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More private money paying for District consultants

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 22, 2012 04:54 PM

The William Penn Foundation has raised $1.2 million from other local philanthropists and groups so that the Boston Consulting Group can continue to work with the School Reform Commission on completing and implementing a massive reorganization plan.

BCG's original five-week, $1.4 million contract ran out in early April, and William Penn president Jeremy Nowak confirmed Tuesday that he had raised additional money so the group could help implement the plan. (Disclosure: The William Penn Foundation is a major funder of the Notebook.)

Among the donors, he said, were local philanthropists H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest and Michael O'Neill, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Vanguard, and the Philadelphia School Partnership.

PSP, which is also funded by private donors, could not be reached for comment on whether a donation had been made to the group specifically for this purpose.

All the donated money, including the original $1.5 million from William Penn, was given to United Way, which then paid the consultants, Nowak said.

"The money can’t come to us directly, and no one wanted to give it directly to the School District, so we continued to do what was intended in the beginning and utilize United Way as the grantee," Nowak said. 

A planned fundraising campaign

When the foundation's original bequest was announced, Nowak said that he planned to raise money from other sources to support the reorganization. The proposed District reorganization plan was announced in late April.

“I committed an amount. I also committed to talk to other philanthropies to raise other money to help support them. I think that’s what we should be doing,” he said in a February interview with the Notebook.

The plan calls for closing 64 schools and dividing up those remaining into achievement networks of 20 to 30 schools each, run by outside operators. This blueprint has been met with significant opposition. Faced with protests that this was a further move toward privatization, District leadership said that the operators could be groups of educators already working in the District, but were never clear about how that would work.

This component of the transformation plan -- dividing up all District schools into achievement networks, a proposal now described as a "concept" – has essentially been put on hold, pending additional feedback. With plans for additional community input, it could be delayed into 2013, according to District spokesperson Fernando Gallard.

RFP for pilot networks is on hold

Originally, there were plans to put out a "request for proposals" this spring to set up one or more pilot networks next fall, but that is not happening now, Gallard said.

There will be no RFP "until the concept of networks is fully established," Gallard said. "We can’t put a pilot forward if we are still taking input."

Nowak said that BCG is "looking at everything" involving the District's management and infrastructure, both academic and non-academic.

This includes facilities, transportation, human capital strategies such as teacher evaluation and recruitment, contract analyses, and internal financial and data systems, he said.

"They have pretty interesting ways for analyzing what schools, including what charters, should be closed or expanded," Nowak said.

Some of the original $1.5 million William Penn grant has also been used to pay a local firm, Sage Communications, for work related to the rollout of the reorganization plan.

Nowak reiterated that, facing huge funding shortfalls, the District is in a "crisis" and needs help. He said he had been attending regular meetings on the plan early on and more recently had been getting weekly updates from BCG.

"They needed somebody to help with a strategy how to deal with the deficit issue," he said. "And help - whether District or charter or contract schools - how do we scale up the best or shut down the worst."

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Comments (64)

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on May 22, 2012 6:11 pm

 So groups that want to increase the number of private board rooms that govern our public schools want to pay a group that has, is, and will set policy to increase the number of private board rooms that govern our public schools. At what point do teacher/resident/taxpayers get to say no thank you?

Submitted by Barry A. (not verified) on May 22, 2012 8:03 pm

The time is now. It would be nice for Jordan to grow a pair unless he's complicit. Thank God, the churches are leading the way.

Submitted by The Mighty Chris (not verified) on May 22, 2012 9:06 pm

The teacher/resident/taxpayers get to say no thank you when it comes time to replace the politicians who permitted Philadelphia's public school system to go underfunded.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 10:06 pm


Submitted by The Mighty Chris (not verified) on May 22, 2012 10:21 pm

My understanding is that the cuts were primarily made by the state, who runs the school district, and is led by a Republican governor who campaigns on not raising taxes and cutting spending. I don't think this should be a democrat vs republican issue, but whoever is clamoring for less taxes and less government isn't who you should vote for if you don't like private money in public ed.

Philadelphians and their politicians don't need convincing to fund Philadelphia schools, it's the rest of Pennsylvania...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 10:34 pm

Nice to try and deflect to the State. Correct me if I'm wrong. DEMOCRAT John F. Street sold the union teachers and the democrat voters (most teachers) out in 2001 by allowing a State takeover of our District. He could have fought and one against this but made a deal with the devil in Tom Ridge. Since the takeover, it's been hell as far as educational leadership is concerned (SRC/Superintendents). Now, you have Democrat PA Senator Anthony Williams and Dwight Evans "selling out" teachers and public education in this city. It starts in your own backyard first!!! Yes, I agree that Corbett is a bum--he is, however, the elected officials in this city don't seem to care about public education and are more concerned with lining their pockets using our children. Democrats used to be for unions especially those that support them. I never see Jordan or the PFT saying, "Don't vote for William or don't vote for Evans". Never......Bush stunk with No Child Left Behind and I don't see Obama jumping up and down for the very constituents that supported him--the teachers.

