The children of our servicemembers are educated in K-12 public schools run by a Defense Department sub agency known as Education Activity (DoDEA). Over 60,000 children attend these schools funded by a $3.1 billion budget, paid for by you, the American taxpayer.
Today, “every aspect” of DoDEA “from the curriculum and assessment to hiring and professional development” is overseen by the agency’s chief diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) officer.
It’s a brand-new position under the Biden Administration.
Last month, the new DEI Chief, Kelisa Wing came under fire for her tweets disparaging white people.
So, the auditors at OpenTheBooks dug into all facets of public information: the federal government’s disclosures and websites and Wing’s social media, websites, and private marketing endeavors.
So, who is Kelisa Wing, and what are her plans for this highly influential new role?
The Chief DEI position was a completely new position within the agency.
In December 2021, DoDEA Director Thomas Brady announced the promotion of Kelisa Wing from diversity, equity, and inclusion specialist to chief. His press release described the position and its responsibilities:
Kelisa Wing is the exactly right person to lead our efforts in building on the foundational work done to support meaningful change in our organization. This new position will take a holistic approach to identifying and improving how we integrate the practice of diversity, equity and inclusion in every aspect of DoDEA, from the curriculum and assessment to hiring and professional development.”DoDEA Director Thomas Brady
But who is Kelisa Wing, and what are her plans for this highly influential new role?
Last month, Kelisa Wing, came under fire for Twitter posts disparaging white people. Her employment is now under review by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. (Wing is also the 2017 “Teacher of the Year” at DoDEA.)
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com discovered the tweets represent a far larger pattern of concerning behaviors including possible ethics and conflict of interest. For example, we found evidence that:
1. Wing may have used taxpayer-funded platforms to promote her private enterprises and radical ideologies.
2. Wing may have leveraged her government position to promote herself and her private enterprises.
Wing has not been accused of wrongdoing by the agency. We wanted her perspective for this piece and didn’t hear from her by our deadline. It is even possible that Wing asked for and received DoDEA permission for all her activities. (We asked DoDEA/ Wing these questions and didn’t receive answers.)
DoDEA has clear rules governing conflicts of interests and standards of conduct. Employees may not, for example, use their title when endorsing a “product, service, or enterprise, except as provided by statute or regulation.”
Employees must use a disclaimer if they are using their title for a non-DoDEA speaking engagement. DoDEA communication channels must also only be used for official purposes or purposes authorized by a supervisor. DoDEA employees may not do government work on matters that will affect the financial interests of any organization of which they are an employee or officer.
Even the appearance of wrongdoing raises red flags and may result in sanctions, according to the agency.
However, Kelisa Wing has many private interests that could conflict with her government work. Besides her full-time day job, Wing runs a for-profit education consultancy and is a for-profit author with nearly two dozen books. Wing is a public speaker and co-founded a website called #WOCEDChat to convene “women of color in education” where she charges registration fees for panel events, plugs her books, and links to her business as an education consultant.
Our investigation shows many instances where the lines blur between her government work, her private enterprises and radical ideologies.
Using Taxpayer Funded Platforms to Promote Her Books
Wing has worked at DoDEA for over a decade and has spoken at agency-held events. During a DoDEA “Equity and Access Summit” in May 2021, Wing promoted her book:
I am a writer, an advocate, and an activist, my passion work is dismantling disparate discipline systems, and I am hugely passionate about dismantling the school to prison pipeline, I have written a book [called] Promises and Possibilities Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline— shameless plug.”
Wing’s DoDEA presentation included her holding up her book and a slide showcasing her personal Twitter handle, private website, and pictures of her books.
(DoDEA and Wing didn’t respond to openthebooks.com comment request on this potential conflict -of-interest issue; instead public access to Wing’s presentation was revoked after we asked for comment. However, our auditors pre-captured the video and posted it here.)
Wing’s book, Promises and Possibilities, is just one of 21 books she authored or co-authored. Two more are forthcoming. The books are mostly concerned with topics of racial justice and black history. Remarkably, 18 of those books were released just in the past year and a half.
Here are just three examples from her 18-part “Racial Justice in America” short-graphic series:
· What is White Privilege?
· What is the Black Lives Matter Movement?
· What Does It Mean to Defund the Police?
Books in this series are about 32 pages long with many pictures. The titles are targeted towards children aged 10-13 and are seemingly meant for a classroom setting, as they include school activities and projects.
In What Does It Mean to Defund the Police? kids are told to “Do the work!” and asked the “essential question” of “how can we be anti-racist?” The book goes on to describe some homework kids can do at school, saying “becoming anti-racist requests actively working against racism using words and actions. This project-based learning assignment will allow you to practice these skills.”
Despite the relatively recent publication dates, many DoDEA school libraries already carry the books. Our review of all 160 DoDEA school libraries showed that 11 of the schools collectively carried 45 copies of Wing’s books.
Want to read more —- head over to OpenTheBooks.com