Three books co-authored by Kelisa Wing, the military-schools DEI chief, whose books are stocked in the libraries of K-12 schools on military bases.
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.
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.
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 releasedescribed 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.”
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 our 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 presentation to the DoDEA “Equity and Access Summit” in May 2021.
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.
Screenshot of Kelisa Wing books available at DoDEA school Vicenza Middle School, serving an Air Force base in Italy.
It is unclear if or how much money DoDEA spent on these books, or if they were influenced in these purchasing decisions by more “shameless plugs” from Kelisa Wing. We asked these questions of DoDEA and Wing and they didn’t answer.
Whether or not DoDEA approves of Kelisa Wing’s ideologies or outside work activities, the agency gave her an invaluable platform by inviting her to speak at agency events (where she promoted her personal businesses) by procuring her books for school library collections.
DoDEA is now forwarding all inquiries regarding Kelisa Wing to the broader Department of Defense public affairs office. The Department of Defense spokesperson Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman told us:
We are aware of news reports concerning an official at the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness is reviewing this matter. Our focus remains on ensuring military-connected students, their families, and our employees have equitable access to opportunities and resources that support student achievement and readiness for college and careers.”
Leveraging Wing’s DoDEA Executive Position
Wing is open about how her position at her agency lends her legitimacy and credibility. In 2020 she bragged about “leveraging” her position as a “teacher leader” to help “dismantle disparate systems.”
Excerpt written by Kelisa Wing in 2020 white paper “A Sacred Space: 12 Teacher Experts Share Stories of Resilience, Success, and Leadership.” Wing also stated her agency and position in that white paper.
To Kelisa Wing, this goal is nothing short of revolutionary.
Using Taxpayer Funded Platforms to Promote An Education “Revolution”
The Claremont Institute recently released a report outlining left-wing indoctrination and activism at DoDEA schools.
Kelisa Wing’s quick accession up through DoDEA’s ranks reinforce these findings. Wing herself leaves no doubt about her interests in inculcating political activism at her agency. During the Albany State University “A Sacred Space” panel discussion in September 2020, Wing said:
I am anti-racist, that means I am actively taking a stand to completely tear down, uproot, rebuild, and create something new, and that's exactly what we need to do in education. I know that sounds really revolutionary and hard but there are a lot of mechanisms and tools out there that can help us get there.”
An audience member during that panel asked Wing:
As we go through this racial reckoning is it time to really transform education, transform curriculum--is it time for a revolution?”
Wing’s reply? “Most definitely.”
During her DoDEA Equity and Access Summit presentation, Wing ended her remarks by asking participants to “agitate, agitate, agitate.”
But teachers and administrators aren’t the only ones Wing wants to include in the revolution. Students should be recruited as activists.
In December 2020, while she was working at DoDEA, she published a blog exhorting readers to create a “School-to-Activism Pipeline.”
From Teachers Pay Teachers blog “Kelisa Wing on Empowering Students who are Self-Aware, Culturally Aware, and Challenge Systems of Oppression”
Troubling Comments Toward White People
While explicitly encouraging students to become activists within a left-wing “anti-racist” framework might be troubling to military parents, her comments about white people have caused the most controversy. These include twitter posts saying:
“I’m exhausted with these white folx in these [professional development] sessions this lady actually had the CAUdacity to say that black people can be racist too … I had to stop the session and give Karen the BUSINESS … [W]e are not the majority, we don’t have power.” note: “caudacity” is a portmanteau meaning audacity expressed by white people.
“[B]eing antiracist means being active against racism … you will NEVER arrive … stop centering this on whiteness”
“If another Karen tells me about her feelings… I might lose it...”
But these are not the only examples of Wing’s expressions of animus or frustration towards white people. In a 2020 presentation, Wing tells educators that no matter what grade level they teach:
It is your personal decision to show up and be a person who’s going to interrupt this White dominant culture that our education systems have been built upon.”
During her DoDEA May 2021 Equity and Access presentation, she included links to her own “Anti-Racism Tool” worksheet, using a quote from White Fragility author Robin DeAngelo “White people assume niceness is the answer to racial inequality. It’s not.”
“Anti-Racism Tool” developed by Kelisa Wing, linked in her DoDEA May 2021 Equity and Access presentation
Wing’s Education Consultant Business
Besides the DoDEA platform and credibility afforded to Kelisa Wing (and her book business), Wing also has an education consulting business charging school districts (taxpayers) over $1,000 per session.
Although it is unclear how many clients she works with as a consultant, OpenTheBooks auditors found Cresskill Public Schools paid Wing $7,200 for seven “Diversity & Inclusion professional development” sessions in 2021.
One participant said of the virtual sessions:
Conversations first focused on the definitions of diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism, then they moved towards defining those areas in schools where these themes can be incorporated.”
Another member said that Wing emanated “warmth and a strong sense of calm and expertise.”