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on May 23, 2012 7:17 am

 While I agree that this less a democrat vs. republican problem and more where individual candidates fall on ed issues problem, I was nothing less than shocked to see Dwight Evans listed as a supported candidate by the AFT back in April.I Act46 and nightmare that was MLK's Renaissance process are reasons enough that he no friend to educators. 

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 23, 2012 8:37 am


Submitted by Barry A. (not verified) on May 23, 2012 4:11 pm

I agree------a skunk is a skunk so what's your point???? WE have to fight this together and Yes, Obama is the lesser of 2 evils--the MUCH LESSER. Romney will turn the clock back 125 years and all clear thinking people know it.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on May 23, 2012 4:24 pm

yeah, but if it's going to happen anyway, better to be put there all at once by a known enemy then have your so called allies lead you there one slow step at a time (arne duncan). at least you can make a moral stand for everyone to see and fight against your enemies like the good people in wisconsin are doing. this sleazy moneygrubbing backstabbing by the dems wears us down and is hard to get anyone's attention about. a pox on both their houses i say. vote green in november.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 4:39 pm

It's a choice between 2 evils, one we know and the other we fear. Repubs, especially Tea Party Repubs are only barely human--can you say, Corbett?? I hear you though.

Submitted by Tim Slekar (not verified) on May 22, 2012 10:29 pm

If you don't start now you'll be too late. You need mass parents and teachers in the streets right now. Organize now. If only two are willing then start with two. Talking on comment sections not very helpful. Action. Action, Action!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 6:26 pm

Why couldn't the district find a consulting company to do this pro bono as a showcase project for themselves?

Between BCG and Ackerman, we've now paid ~ $3 MM to pivot from one vision to this new, perhaps equally flawed, vision.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 7:54 pm

Again and again, they prove that they are reverse Robin Hood. They want to steal from the poorest and give to the richest.

I am glad to see that we still believe our students to be people instead of dollar signs. I wonder how we can get these idiots to see the forest through the trees.


You know, with an uneducated populace, there won't be any more tax dollars to steal and you will have to actually work every now and then.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 23, 2012 6:15 pm

"I am glad to see that we still believe our students to be people instead of dollar signs. I wonder how we can get these idiots to see the forest through the trees."

AMEN!!! Children should not be for sale!

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on May 22, 2012 7:02 pm

This is a "Corporate Raid" on our public schools -- pure and simple. So far I have not heard one idea come from this band of privateers that makes any sense as to improving the education of our children or serving them and their communities well.

All I hear is who is going to profit off of our school children. The plan of the Boston Control Group is just more of the psychobabble of privatization. They sell cookie-cutter blueprints to anyone fool enough to buy them. They have no substance whatsoever.

These guys are lining their pockets while our children do without. Does anyone have a conscience?

Submitted by Barry A. (not verified) on May 22, 2012 8:35 pm

I do, you do, they don't.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 7:27 pm

Lenfest, as in, Brook Lenfest, the person who was supposedly posting here awhile ago? The communications magnate family who basically supports Mastery schools?

If only real public schools could be supported by private $$$ and choose which students they felt like having.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 7:01 pm

Also, I am heartened by the SRC putting the networks on hold. I think they thought Ackerman did her job and fully broke the real educators of Philadelphia.

Too bad. They are in for more of a fight on behalf of PUBLIC schools than they imagined.

Submitted by Barry A. (not verified) on May 22, 2012 8:54 pm

I agree and the churches are leading the way.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 10:58 pm

You're right Barry A. There will be the biggest movement they have ever seen. They keep stepping on teachers toes and it has to stop.

Submitted by Barry A. (not verified) on May 23, 2012 6:42 am

Not toes, HEADS !!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 8:23 pm

Something doesn't make sense here. According to documents published on the district website, my son's charter school was recommended for renewal BEFORE BCG got involved. So, what exactly are they adding to this process -- according to the leadership in my son's school, just a lot of stress and extra meetings.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 8:09 pm

Nowack & Michael O'Neill both sat on the board of Mastery. Lenfest has a Mastery school named for him. Is it any surprise that the SRC spouts Mastery talking points and the power points look like they were sprayed with blue-kool-aid? In addition, BCG has clear ties to Corbett's Tomalis & Margaret Spellings, a Bush era Ed appointee. This is nothing short of an ALEC coordinated attack on public education funds (and unions) for the sake of private gain. All behind the cover of "helping" poor brown children as they are re-segregated with "no excuses". The Mastery schools are not sustainable models that can be taken to scale because they destroy the profession through burn-out& teach2test. There are better graduation rates and things to be learned from Mastery, but not much college success to brag about and certainly not worth destroying the teaching profession, good support jobs and the true diversity that comes when classrooms can make room for all types of creative teachers, all types of students. Oh, and guess where Scott Gordon's kids go? NOT a Mastery school, but a lovely little private school with very small class sizes and lots of attention. Mayor Nutter is a total sell-out to this just as he was a fool for Arlene a few yrs back.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 22, 2012 8:33 pm

The connection between the pushers / dealers of the Boston Plan are in bed with Mastery. It is also important to know that "Nowak succeeds Feather Houstoun, who has led the Foundation since 2005." ( So, Houston is in bed with this crew too. Nowak was also "was the first board chair of Mastery Charter Schools..."( Doesn't anyone have any integrity? Doesn't anyone in power see the conflict of interest?

