225's or any type of accountability measures being used...how in the world are we going to get "on task" behavior in the classroom? Beats the hell out of me. I guess CO will remedy that too. We'll see about that.

Anonymous said...

8:45 said

" wonder what we'll do with the 17 & 18 year olds in the classroom who enroll with zero credits,....."

With the adopted text book and all off the modern teaching techniques at our disposal, I can't imagine that being a problem.

Give em a chance to construct their own learning and they should be at grade level in no more than a month or two.

Just remember that all children want to learn.

Some idiot at a coffee shop the other day suggested that teachers start teaching them at their level of mastery. Boy, that fellow just didn't know what CO knows about modern teachin. Folks all accross the agency are chompin at their bits a waitin to see how they are going to show teachers how to do it.
For me, I see no reason no to not to start em right off at the college level. Heck, if they can skip the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grades, why not skip high school altogether. Get em started as freshman in college....

Why not just skip the small stuf.
Fella, you got modern pedagogy and all of Texas behind you.

There's nothing to fear.

Anonymous said...

9:06...8:45 here..

OMG..Your sarcasm is totally hilarious...really! You also make a serious point about how much they really do NOT know. Talk about ignorant...I can't wait to be enlightened by their profound knowledge about how to teach TYC kids. I'm going to have a hard time keeping a straight face when they fall flat on theirs....they have NO idea what they are getting into do they?