Sunday, March 14, 2010

The saturation mailings and advertising of Harlem Success Academy

See this message from a friend who lives on the Upper West side, who has a child entering Kindergarten next year, about the multiple mailings he has received from Harlem Success Academy:

Today we received the 3d or 4th mailing in the last week from the Harlem
Success Academy, looking to enroll [his son’s name].

This really surprises me:
A. How do they get the $ to do direct mail & find out what kids are going to start kindergarten?
B. Why are they direct mailing to White couples on 102nd?

Really curious if you have any thoughts or insight - -

The infamous Eva Moskowitz/Joel Klein emails, FOILed by Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News and posted here, revealed how Klein overturned long-standing policy to provide her with names and addresses of prospective parents through mailing houses; and allowed her to make repeated mailings to promote her chain of charter schools.

Juan’s column in which he showed how she picked out the space she wanted for her schools in existing zoned public schools, which Klein then tried to illegally close for her benefit, is here.
His earlier column about the preferential treatment she received from Klein, including his help in securing a $1 million grant from the Broad Foundation to build an army of parents to promote their political agenda, is here.

In her emails to Klein, Eva confides her desire to engage in saturation mailings, supposedly to promote “choice”, but really to build up her waiting list; which then she uses as a political weapon in their battle to lift the charter cap.

This may be one reason DOE is making parents register for Kindergartens earlier at public schools, so they can capture their addresses and make them available to charter schools in time for their lotteries.

Though Eva told the NY Times she spends $325,000 on recruitment, a cursory examination of the school’s financial statements shows that her spending on recruitment is actually much more.
She has run ads in buses and is now also advertising on NY1. The actual expense must be near a million dollars or more. Harlem Children’s Zone was featured on American Express ads during the Oscars.

Of course, no district public school could afford this sort of marketing campaign; and if they did, they would be accused of wasteful spending.

To the left is Eva’s message to Klein, dated Dec. 21, 2007, in which she complains about the fact that DOE only allows “one mailing to elementary and pre-K families” and that she wants to be able to mail promotional materials 10-12 times to each family.

As in all things between Klein and Eva, she quickly gets her way. Her choices are clearly maximized! Soon thereafter, she is provided with unlimited mailings through a third party mailing house to prospective public school parents.

To the right and below is the response from Michael Duffy, the head of the DOE charter school office, written the day after Xmas, in which he pledges cooperation and tells her she can always call him, day or night, on his cell.

Eva has now extended the reach of her mailings into large swathes of Manhattan and the Bronx. As one astute observer pointed out, this not only allows her to build up her charter school waiting list, but also to gather names for future battles over the charter school cap, funding, or her own future candidacy.

Her mailings and advertising, financed through contributions from her hedge-fund supporters and billionaires like Broad, resemble the saturation mailings and domination of the air waves that New Yorkers have been subjected to by our billionaire mayor, each time he runs for re-election, sparing no expense.

Just as he has bought his way into a third term, the hostile takeover of public education by charter schools has nearly unlimited financing to back it up. No one could argue that this is an equal contest, when all the advantages are being provided to the charters; not to mention Klein’s relentless promotion of charter schools, which is priceless.

Is this the future we really want for our public schools?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Broad inside game

Check out this posting on “The Broad Effect” , about how the Broad Foundation influences educational policy by inserting graduates of his Broad Superintendents Academy into top positions at urban districts from throughout the country, to pursue its privatization agenda, sometimes provoking controversy in the process.

Just as the Gates Foundation plays the "outside game" by putting its people inside the US Dept. of Education, where they can use the Race to the Top funds to bribe states to adopt their policies, Broad plays the inside game.

The Rhode Island State Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, who recently ordered the firing of the entire teaching force of Central Falls HS, is a Broad graduate.

Here in NYC we have much experience with the grads of this fabled institution. The first was Chris Cerf, Class of 2004, formerly head of Edison charter schools, who became Deputy Chancellor for “Strategy and Innovation” at DOE, then moved over to the Bloomberg campaign, and is now is selling science curricula in Brazil. (See the inspired illustration above, thanks to David Bellel; sadly Cerf now seems to be excised from the “featured” alumni on the Broad website.) Also:
  • Marcia Lyles, class of 2006, former Deputy Chancellor of Instruction, now Superintendent of the Christina School District in Wilmington Del.
  • Jean-Claude Brizard, class of 2007, former DOE “senior executive for policy and sustainability” and now superintendent in Rochester, NY.
  • Shael Polakow-Suransky, class of 2008, (currently Chief Accountability Officer at DOE).
  • Garth Harries, class of 2009, former head of Office of Portfolio Development and now asst. Superintendent in New Haven.