Submitted by The Mighty Chris (not verified) on May 22, 2012 10:29 pm

It's not a fair analysis at all to say that just because someone has worked in for-profit education, they're unfit to serve the public.

Imagine the person you would want doing this public work -- an innovator with a passion for education. How do they learn the industry? Where do they get a paycheck while they do it? On what platform do they gain experience and develop relevant skills? Would you have this person wait tables while hoping for the government to give them a job and a chance to run things?

Judge the man on his ideas and his actions in the current context. If you want to rule out everyone who's ever done work or held a position in the private segment of education in their lives, you're ruling out most of the people we need to help us. If you don't like that there's more opportunity for career & project development in the private sector than public sector, hate on the public policies that make it so, not the people that live under them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 4:01 am

The Boston Consulting Group is being paid - now over $2.7 million - to implement a plan that the public has not endorsed. Nowak/Houston/Gordon(Mastery)/William Penn Foundation are pushing the Boston Consulting Group's proposal on the people of Philadelphia. The SRC, an unelected body, is suppose to make the decision WITH PUBLIC INPUT. Instead, Ramos tells us one thing and Nowak (who I assume is in cahoots with Houston and Mastery) is calling the shots because they have the money. (It is "Mastery Lenfest Campus" after all.) The Boston Consulting Group knows nothing about running a public school system. They already have $1.5 million. Imagine what a group of teachers could do with $2.7 million in "start up funds?"

Submitted by anon (not verified) on May 22, 2012 8:04 pm

what's the matter with everyone here? why so skeptical? these guy are a bunch of swells. you heard the man, "Nowak reiterated that, facing huge funding shortfalls, the District is in a "crisis" and needs help." couple of good samaritans trying to lend a helping hand, that's all.
jeez, you make it sound like everyone has some kind of ulterior motive for trying to help us get things straightened out here in phillydelphia. just remember next time you start questioning their motives, they're doing it for the kids.

Submitted by The Mighty Chris (not verified) on May 22, 2012 9:44 pm

Although I'm skeptical of privatization, I have to agree with anonymous here. It's easy to cry about private hands handling our public schools, but the cold reality is that the current system is physically incapable of continuing its existing and the "public" we're all so worried isn't getting a big enough voice isn't physically capable of doing anything about it.

We, the public, do have a big enough voice. The problem is we already used it to put politicians in office who would allow Philadelphia's school system to go underfunded. Now all we can do is wait for, and take, the chance to replace them. Until then, private money has to step up where taxpayers refused to and the only useful thing we can do is try to scrutinize and guide it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 10:58 pm

Hey TMC: Are you for real? I think your sarcasm meter fell off your Boy Scouts jacket three blocks back. Anon was being sarcastic. And you really can't afford to be that naive and deliberately ignorant of Philadelphia's history of privatization for the "kids sake." Pls do some historical research.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on May 22, 2012 10:06 pm

But for over ten years, no one has found the motivation to scrutinize the use of the Title I money in the PSD which was given generously by taxpayers "for the kids", specifically the poor ones (in Phillly, the ones of color).

Only now when jobs are threatened is there the cynical objection to "doing it for the kids". Those who have waited this long discredit themselves.

Submitted by Tim Slekar (not verified) on May 22, 2012 10:23 pm

Any old union people left that haven't sold out? If so they know what to do to fight this.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 10:17 pm

No money for paper, books or supplies, teachers getting laid off, closing 60+ schools, and miraculously more private money appears for consultants? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? The real b/s here is that come next year, they will want teachers to pay for benefits, and get no step raises. HOW IS IT THAT THEY FIND MAGIC MONEY FOR THESE CONSULTANTS, AND NO MONEY TO SUPPORT SCHOOLS. WAKE UP PEOPLE AND STOP SETTLING FOR THIS CRAP!
Hey, can I be a "consultant" too?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 11:16 pm

Don't worry, it's all for the children.....cough, cough.

Submitted by Barry A. (not verified) on May 23, 2012 4:14 pm

I agree and where's Jordan in all this ??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 22, 2012 11:36 pm

Gee, I wish they would step in and raise the money necessary to pay for basic paper and pencils for the classroom!! We get NOTHING for our kids. So disgusted with the backwards priorities of those in charge. It is NOT at all about the children. Thank goodness the teachers are there to care, and provide what is really needed.

How about they just donate this money TO THE DEFICIT!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 4:42 am

So, now the William Penn Foundation, with its direct ties to Mastery Charter. are running the School District? They are funding the Boston Consulting Group to implement their plan without any public input? Hasn't Nowak heard any of the public outcry against the BCG plan? Isn't is disrespectful enough that we have an unelected SRC? Houston is tied to the William Penn Foundation. How objective can she be? Nowak has a lot of nerve doing the bidding of Scott Gordon and Mastery.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 4:14 pm

It's far beyond time to fight !!

