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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Can You Get a Tomato Pie in LA?

It looks like ACTING NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf has decided to relocate control of New Jersey's schools from Trenton to Los Angeles:
Broad Residency fellows such as Bing Howell and Rochelle Sinclair are chosen, trained, paid and placed by the Broad Foundation’s decade-old educational transformation initiative.

Broad has placed them with the New Jersey Department of Education, which has three high-level leaders, including acting Commissioner Christopher Cerf, with ties to Broad.

Howell and Sinclair are young middle-level employees with MBAs, but relatively little experience in education. Despite that, they serve important roles central to the future of the Camden school district.

Howell serves as a liaison to Camden for the creation of four Urban Hope Act charter schools. Howell reports directly to the deputy commissioner of education.

Sinclair is assigned to the office of school improvement, which will oversee the creation of a regional achievement center, or RAC, in Camden. The RAC is meant to turnaround 23 of the district’s failing schools.

Sinclair reports to Penny MacCormack, the chief academic officer and assistant commissioner of academics for the Department of Education. Like Cerf, MacCormack is a graduate of a Broad Foundation training program for superintendents.
Eli Broad started with Newark; then he moved on to Jersey City. Now, his brood will be running the whole state. And they multiply like rabbits:
One of Broad’s most substantial critics is Diane Ravitch, who was assistant secretary of education in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. She has questioned the “education venture philanthropy” practiced by the foundation.

Last week in an email she said that “Broad graduates are known for their predilection for closing down public education and handing it over to private agencies.”

Ravitch, now an education historian at New York University, was quoted in the Education Week story.

“What I see happening is that they colonize districts. Once there’s a Broad superintendent, he surrounds himself with Broad fellows, and they have a preference towards privatization. It happens so often, it makes me wonder what they’re teaching them.”

The colonization Ravitch spoke about, the placement of Broad superintendents and resident fellows where there are already Broad alumnus, is known as pipelining, which appears to be happening at the DOE.
It's worth repeating that these people have very limited education experience or training, and the Broad Academy is not an accredited program in higher education. The fact that they play-pretend to have gone through a rigorous program is an affront to real educators and real education schools everywhere.

We've talked before about William Cox and his conflicts of interest with the NJDOE; here's an update from this article:
In addition to the hiring of Broad-trained personnel, the DOE is using a $60,000 grant from the foundation to pay for a consulting contract with a man who has taught at Broad.

The three-month contract is with William Cox's DSA Capital. Cox has taught at Broad's academy for superintendents. DSA's review is expected to suggest restructuring plans for the DOE.
So the DOE took a grant from Eli Broad to pave the way for more of his acolytes to infiltrate New Jersey's schools. I have enormous problems with that. These are New Jersey's schools, not Eli Broad's. The people of New Jersey should be deciding how to run them, through their elected representatives. Unconfirmed appointees should not be taking private money to restructure our school system, if only because a lot of baggage comes with these funds:
But the committee's chairman, Louis D. Greenwald, D-Camden, questioned awarding the contract to Cox’s firm without a public bidding process; no bidding was done because Broad picked up the tab for the DSA contract. Greenwald did not respond to a request for comment last week.

The makeup of the foundation’s education board and their connections adds grist to critics’ comments.

• The chairman is Joel Klein. He was chancellor of the New York City Board of Education under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He is now an executive vice president of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch’s media company.
Joel Klein's company is expanding rapidly and no doubt is looking at many business opportunities in New Jersey's schools. It is completely inappropriate for the NJDOE to take money from a foundation where he serves on the board. Another example:
Dan Katzir is secretary/treasurer. He once ran the Broad Foundation and still serves as an advisor to Broad. An MBA, he is a former regional director for Sylvan Learning Systems, which provides educational coaching.
Sylvan offers test prep in the SAT and the ACT. Well, just today, the NJDOE released a report that recommends the following:
RECOMMENDATION 7- The Task Force recommends that the state Department of Education carefully examines the following issues during the time of transition.
Time Potential Need for Changes in Teacher Education Programs Bridging the Gap
Most importantly, perhaps, the Task Force examined the need for transitional programs. In order to bridge the gap between the present and 2017-18, when the Accuplacer® will no longer be necessary, the Task Force has introduced an idea to establish a short term interim process. High school students who do not achieve agreed-upon levels of proficiency on the SAT or ACT at the end of grade 11 will have the option of taking the Accuplacer® test (during the transitional period) to identify remediation needs and provide guidance for their placement in one or more appropriate bridge courses. [emphasis mine]
Think there's a conflict of interest here, now that we're talking about putting SAT scores on student's transcripts? And how about this member of Broad's board?
• Michelle Rhee is the founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, which advocates transforming education. She is the former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, where she clashed with unions and was criticized for not working with parents.
Students First partners with B4K, which recently ran a big public relations campaign in defense of suspended Perth Amboy superintendent Janine Caffrey. Reports are the NJDOE came in to mediate. Do you think the people of Perth Amboy would see the NJDOE as an impartial adjudicator when so many of their staff owe a debt to an organization where Rhee serves on the board?

Newark, Jersey City, Camden, Perth Amboy... what's that suburbs? You think you're immune? That this tide of reforminess couldn't show up at your door?

As if.

The infestation of Broadies into the NJDOE leaves the department open to charges of nepotism and conflict-of-interest. There are too many people with too many personal and financial interests in New Jersey's schools to allow this to continue. The department needs to cut its ties to Broad and return any money he has invested in the NJDOE. If they won't, the Legislature has an obligation to investigate exactly what conflicts of interest arise from this unseemly intrusion.

(About the title: this is a tomato pie. You put the cheese on first, then the sauce. Trenton's famous for them; they do everything backwards there...)

1 comment:

Galton said...

Don't forget the BROADiE consultant in North Jersey who is pulling in over$7,500 A DAY for consultantcy. Just heard he landed a million dollar payday to develop a teacher evaluation tool!
It's good to be a BROADIE with friends in high places!