They've Got Mail: A who's who and what's what of prominent players and products in the Buzz story

John Covington: Hired as the inaugural chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority in August 2011. Formerly the superintendent of the Kansas City, Mo. public school system. In terms of this story, what's particularly notable is the absence of any emails being sent to or from him. In the thousands of emails we've reviewed, almost none are addressed to him, or sent by him. For a man selected to head a school system with cutting-edge technology as its focal point, it is, at the very least, noteworthy. When he is mentioned in emails, it is often by his nickname "Doc" or occasionally as "Dr. C" or simply John.

Mary Essleman: Worked under Covington in Kansas City as Executive Director/Assessment at Kansas City. She came to Detroit in 2011, shortly after Covington started, as the EAA's chief officer for accountability, equity, and innovation. She was subsequently promoted to deputy chancellor. The polar opposite of Covington in terms of emails. If she wasn't sending them, she was receiving them, either as the direct recipient or a CC. Sending messages from early in the morning until late at night, she is the subject of much effusive praise from the contractors she's dealing with, but tireless doesn't appear to be much of an exaggeration.

Agilix Labs: The Utah based company that developed two products that the EAA used as the foundation for its computer-based learning system, Buzz and BrainHoney. Agilix was never paid any money directly by the EAA, although Esselman says the EAA paid $250,000 to develop and enhance Buzz.

Buzz: Described on the Agilix Web site as a product that "provides a personalized learning environment for all subjects and all students. With Buzz, students are able to learn at their own pace with a more flexible curriculum in line with their specific needs, elevating engagement levels and ultimately boosting comprehension and success." First used in Kansas City, it came to Detroit with Covington. While in use here, it was upgraded twice – once in 2013 and again in 2014. Also, in 2013, as efforts were made to sell it to other schools districts, it was re-branded (for trademark purposes) as GAGE, but was – and still is -- called Buzz in Detroit. Kansas City stopped using it after Covington's departure.

BrainHoney: Another Agilix product, it is a Web-based "classroom management system" that "provides teachers with actionable real-time insight into how they can help every student succeed. BrainHoney highlights the 'critical students' who need help now and a 'prioritized to-do list' for teachers that lists the actions they should take to help their students succeed."

Curt Allen: President and CEO of Agilix, a company he founded in 2001. Before that, he founded and led, a Web-based company that allows users to search their family histories.

Duane Call: Vice president of strategic partnerships at Agilix. Title VP Strategic Partnerships at Agilix Labs. He was company's point person for dealings with the EAA.

School Improvement Network: Like Agilix, a for-profit company based in Utah. It uses the acronym SINET. Its Web site boasts that the company is "widely recognized as one of the largest, most innovative professional learning companies in the world, with clients in every state and US territory, and in countries around the world—serving more than 14,500 schools." The company partnered with Agilix to sell Buzz. But its worldwide reach hasn't paid off much so far in terms of helping peddle that product. After Kansas City discontinued use, Detroit was the only customer until very recently, when "a few" unnamed school districts began using it in "pilot programs," according to a company executive.

Chet Linton: Chief Executive officer of SINET.

Cory Linton: Brother of Chet. Vice president in charge of marketing for SINET.

Curtis Linton: Brother of Chet and Cory, he's a company vice president overseeing development.

Laura Monks: Titled a "teaching and learning specialist/coach" she's an employee of SINET who worked under contract at EAA schools. Despite her title, the official job description for her position posted on the Web describes some of her main responsibilities as: "support training and implementation of teaching and learning platform; assist teachers with both the use of the platform as well as in curating content; assist in the training and implementation of the ... system including PD 360, Observation 360 and Common Core 360; foster vitual communities and groups and the development of personal learning plans through the digital portfolio throughout the Education Achievement Authority's school systems; be a School Improvement Network product evangelist in proactively promoting the suite of products and drive adoption and product utilization."

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