Submitted by SOS 60 on May 23, 2012 9:26 am

In the contract agreement with BCG, I assume there were terms and deliverables. The first phase (5 weeks) ended. Initially, it was stated that BCG was here do analysis and to make recommendations based on that analysis about district operations, effectiveness and efficiencies. It is amazing that so far all that has been shared publicly is a short PP presentation behind which there are no apparent details. Where is the written report and recommendations for that first phase? Where is the product? Is the press asking for it?

Submitted by concerned philadlephian (not verified) on May 23, 2012 11:02 am

Good questions? What did the $1.5 million buy? Is this another example of a corporation taking from the taxpayers and then assuming their funding is infinite? I also don't understand why the BCG is contracted to do anything at this point since everything is suppose to be on hold? Is it the agenda of Mastery, F. Houston, Corbett and the William Penn Foundation?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on May 23, 2012 1:47 pm

Prior to the State takeover of our schools, Governor Ridge contracted with Edison Schools to Analyze the district and write a report of their findings. He or we paid $1.4 Million to Edison. At least we got a report consisting of well over a hundred pages (maybe 200 pages).

Boston Consulting Group has produced no documentation and discussion of their analysis of the district in any professional manner whatsoever. They gave us their cookie cutter blueprint of privatization which they give to all of their clients. Their blueprint has shown no legitimate positive results educationally and no credible evidence that their blueprint has reduced the cost of a quality education for children anywhere.

What they have presented to us is a plan shockingly lacking in necessary organizational detail and lacking in a rationale based on facts.

What Edison reported was that there was a "brain drain" in the District of many talented educators at all levels who had left our district in frustration. And, of course, that Edison should run the school system. What has changed in 10 years?

Caveat Emptor -- "let the buyer beware."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 23, 2012 3:28 pm

"All the donated money, including the original $1.5 million from William Penn, was given to United Way, which then paid the consultants" - so no audit trail is needed!!!!!

Anyone else have an issue with big non-profits funneling funds through another non-profit???

Submitted by Zach.O on May 24, 2012 4:46 am

It really sounds like the money is coming in here and this should lead to some pretty good things, right? I hope that is going to be the case. When the private citizenship gets involved, then it can be real good.


    Sometimes there are people who don't know that people who donate money to schools should be applauded for feeding the frenzy and not scrutinized over who they are giving the money to.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 24, 2012 7:04 am

This money is only going to consultants. Not a penny of it will ever reach a classroom.

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on May 24, 2012 7:41 am

What world are you living in? When private money and "private citizenship" gets involved, it is always about them exploiting the situation to make a buck.

Every privately run organization that has been involved with our public schools in Philadelphia have walked away with $$$$$ in their pockets and left us with their mess to clean up.

In "Us" I mean the teachers, parents, students and true citizens of the Philadelphia school community.

The reason money is coming here is that the privatizers see an opportunity to make money. Look behind these phony organizations and see who is behind them.

Check out the Philadelphia School Partnership. Check out the history of this guy Mark Gleason who wrote his propaganda commentary in the Inquirer today. He is from northern New Jersey. When did he all of a sudden start caring about Philadelphia's schoolchildren -- when he saw the opportunity to make a buck.

The citizens that matter are the "legitimate citizens of Philadelphia." Not ' the corporate citizens" who come here like vultures upon a their prey.

Submitted by philly mom (not verified) on May 29, 2012 10:39 pm

If someone wanted to just "make a buck," why would they come to Philly and work in education, of all places and sectors? Think about the logic of that statement. Is it possible that these citizens want to help? Is it possible that they have good intentions? What exactly distinguishes a corporate citizen from a legitimate citizen? I don't understand why these donors/organizations and the "parents, teachers, students, and true citizens" are mutually exclusive. Who are you to say we don't share the same exact interests? All this name calling is never going to help our kids.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 30, 2012 6:15 am

No, it is not possible.

The fact that they ARE mutually exclusive should be the first clue. We never said they have to be; they make them that way.

Look deeper into the history and it will become obvious why they would come to Philly to make a buck. Look at the history of contracts awarded. Look at what happened with Dwight Evans and Robert Archie. Look at the history of Universal in Philly-- we built a brand new high school and turned it over to them rent-free.

There is plenty of money for consultants, educational management organizations, and contractors. But somehow, there is none for schools.

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on May 30, 2012 7:59 am

There is a huge difference between a corporate donor who wants to help children and their schools and a corporate officer who is in it to make dollars. There are billions of dollars to be made on education. The profiteers come to Philly to get in on the ground floor of the money making. That is a whole lot of difference than a corporate donor contributing money to children and schools and saying use it for something good for children.

Those who care about children and Philadelphia's children give of themselves and do not seek profits beyond and above a fair salary for what they do.

