Mercedes Schneider: The Vermilion Education One-Man Show
Jordan Adams and his one-man anti-woke consulting firm have been popping up, and while a couple of writers have touched on his work, Mercedes Schneider has produced the definitive explanation. Reposted with permission.
Jordan Adams is making quite a stir in Florida and Pennsylvania.
Adams is the founder of fledgling LLC, Vermilion Education, which was originally registered in Michigan in December 2022 as a domestic limited liability company (LLC) and then registered in Florida in April 2023.
In fact, the only individual listed as a “primary member” on both the Florida and Michigan LLC registrations is Jordan Adams.
Adams wants your business. The Vermilion Education website advertises “Services for School Boards and Districts.” However, anyone wishing to examine in details Adams’ credentials and experience related to filling such is tall order must settle for next to nothing. From the Vermilion Education “About” page:
Vermilion Education was founded by former teacher and teacher coach, Jordan C. Adams, to help school boards ensure the best possible education for their students. Bringing a decade of experience teaching students, training teachers, and reviewing and writing curricula to bear on each service offered to districts, Vermilion guarantees its work to be accurate and of the highest quality.
No mention of any formal education, or titles, or honors, or just how much of that “decade” was spent teaching in a K12 classroom, or in actually writing curricula (and for whom), or training teachers…
…Or even of any other individual working with Adams.
A professionally-underdefined, one-man show offering major services to school districts.
Red flags just a-waving in the winds of education opportunism.
Adams used to have an active LinkedIn profile, yet it seems that he removed it from public view, but not before his lack of credentials as a K12 curriculum consultant really hit the public fan in both Sarasota, Florida, and Bucks County, Pennsylvania (see also here).
Instead of featuring his credientials, Adams wants to hide them– certainly not the mark of a qualified professional endeavoring to market his services in a manner that allows potential customers to arrive at a well-informed decision prior to entering into a contractual business relationship.
Concerning the Adams credential conceal, the perceptive reader can discern a hint of why based upon Vermilion Education’s Michigan LLC filing:
Hillsdale College. As in Michigan’s “Conservative Hillsdale College is Helping DeSantis Reshape Florida Education.” As in Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, wants to make Florida’s liberal arts New College into “the Hillsdale of the South.”
Thus, the “credential” that Adams brings to the ed-reform table is ideology— as in ultra-right ideology that appeals to the likes of authoritarian freedom-destroyers, extremist group, Moms for Liberty.
Indeed, Moms for Liberty co-founder, Bridget Ziegler, is the chair of the Sarasota County school board.
In its efforts to prevent a contract between Vermilion Education and Sarasota public schools, Florida-based Support Our Schools included the following information from Adams’ LinkedIn profile in its April 2023 “Letter to the Board Re Vermilion,” (link below added):
According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr. Adams has 5 years of private school teaching experience, 3 years at a Classical Academy in Texas, and 2 years at a private Catholic school, St. Agnes (Minnesota). He also had some experience at Hillsdale College, working on the K-12 curriculum for Hillsdale’s Barney charter schools. None of this experience is relevant in public school systems. He has zero experience in public schools and zero experience working in Florida schools. He has neither served as a superintendent at any public school nor has he sat on the school board of any public school. It appears he does not have any administrative experience in a public school. He does not hold a law degree or have any experience that would qualify him to review collective bargaining agreements.
And in reporting on Adams’ Vermilion Education contract with Pennridge schools (Pennsylvania), Popular Information adds the following— including a beefy fiscal win for anemically-credentialed Adams (links below added):
Adams, who appears to have deleted his LinkedIn profile, does not hold any degrees in education. In 2013, Adams received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Hillsdale College, a private Christian institution known for its right-wing ideology. In 2016, Adams received a master’s degree in humanities from the University of Dallas, another private conservative school. Adams later returned to Hillsdale College as an employee, where he promoted a K-12 curriculum developed by the college, known as the 1776 curriculum, that is favored by right-wing activists.
Adams was able to secure a contract with Pennsylvania’s Pennridge School District in April. The contract stipulates that Adams will provide “[c]onsulting services related to assisting district staff in the review and development of curricula.” Adams is being paid $125 per hour for this work, with no limit on the number of hours, no specific deliverables, and no termination date.
In April 2023, despite Ziegler’s influence to the contrary, the Sarasota school board voted against contracting with Vermilion.
In contrast, in June 2023, despite public outcry, Pennridge schools “failed to terminate” its contract with Vermilion, 4-5– a contract that began in April 2023 and appears to give Vermilion its only client as of ths writing– at $125 an hour, and, as Popular Information reports, “with no limit on the number of hours, no specific deliverables, and no termination date.”
For a one-man, undercredentialed act, unlimited billing at $125 an hour (“plus expenses related to travel”) is gravy.
Note also that this first score is critical for the undercredentialed/thinly-experienced ed reformer in constructing the illusion of appearing professionally solid to subsequent taxpayer-funded, school-district contracts. Such leverage may prove useful in selling Vermilion’s ultra-conservative slant to other boards.
Of course, there is that “ideological credential” that Adams is hoping to cash in on via the likes of Moms for Liberty.
On March 06, 2023, Adams emailed Ziegler a “member brief” entitled, “Education Restored– A Brief– Vermilion Education.” I first read about this brief in the July 05, 2023, Popular Information article:
Hiding the ball
As part of his effort to secure a contract with Sarasota County schools, Adams sent the board members a “brief” pitching Vermilion Education and its services. The document, titled Education Restored, begins with a “Letter to School Board Members” from Adams. In the letter, Adams promotes Vermilion as an extension of the right-wing movement that has elected new school board members intent on radically reshaping public education.