  • Currently, John White is in the Broad class of 2010, now Cerf’s successor as “Deputy Chancellor for Strategy” (he now apparently leaves off “Innovation” from his title)
Broad doesn’t stop there. He also gives out his award each year to the top urban school district; conveniently awarded NYC in 2007, despite stagnant gains on the NAEPs, shortly before Bloomberg embarked on his campaign to renew mayoral control. And Broad is a generous donor to charter schools in NYC and elsewhere.

Chancellor Klein persuaded Dan Katzir, the head of the Broad Foundation, to give a million dollars to Eva Moskowitz's chain of charter schools, so she could create an army of parents who would support their initiatives, writing: “she’s done more to organize parents and get them aligned with what our reforms than anyone else on the outside.”

The Times ran a recent rather unflattering profile of Broad . In it, Roland Fryer, whose “institute” at Harvard and large scale experiments in student bribery are funded by Broad: For me there has been no downside....But I think if you’re not on your game, Eli will crush you." (For more on Fryer's Broad-funded experiments, see here, here, here, and here.)

Bribery seems to come naturally to these guys. More recently, Katzir has admitted that they use an unusual method to "place" their superintendents -- promising cash-strapped districts that in exchange, they will cover part of their salaries.

The Detroit Public School Board has just unanimously voted to file a lawsuit against Robert Bobb, the "emergency" manager of their schools and a Broad graduate, saying the extra $145,000 he receives from the Broad foundation and other "unidentified philanthropic organizations" represents a conflict of interest.

"Because Bobb has sole and virtually unreviewable control over the $1.4 billion DPS budget, it is especially dangerous to allow the Broad Foundation and similar 'venture philanthropists' to fund one-third of his salary," according to the complaint.

In Los Angeles, Broad is paying the salaries of top school officials including Matt Hill, who is “overseeing the district's high-profile effort through which groups inside or outside L.A. Unified could take over new and low-performing schools."

Responds Dan Katzir: "It's common for the foundation to match people it has trained with districts, and initially to help pay for it."

Can you imagine if the people running our public hospitals were trained by the drug companies and had their salaries supplemented by them? There would be justified outrage. But when it comes to our public education system, anything goes, and conflict of interest is the name of the game.

Bob Hughes, announced as member of NY's "Race to the Top" team and criticized by the EEOC the same day

According to Gotham Schools, Bob Hughes of New Visions will be part of the NY State team to appear before the panel of judges to determine the federal “Race to the Top” awards.

As EdWeek puts it, "How a state’s delegation performs in a 30-minute presentation and a 60-minute question-and-answer session with a panel of judges could make or break its chances in round one of the competition.”

This dog and pony show, which might be likened to “American Idol”, is a function of the politicization of these grants, which should be honestly won or lost on the basis of substance alone.

Unmentioned in the Gotham Schools are Hughes’ close ties to the Gates Foundation, which financed many of the small schools in NYC through his organization as an intermediary.
Some have said that the Gates Foundation is really the power behind the throne in determining who wins these awards – as well as many of the pro-privatization policies being pushed by the US Dept. of Education; the foundation also helped states write their RTTT applications.

The woman who head’s the RTTT program at the US Dept of Ed, Joanne Weiss, is former COO of New Schools Venture fund, which finances charter school expansion with large infusions of Gates money; accordingly, states can win “points” on their applications depending on how charter-friendly they are.
Other members of the NY State RTTT team are Laura Smith, formerly chief of staff under former deputy Chancellor Chris Cerf, and before that, an employee of the NYC Charter School Center, and deputy Commissioner John King, formerly head of the Uncommon Schools charter chain.
According to Gotham Schools, New Visions has a financial interest in NY State’s winning the funds:

Hughes has also said that New Visions would be a likely applicant for a program, proposed by the Regents, to allow alternative organizations to bypass education schools to certify teachers. [Merryl] Tisch also cited Hughes as an expert on how schools can effectively use data to guide their work with students and on launching high schools, an area that will become key as the state attempts to replace its lowest-performing schools. “Bob has a track record on this, and he is respected in every corner on this subject,” Tisch said. “I trust him, I trust his judgment.”

Hughes was also cited in the just-issued decision of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about the discriminatory dismissal of Debbie Almontaser as the principal of Khalil Gibran school: New Visions "concurred in DOE's judgment that she should resign and acted as agent in advising her to do so . . . . In the course of its advisory services to the Community Superintendent in the selection process, it concurred in DOE's conclusion that the circumstances of her resignation were such that continuing her candidacy was not desirable." (The EEOC decision is here.)

Hughes tried to get Almontaser to resign, but she refused until she could meet with the Chancellor, who was conveniently"unavailable." Instead, Deputy mayor Walcott acted as the designated hit-man, and threatened her that the school might be cancelled if she did not resign.

As David Bloomfield, expert on education law, pointed out, “Thus, while New Visions was found not liable since it was not in an employment relationship with Almontaser, it served as willing handmaiden to her illegal discriminatory dismissal 'on account of her race, religion, and national origin.'”