The people who are now descending upon us do not have a history of serving children. They have a history of being businessmen. They do not come here for their love of children. They have no new ideas that would benefit children. There are plenty of children to love and dedicate themselves to where they come from. They are coming to Philly to make a buck and you can see it in their actions.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on May 30, 2012 8:01 am

Hi Philly Mom! Saw your comment and can't help but chime in on this one. There is a significant difference between a corporate donor who wants to improve the lot of our students and a corporate entity which seeks to do business with the district.

For example: In the early 1990's the Pew Charitable Trusts gave the PSD millions of dollars to promote "shared decision-making" in Philadelphia's schools because they believed that a bottom up, "school as a community" organizational design and process would create the synergy necessary to improve our schools.

They paid stipends to parents and community members to establish "governance councils" in many of our schools. They were not merely advisory councils. I was chosen by our Building Committee at UCHS to be on the governance council and subsequently elected by the Governance Council members to be their chairman.

Pew paid for facilitators and paid thousands of dollars to take us on 2 whole faculty retreats at Eagle Lodge. It was there that we created one of Philly's first educational plans designed by the teachers, parents and community members. We began the process of creating more "small learning communities" within our school, UCHS.

Pew put up money to help us and never asked for a red cent in return.

That is far different than what is happening with the organizations now descending upon us. They are not giving us funds to improve our schools or try new collaborative ideas to promote collaborative school cultures or anything of the sort. They are saying, hire us and we will improve your schools. Or, they are saying "turn your schools over to us" and give us $750.00 per student and we will help you out.

What they offer are not new ideas. They sell themselves. So far none of these privatizers have improved education anywhere they have been. Those of us who have spent our lives serving children and our communities know that what these privatizers profess is a bunch of malarkey designed to sell us their Alaskan farmland.

Boston Consulting Group is of the same ilk as Edison schools. We paid Edison $1.4 Million to study our district and write us a plan. They said give us your schools and a profit of $750.00 per student and we will fix them. They were utter failures and where are they now?

Boston Consulting Group has not even given us a report of their findings and what they believe will help us. They have only said "privatize our schools and school system" without ever giving us a rationale on how that would improve our schools or lower costs.

They are not promoting "true charter schools" like Esperanza Academy. They are promoting the privatized version "charter operator" model. That is a privatization model. A school operated by a charter operator is not a charter school under the law and is not a charter school under the charter school as a "public school" model. It is a model designed to profit off of our schoolchildren and turn public schools into, in essence, private schools for profit.

I recently read an article in Education Week which reported about the hedge fund operators that want to put out Initial Public Offerings for educational organizations whose only purpose is profit. Does anyone really believe they are doing it for the "public good?"

There is a crucial difference between a "public school and public school system" and a "privately operated school and school system." One is a public trust where the children and stakeholders are beneficiaries. It is about the "public good."

A privately operated entity is all about the profit of those who operate it. It is about the private good.

Which type of school and school system do we want for our children?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 24, 2012 8:42 am

I will never contribute to the United Way again.

Submitted by Christa Parlacoski (not verified) on May 24, 2012 9:16 am

They are just trying to wash their hands of the responsibility of the school district. The current SRC just wants to be able to lay the blame on someone else when the schools do not get any better. We need someone who is strong enough to take control of the schools, turn them around without privatizing and tell the SRC when to sit down and shut up. We need a "Joe Clark" to come and help the district. We need someone out of the ordinary who is willing to do whatever it takes to make things better instead of backing down to the politicians because they hold the purse strings.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 25, 2012 12:40 am

I didn't know much about the William Penn Foundation until about 2 weeks ago after listening to a terribly disappointing interview where Marty Moschoan (sp?) went really easy on the SRC during her interview with them and hardly did any public service whatsoever. Some how, I looked up who's on the Board of the William Penn Foundation and the project they fund (including WHYY) and the pieces starting coming together. The WPF is much more aligned with the Romney idea of public education as far as I can see. Their ramming their agenda and this damn Boston group down our throats. Why don't they pay to have some actual unbiased scholars come in and give there thoughts on their "Boston" plan before we roll the dice to the god-almighty Boston group. What the hell do they know anyway? Who exactly are the people working on the "Philadelphia Experiment" anyway?

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on May 25, 2012 6:02 am

Feather Houston (SRC) ran the William Penn Foundation. Its current head, Nowak, was the head of Mastery's Board of Directors until he took the William Penn job. So, yes, the William Penn Foundation supports privatization, so called "choice," and market driven education "reform."

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on May 25, 2012 8:01 am

The word "choice" is now becoming the psychobabble of the privatizers and people like Mark Gleason. When people like Mark Gleason and those of the Boston Consulting Group use the word choice they mean "privatized choice." It is their form of "Orwellian Newspeak" to disguise their privatization agenda.

We can have "choice" in public schools without privatization and we have had choice for many years in Philadelphia -- we called them magnet schools and magnet programs which were "schools within schools."

When I visited Mastery Smedley, Scott Gordon and I had a discussion about how his board of trustees is "appointed or elected" in the words of the Charter School Act. I have been meaning to write a blog explaining the legal significance of that question as to the issue of whether charter schools are being operated as true public schools or as private schools funded with public money.