My favorite part of the Popular Information discussion regarding this brief is in Adams’ willingness to become “a mole” for Ziegler and the board:
In another section, Adams pitches himself as a mole that can be embedded within the school district to implement policies over the objections of staff members. “When you are uncertain whether you have an ally on staff in the district,” Adams writes, “Vermilion is your trusted liaison within the academic details to ensure that your intentions — and the intentions of the community — are fully implemented.”
“Your intentions,”Moms for Liberty board chair, Bridget Ziegler. Oh, yeah, and we’ll tack on the “intentions of the community” because, of course, your intentions and the intentions of the community must be– will be– one and the same. (??)
But we can’t let the community know this (??):
Adams was apparently unaware, however, that this brief would become public as part of the consideration of the contract in Sarasota County. So he contacted Ziegler and asked her to remove the brief because it was “proprietary.” Ziegler was able to do so, and Adams sent her a “non-proprietary” version of the brief that was shared with the public. The new version of the brief removes the “Letter to School Board Members,” all the other language highlighted above, and many other sections that reveal the political nature of Adams’ work.
The Vermilion website is notably thin regarding scope of services:
Okay, then. Adams wants to keep the public in the dark regarding his credentials (hence hiding his LinkedIn bio from public view), and he wants to keep the details of his ideological push in the name of “ideology-free schools” out of public view, as well.
Note that Support Our Schools had to resort to a public records request because board president Ziegler, who was in charge of promoting a contract between Sarasota Schools and Vermilion Education (see item 33 on this 04-18-23 public meeting agenda), failed to provide either Vermilion Education brief for public viewing. On the contrary, it seems that she worked to block public viewing (Support Our Schools cofounder Paulina Testerman addresses Ziegler’s obfuscation during public comment at the May 02, 2023, Sarasota board meeting, time stamp 1:09:00.)
So, I contacted Support Our Schools and asked if they would share that “Education Restored” document and associated email with me, and share they did.
Here it is, readers: The initial, unedited version of the Vermilion Education services brief– Vermilion Education’s “Services for School Boards and Districts” from a sketchy individual who put his formal credentials in hiding. But he sure has a lot to sell:
Let’s just take in the table of contents for a moment.
Really consider what this one-man show is purporting to offer districts:
Adams is willing to give his expensive, Hillsdale-framed opinion on just about anything related to operating a K12 public school district.
A number of descriptors come to mind, and based upon my better judgment, I cannot post a single one.
Coming from Mr. “Ideology-free” (not), this is ripe:
Adams’ background is steeped in a Hillsdale-esque bubble. Therefore, any school board should reasonably assume that any audit in which Adams opines will draw from his own postsecondary and professional experience. That’s what one will get from any audit focused on “values, priorities, and practices that are far afield from the traditional role of public schools.” He offers no reason to think otherwise, including offering no details about his professional and educational background as part of this sales brief.
Let’s look at another Vermilion “service”: Auditing a collective bargaining agreement:
This guy has no expereince negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. If he did, surely he would list it on both the Vermilion Education site as well as on this sales brief. He is not a lawyer, and his site includes no reference to employing legal counsel for assistance in such negotiations.
In proclaiming to “free” districts of “ideology,” Adams is stealthily positioning himself as guarantor, guardian, and protector of ultra-conservative ideology.
That alone is his credential.
Why else ask Ziegler to hide this brief from the public?
Now, this, this is over the top for a would-be consultant who refuses to publicize a comprehensive professional bio:
In other words: “Are these people of the right ideology?” (Pun intended.)
Of course, there’s more:
Again, I’m left thinking words I’d best not write.
It’s just too much.
A little more:
School boards, Adams wants to be your mouthpiece. But first, he has to draw you in.
Folks, this “experience” pitch without specifics means absolutely nothing. When it comes to knowing actually what one is getting for the money, sawdust filler in cracked baseboards holds more value.
Let us shift our focus to the “neutered” version of the same brief, as provided to me by Support Our Schools:
The initial table of contents indicated sections beginning up to page 9 (see above).
The scrubbed version that Adams intends for the Sarasota Schools public is less than half of the length, with final table of contents section beginning on page 4:
This substitute version of Vermilion’s brief is notably shorter, drier, and and flat– the kind of second-effort one might expect from someone afraid of being found out.
I’ll leave it to readers to peruse both versions in more detail– no public records request required.
In closing, let’s find out some more about the founder and chief fiscal beneficiary of Vermilion Education LLC. The screen shots below are from the Hillsdale College site and are of a now-deleted feature about Adams and his connection to Hillsdale’s Barney Charter Schools Initiative (BCSI). Support Our Schools was kind enough to send them to me as per my request for any archived info about Adams’ professional bio.
If you’re Hillsdale College, and you’re looking for a guy to intern-teach for five minutes in your ideologically-conservative charter schools before garnering the sharp title of Associate Director of Instructional Resources, focusing on history and Latin and “figuring out how things are taught in a fourth-grade or eleventh-grade classroom,” then Adams is your guy. (At least he was until you scrubbed the above info from your site.)
However, if you are a K12 traditional public school board, and you’re looking to consult with someone who actually possesses credentials and experience related to the services this person hopes to sell to your district– and who openly and consistently publicizes those credentials like forthright professionals do– may you readily perceive the likes of Adams’ Vermilion Education for the sham that it is and vote accordingly.
And may you thwart the efforts of fellow board members actively promoting the sham.
My thanks to Paulina Testerman and Lisa Schurr of Support Our Schools for their generosity in providing numerous documents in this post.