District leaders extended the contract in 2022 but ended their relationship with Wing shortly after her contentious Twitter posts came to light.
From Cresskill Public Schools minutes
Wing As A Speaker And Convener
Kelisa Wing also co-founded a convening organization called #WOCEDChat, which facilitates conversations on Twitter and elsewhere in order to “cultivate a shared, safe, and meaningful space for women and girls of color in education to lead, achieve, and succeed.”
A Twitter discussed hosted/promoted by #WOCEDChat where Wing and her two co-founders are tagged (October 2021).
Wing’s profile on the #WOCEDChat website highlights her books, job title, and 2017 teacher of the year award. According to Kelisa Wing’s Eventbrite profile, she hosted two events for #WOCEDChat in 2020, at least one of which she was a speaker for and registrations cost $50 and $20.
Does Wing Follow The Rules?
Sometimes Wing follows DoDEA protocol and does not include her position in non-DoDEA speaking engagements, although she does frequently mention she was the 2017 DoDEA teacher of the year and works with “military-connected children.”
But sometimes she seemingly doesn’t follow protocol.
Promotional material for 2021 interview IDTALK4ED LIVE Episode #53— blurring the lines between Wing’s government work and her private enterprises. This video became “unlisted” on YouTube after we asked DoDEA and Wing for comment.
A 2021 interview on the Identity Talk 4 Educators podcast used promotional material describing Wing’s then-title, DoDEA Professional Development Specialist. Wing discussed her books and work extensively but did not mention that her views were her own and not her employer’s — the Department of Defense.
In the interview, Wing expressed her disdain for then-commander in chief and president Donald Trump, and suggested he was elected due to “white backlash”:
There's always white backlash—the reason why the 45th president is the president right now is because of a white backlash to Barack Obama, the reason why we're going to probably see more voter suppression in the future is because the blow back from people not believing that places in the south actually went Democrat— there's always an inevitable white backlash.”
Wing also discussed her negative feelings towards the United States and said she talks about these feelings during professional development sessions:
[while serving in the Army I] truly did grow into a love for my country and I think that's been the hardest thing for me, when I see the flag— I shared this a year ago at a professional development session that we were having— I don't feel that warmth that I did when I joined.”
Overviewing her books and publishing process was a main feature of the interview, which ended with her interviewer saying, “My booklist is growing even more because I gotta get your books.”
There multiple other talks where Wing says she works at DoDEA but does not clarify that her views are her own and not her employer’s:
In ‘A Sacred Space 1’ presentation at Albany State University in 2020, Wing suggestedthat teachers who refer students with discipline problems to school administrators are “Karens”:
It's simple: we have to come to terms with the fact that if I am a classroom teacher and I'm constantly calling the office for my students how am I different than Amy Cooper calling the police on the bird watcher how am I different than Barbecue Karen or Patty or whomever.”
She further complains about her DoDEA colleague’s “performative allyship” and discusses how tiring it is to get her agency to adopt anti-racist policies:
I think about the journey that I'm on in my own agency and how long it took to finally get someone to listen…you have to continue to agitate and continue to persevere.”
Presentation slide introducing Kelisa Wing during A Sacred Space panel — again using her government employment credentials to market herself at private events.
CultureFeed's In Character: 1 on 1 with Kelisa Wing (2020) where Wing discusses various “equity” initiatives she has undertaken at DoDEA. The episode is marketed on YouTube by describing Wing as the 2017 DODEA Teacher of the Year.
Kelisa Wing – Department of Defense Education Activity (2017) during this short interview from the Council of Chief State School Officers Kelisa Wing describes how she created a nonprofit, Squad Up for Education, “impacting schools nationwide and every single student in my building” using materials given to her by a DoDEA colleague. DoDEA endorsed these activities as they also appear on an agency press release. It is not clear if this nonprofit still exists today.
There may be more. Wing listed seven videos of her talks on her personal website, five of those videos are now private.
There is mounting evidence of a disturbing trend of deliberate obfuscation of woke indoctrination at military k-12 schools—all funded by American taxpayers.
During our investigation, we found that Kelisa Wing never misrepresented herself— she used every physical and electronic platform conceivable to educate her students and the rest of us on her worldview. She embraced her principles, values, activism, and beliefs.
And DoDEA Director Thomas Brady was very clear in his announcement of Wing as diversity, equity, and inclusion chief: Wing was promoted because of exactly who she is. It was by design. There were no secrets.
So, critics, teachers, and parents can be upset, but they have to realize: Kelisa Wing is the new status quo at DoDEA.
Note: We sent multiple requests for comment to Kelisa Wing but did not hear back by press time. We will update this article in as real time as possible if she responds.
It’s unclear how much Wing makes in salary from the military-school executive position. The DOD only disclosed its payroll under general titles and in wide salary bands. (In all other school districts across America, educator salaries are public information. Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com capture and post online 20 million public employee salaries by filing Freedom of Information Act requests annually.)