For now, let me just say that the critical and crucial difference between a public school and private school is in how the board of trustees is "appointed or elected."

You raise a crucial issue in the "dance of the directors and trustees." There are implications in that dance.

To put it in the words of my former students who are usually quite perceptive when it comes to seeing the real world around them, "What's up with that Migliore?"

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 26, 2012 3:56 pm

Marty Moss-Coane

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 25, 2012 8:07 am

Even though the money is flowing from an outside source the District still has to accept the donated services via board resolution. As one who knows this process very very well, the district must do a resolution when it is accepting anything with a market value over $5000. It's in the financial and contracting policies and procedures. If the resolution wasn't on then May agenda, it will be on the June agenda.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 26, 2012 7:21 pm

What bothers me about this reorganization plan is that BCG and the powers that be are keeping it out of the public eye. Few of the people involved in this process are directly accountable to Philadelphia's citizens. Philadelphia does not have an elected school board, so the public can't hold SRC members accountable through the vote. The public has little to no input on what is happening with public money and public education in this city. If public money funds public education, shouldn't the public have input into what is happening? This is a rhetorical question; the answer is YES!

Like the recent facilities plan to close schools, the process needs for transforming the District needs to be PUBLIC! These are publicly-funded schools, for the most part. An organization with the best interest of the children and families which the District serves in mind would OPEN the plan up for public comment. Why? Because public comment and the involvement of parents, students, and school personnel who know the issues at each school will allow for the fine-tuning and improvement of the plan.

The William Penn Foundation has an obligation to the public to make the process more transparent because transparency promotes the common good for everyone involved with the District. In addition, transparency creates more "buy-in" from families and employees in the District because they feel that they have a voice. Creating the new transformation in private makes people feel disempowered and, as a result, will be more resistant and hostile to the new plan. We are supposed to live in a DEMOCRACY! One purpose of public schools is to model the democratic process for our youngest citizens. This newest transformation plan is fundamentally undemocratic because people with power and money determine the process instead of members of the public. This kind of process has no place in our public schools, especially for a transformation plan with so many implications for so many people.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on May 27, 2012 1:54 am

I posted this comment on "SRC approves charter renewals, expansion" by Erika Owens, but I think it's really important, so I'm re-posting it here also.

I have read a peer-reviewed research case study about what happened in New Orleans with the proliferation of charter schools after Hurricane Katrina by Nikki L. Wolf, a professor at the University of Kansas. The article, published in 2011, focuses specifically on how charters and public schools in post-Katrina New Orleans serve special education students. If you want to access the article, you may have to do it through a university library. I couldn’t find any place, including Google Scholar, where it’s available without charge, but if you can get your hands on it, it’s a MUST READ!

This article contains writings on the wall for what may happen in Philadelphia if the District implements the Boston Consulting Group's plans for achievement networks and more charters. It is even more interesting that the Boston Consulting Group also created a plan in 2007 called The State of Public Education in New Orleans, which Wolf's article cites. All of the content below is from the article, verbatim. The only changes I made were to capitalize the major headings. I’ve also included the references for citations in the article.


In post-Katrina New Orleans, Louisiana, there is a growing concentration of charter schools. The Recovery School District (RSD) has oversight of the majority of these schools. To explore charges from community advocates that RSD charter schools restricted admission and provided inadequate services for students with disabilities, the following questions were asked: Were students with disabilities admitted equally to charter and traditional schools in New Orleans? and How were the services for students with disabilities the same or different in charter and traditional schools? A case study research design that included both traditional and charter RSD schools was used. Data were gathered through examination of relevant reports from school entities and popular media. Additional data were gathered through interviews with district personnel and traditional school, charter school, and community disabilities advocates. Analysis of resultant themes indicated evidence of selective practices as well as differences in education provision for students with disabilities.

p. 382
Prior to the hurricane in 2005, the Recovery School District (RSD) was created by the Louisiana Legislature in response to the low academic performance of New Orleans’s public schools. This enabled state takeover of all schools performing below the state average (United Teachers of New Orleans, 2007).
Currently, no city in the United States has a higher percentage of students enrolled in charter schools than New Orleans (Boston Consulting Group, 2007).
p. 384
Current Status of RSD
In the New Orleans public schools, there has been financial scandal at the school board level, incredibly low test scores, physical structures in need of major repair, racial segregation, and violence (Tuzzolo & Hewitt, 2006). It is in this context that Hurricane Katrina hit and the levees subsequently failed, leading to disastrous and sustained flooding.
At the writing of this article, RSD was under the guidance of its second superintendent, Paul Vallas, who was appointed by the state superintendent of education in the summer of 2007. Mr. Vallas has a history of urban school reform efforts, the most notable being in Philadelphia and Chicago. In both of these cities, privatization and school choice were keystones of reform, experiences that made him a natural choice for the challenges in New Orleans.
p. 386
Data collected and considered for this research consisted of more than 50 documents including the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting minutes, Louisiana charter law, community reports, charter school advocacy materials, teacher union reports, and newspaper articles. In addition, interviews with three district personnel, four charter and traditional school personnel (including special and general education teachers), four family members of students with disabilities, four community activists, and staff from a charter support organization were conducted, resulting in a total of 16 interviews, all conducted individually.
Research Question 1
1. Were students with disabilities admitted equally to charter and traditional schools in New Orleans?
A major theme emerged from the RSD document and interview data related to admission: It appeared that students with disabilities were denied admission to charter schools, whereas traditional schools openly accepted all students. RSD documents and state charter law specifically stated that students were not to be denied admission to charters based on disability. However, reports of students with disabilities being denied admission appeared in the interviews with district personnel, parents, parent advocates, and community activists as well as the document reviews.
p. 387
However, when current enrollment data as of October 2007 were considered, charter and traditional schools reflected inequity. The traditional RSD school had, on average, about 10% special education students, with some schools as high as 22%. In charter schools, special education students made up an average of only 6% of the students.
In addition to issues of admission of students in charters, there were reports of “dumping” (forced student transfer) students who were not able to perform academically or had behavioral challenges. Many of these students transferred to the RSD traditional schools as a last resort, resulting in a disproportionate number of students with disabilities and behavioral challenges in these RSD schools.

