I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Living Large at the NJ DOE

Chris Christie tells us over and over, “We cannot spend money we don’t have.” Well, apparently, New Jersey can somehow find money to pay education consultants big bucks.

Last week, ACTING Commissioner Chris Cerf of the NJ DOE had to explain to the legislature how the state could afford some hefty consulting fees:
In documents provided to the OLS in its budget review, the department disclosed consultants on the Cerf’s school funding proposal made as much as $1,000 or even $2,500 a day.
“That’s certainly an interesting amount,” said state Sen. Nellie Pou (D-Passaic) of the latter figure. “Imagine if that went a full year, that would break all records.”
One assistant commissioner, Penny MacCormack, was hired last fall for three months at $1,000 a day until she could be confirmed by the state Board of Education as a permanent hire in January. She is now earning a salary of $135,000 a year, officials said.
Cerf defended the extra pay, saying MacCormack was a critical hire and the consultants on the funding report – including some notable national names in the school funding debates – were invaluable.
“This level of talent and expertise comes with a price tag,” he said.
Nonetheless, Sarlo asked Cerf for a full list of the per diem and consultants hired. The chairman said afterward it remained a curious stretch for an administration quick to criticize the pay of teachers and other school employees, including caps on superintendents, that is well below what it is paying consultants.
“A little hypocritical, isn’t it?” Sarlo said in an interview.
More than a little, I'd say; especially since this isn't the only recent instance of the state pushing tax dollars toward school consultants. Take a look at what's happening in the state-controlled district of Paterson:
PATERSON, NJ – An education specialist fired last September by the U.S. defense department over allegations of misconduct has been working at Paterson Public Schools under a consulting contract that pays a Colorado company $7,244 per day.
Shirley Miles had been executive director of the Department of Defense Education Activity when an Inspector General investigation last year found that she steered jobs to friends and family, took liberties with travel reimbursements and failed to properly report vacation days, according to a story by Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper.
After being fired in September by the federal government on the nepotism-related allegations, it seems Shirley Miles’ family connections quickly landed her work in Paterson.
By October, she joined the team of consultants assigned to Paterson under the school district’s contract with Colorado-based Curriculum Focal Point, according to district employees. Her brother, Mike Miles, is described as one of Focal Point’s “professional developers” on the company’s website and many district employees generally consider him the consulting company’s main representative in Paterson. 
[...] 
PatersonPress.com attempted to contact Mike Miles through the email provided on Focal Point's website but received no response. In addition to his consulting work, Miles also serves as superintendent of schools of the Harrison district in Colorado Springs, according to Focal Point’s website.
The contract says Focal Point would be paid $3,000 per day during the 2010-11 school year, $7,244 during 2011-12 and $7,292 for 2012-13. The contract sets the duration of a work day as 8:30 am-3 pm.
Yes, over the objections of many of its citizens, Paterson remains under state control. So they brought in a superintendent all the way from Colorado for a substantial price (I don't understand how a working superintendent can spend so much time consulting in other places, but the NJ DOE apparently has little problem with that). Which leads me to wonder: what is it about folks like Penny MacCormick and Mike Miles that makes them worth all this extra dough?

Well...

MIKE MILES

The Broad Superintendents Academy Class of 2011
Superintendent
Harrison School District, Colorado
And...

PENNY MACCORMACK

The Broad Superintendents Academy Class of 2011
Chief Academic Officer
New Jersey Department of Education
And, of course...

CHRIS CERF
The Broad Superintendents Academy Class of 2004
Acting Commissioner
New Jersey Department of Education

The Broad Academy is not an accredited academic program affiliated with a university; it is a "pipeline," designed to get like-minded, business-oriented people into school leadership positions. And being an alum is obviously a nice way to pick up some state-funded scratch here in the Garden State.

The tale of Eli Broad's meddling into the Newark schools has been told over the past year. But it seems that the California billionaire's influence is now all over the state, starting at the very top of the education food chain:
Some of the livelier questioning was about outside consultants and other staffing of the department under Cerf, a point of controversy since he took the job more than a year ago. Cerf, a former deputy chancellor of New York City schools, has past ties with private foundations and for-profit education companies that continually are brought up by his critics.
For Democrats yesterday, it was a combination of things. For one, the department has several current and former employees connected with the Eli Broad Foundation in California, a pro-reform organization that has come under fire from teachers unions and other public school advocates.
Cerf himself is a former Broad Fellow and said he has a handful of senior staff also from the Broad, some being paid in part by the foundation. Yesterday, the commissioner found himself defending the foundation, calling Broad a “lovely and generous man” and saying there have been no conditions to the funding.
Broad may indeed be generous - but the state of New Jersey is just as generous with his graduates. Nice little world they've created for themselves, isn't it?
I think it's time to update this...

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Lil' Pete" Schulman:
No education experience, NJDOE Chief Officer for Talent, Expert on Education and, BROAD Fellow.

WE ARE Broad's biggest coup to date. Next up, The USDOE ( almost a fully "Broadized" already by The Dunce)

czarejs said...

Hey where's Tom Moran? Oh I bet he's working on his front page editorial exposing all this to a wide audience. Yeah right.

Anonymous said...

Most of the new hires have little or no experience in education. One young man, who is charged with "portfolio management" - telling school superintendents how to turn around schools in need of improvement, has a big background in recruiting volunteers for Newark's Citizen schools!

jcg said...

No consultant left behind, no teacher left standing.

Anonymous said...

UPDATE ON MIKE MILES, PATERSON'S $7k A DAY CONSULTANT....

Accepted the superintendency of the Dallas Texas School System!

Between his big jobs and his sister's employment, he squeezes out big ideas to reform Paterson?

How did this guy get hired? Was there an RFP for school reform? If not, who recommended Paterson to reach out for him?