Research Question 2
2. How were the services for students with disabilities the same or different in charter and traditional schools?
Two major themes arose from the data: lack of IDEA awareness in the charters and little existing special education support for students attending charters.
The lack of existing support required charters to hire additional staff if a child with significant needs enrolled, resulting in a financial disincentive to support such a child. Both of these issues seemed to have contributed to the lack of appropriate educational supports for students in charter schools.
A charter school teacher suggested that instead of lack of knowledge, the problem was actually how resources were used: “A lot of charter schools know they have to provide services, but because these are based on need, they don’t hire the personnel until the student comes.” There were also those charters that chose not to hire additional personnel even when the need was clearly indicated, as reflected in a special educator’s experience at one charter: “We had no one to do evaluations, no nurse or psych or anyone else. I was really hindered from doing my job because the school wouldn’t put out the money to hire support people.”
In addition, there seemed to be a lack of existing special education infrastructure. The lack of existing support required charters to hire additional staff if a child with significant needs enrolled, resulting in a financial disincentive to support such a child. Both of these issues seemed to have contributed to the lack of appropriate educational supports for students in charter schools.
p. 388
In addition to the requirement of positive academic outcomes, charter schools were also motivated to provide education economically. As noted by Carr in January 2008,
Part of the issue comes down to money. Providing strong special education services is not always financially advantageous—or even feasible—for charter schools. While a typical urban school system might have a special education administrator who oversees services for 6,000 students, for instance, a typical charter school might have 60 special education students, but would still need an administrator who knows the technicalities of complicated special education laws. Schools that are individually run can’t take advantage of the economies of scale present in larger school systems. (p. 1)
Functionally, the charter system has been disincentivized to include difficult and costly students. These schools are driven by market forces to reduce overhead (Berger, 2007; Simon, 2007). Understandably, charters were not anxious to hire special education staff who were not yet needed. However, a condition of their chartering agreement was the commitment to provide appropriate services to any child accepted and enrolled. Once again, the issue of IDEA knowledge was visible. When schools consider students
with special education needs financial liabilities, a moral as well as legal issue arises. An administrator from RSD commented, “For a small charter, two kids with significant disabilities could sink them financially. . . . It would be the perfect storm.”
Considering the academic and financial contingencies charter schools faced, it was understandable that they would be apprehensive to welcome students who were not achieving academically who might require costly support services. Of course, these contingencies are in direct conflict with the legal rights of students. Where does this leave charter schools? They seem to be caught on a precarious point of economic constraints and legal requirements. These complex issues needed to have been considered prior to the wholesale spread of charters in New Orleans.
p. 389
As of June 2007, individual charter schools in New Orleans secured from $10,000 to $250,000 in additional funding through private donations and foundation grants (Boston Consulting Group, 2007). In addition, the Bush administration offered $24 million for the charters (Berger, 2007). Some community members noted that many in New Orleans believed the push for chartering of schools was the privatization and resultant profit off of education (Adamo, 2007):
At the center of the charter school movement, many here believe, is the profit motive, especially for national vendors providing construction, food services, security guards, and insurance to individual charter schools, consortiums of charters, and to the RSD. In replacing the system they despised, the advocates of limited government have created fields of profit for the private sector, while frequently delivering shoddy services and unfit products. Now, instead of centralized bad judgment, we have diversified bad judgment, with occasionally common results. (p. 2)
The implications for students with disabilities in this community were significant. Risk factors of being African American and poor add to the challenges of having a disability (Lutzker & Bigelow, 2002; McLoyd, 1990; Peterson, Wall, & Raikes, 2004; Qi & Kaiser, 2004; Rush, 1999). Students with disabilities were not typically welcome in the higher performing charter schools (Boston Consulting Group, 2007). “Hundreds of kids with disabilities (who are often turned away from charter schools) are being placed in the under-resourced and overburdened state-run Recovery School District. It’s their only choice” (Quigley, 2007).

Wolf, N. L. (2011). A Case Study Comparison of Charter and Traditional Schools in New Orleans Recovery School District: Selection Criteria and Service Provision for Students With Disabilities. Remedial and Special Education 32(5), 382–392.

Adamo, R. (2007, June). Squeezing public education: History and ideology gang up in New Orleans. Dissent, 10.

Berger, J. (2007, October 17). A post-Katrina charter school in New Orleans gets a second chance. New York Times. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from

Boston Consulting Group. (2007). The state of public education
in New Orleans. Retrieved December 29, 2007 from http://
Education_New_Orleans_Jun2007.pdf. [This address no longer works. Use the address below:

Carr, S. (2008, January 5). Charter schools struggle to meet special education needs. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved April 3, 2007, from charter_schools_struggle_to_me.html.

Quigley, B. (2007). New Orleans’s children fighting for the right to learn. Truthout/Report Editorial. Retrieved August 15, 2007, from hppt://

Simon, D. (2007, December 6). BESE panel backs 8 new charters number in N.O. could rise to 49. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved February 21, 2008, from

Tuzzolo, E., & Hewitt, D. (2006). Rebuilding inequity: The re-emergence of the school-to-prison pipeline in New Orleans. High School Journal, 90(2), 59-68.

United Teachers of New Orleans, Louisiana Federation of Teachers, and American Federation of Teachers. (2007, October). Reading, writing and reality check: An early assessment of student achievement in post-Katrina New Orleans. Retrieved March 2, 2008, from


A few interesting points are here:
1. Paul Vallas’ name appears.
2. The Boston Consulting Group studied schools in New Orleans in 2007.
3. There are many striking similarities between Philadelphia and New Orleans, e.g. high poverty, large African American population, and major financial issues.

The issues in this article should raise alarm about how the growth of charter schools in Philadelphia affects special education students. This is particularly true in light of the William Penn Foundation’s additional funding of the BCG’s reorganization plan for the District.

Thoughts? Comments?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 29, 2012 5:47 am

Defining disruptive and anti-social behavior as a protected category of disability is a large part of why large urban district schools don't work.

So the logic follows that if a charter does not accomodate every spectrum of disability, it should be eliminated regardless of whether that charter benefits hundreds of others.

Or my favorite rationale, that charters somehow "cheat" by actually enforcing discipline and expelling students, as if the PSD does not choose to enforce its own (lack of) standards.

This ed establishment notion of equity is fundamentally wrong, twisted really- that if one person can not participate in something beneficial, then no one should have it. This reduces the sum total of benefits, and enforces a lowest common denominator sort of experience. Not to say someone with a disability is a lowest common denominator, but rather that what the disability "rights" mafia of bureaucrats and lawyers will allow students overall in the name of "equity" inherently reduces the number of options and quality of those options.

This focus on disability rights is just another way to justify maintaining an unaccountable, centrally controlled, status quo that has failed students for decades now.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 29, 2012 7:21 am

You are fundamentally missing the point.

Charters get to kick out whoever they want. For example, 5 tardies and you are gone policies at some schools. These students go back to their neighborhood schools, who must take them.

Say all the neighborhood schools had this policy. They do not get to simply wash their hands of children after taking their funding. Where should these kids go now? Alternative schools? You cannot expel students for minor problems.

The thing being protested is the fact that the home school district remains responsible for students even when they had to give that students' funding to a private corporation or non-profit, but the charter org can take the money, kick out the student, and never think twice. The public schools do not have the option of enforcing discipline the way that charters can, because the public schools are still responsible for educating those students. Unlike charters.

Also, teachers have a problem with being told their schools aren't good enough when they have more students, fewer resources, more behavior problems, more ESOL and exceptional students, and STILL DO AS WELL AS CHARTERS.

Submitted by Ari Merretazon (not verified) on May 30, 2012 3:10 am

I will do some research on the issue I see whether or not a grant making foundation can provide a pass thru of a donation from a private source or soures to another grant making foundation which then passes the grant thru, in whole or part, to a private contractor to enable the private contractor to complete a contract it has with a charitable tax-exempt organization, i.e., the SDP. Stating this issue based on the facts, circumstances, and relationship reported in the linked article need to be vetted and raises the question: Why this pass thru process when the contribution can be made directly to the SDP? This scenario in my mind is a process to circumvent the issue of private benefit or inurement, or both based on the relationship to H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, has with the SDP. Therefore the relationships of all the parties to this pass thru must be vetted to determine whether or not any RISKY BUSINESS is swirling through the linked board rooms. A publi investigation ould anser these questions...

Submitted by Amara (not verified) on May 30, 2012 9:30 am

Thanks for looking into that. As the proposal to fund Ackerman's buyout with private donors showed, those in charge don't always do the due diligence in these matters.

Submitted by (not verified) on November 22, 2013 6:18 am
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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 6, 2014 2:46 am

In addition, there seemed to be a lack of existing special education infrastructure. The lack of existing support required charters to hire additional staff if a child with significant needs enrolled.  ccsc online

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