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BCG documents show far-reaching proposal to overhaul District

By Benjamin Herold on Jun 7, 2012 04:34 PM

The Notebook/NewsWorks obtained the initial contract between the District and the Boston Consulting Group through a Right to Know request.

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook and WHYY/NewsWorks

In seeking a contract in Philadelphia, the Boston Consulting Group emphasized its previous work to transform education in New Orleans and streamline operations in other urban districts in a far-reaching proposal to design, roll out, and help manage a 21-week overhaul of the cash-strapped District.

“This project is a unique opportunity to help the School District of Philadelphia close its budget gap in the short- and long-term,” wrote BCG officials J. Puckett and Allison Bailey.

“We believe we are the best partner to help.”

The District agreed, hiring BCG days later to help stave off an impending financial meltdown and develop a plan to radically overhaul the delivery of public education in the city.

In recent weeks, however, a growing number of community and labor leaders, unhappy with the “transformation blueprint” and bleak budget that appear to be the primary outcomes of BCG’s work, have demanded to see the group’s analysis and recommendations.

In response to an open record request made under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law, the Notebook/NewsWorks obtained four documents relating to BCG’s work: 

  •  BCG’s response to the District’s Request for Proposals for consulting help;
  •  A full proposal detailing the work BCG planned to undertake in Philadelphia;
  • The  “Agreement of Services” between the District and BCG for an initial five weeks of work;
  • A fee schedule detailing payment arrangements.

Together, the documents provide an illuminating look into the blue-chip management consulting firm’s background in public education, insights into its approach, and details of the controversial work plan it has undertaken in Philadelphia.

'The consultant of choice'

BCG was “by far the best” of the five major consulting firms that responded to the District’s Request for Qualifications, said Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen.

The “breadth of their experience around the country and their involvement with the sort of system-wide analysis” Knudsen sought was key, he said. So was the group’s capacity to put boots on the ground quickly to help the District avoid running out of cash this spring.

“We couldn’t afford to wait,” he said.

According to BCG’s RFP response, the firm’s "Education Practice" has worked with more than 30 U.S. school districts in the last five years.

BCG has helped Dallas, Cleveland, and Chicago save millions of dollars annually through central office redesigns, according to its proposal.

Touting their firm’s capacity to manage complex changes, Puckett and Bailey, who are partners and managing directors of BCG, described it as “the consultant of choice to help clients chart a way forward at pivotal and critical inflection points.”

As a prominent case in point, they cite BCG’s work in New Orleans.

“When New Orleans’ public school system was decimated by Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Department of Education, state, and mayor asked BCG to help create a long-term transformation strategy for the District,” wrote Puckett and Bailey.

“Our work resulted in recommending a transformed school system that comprised a portfolio of public schools and charters.”

Knudsen said the District is not looking to New Orleans as a model, but saw BCG’s experience there “as an indication of the breadth of experience they have.”

For months, Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission and city education leaders have been vocal about their desire to move toward a “portfolio” model of school management, part of an overall strategy to expand high-quality educational options while reorganizing the District’s operations to avoid a recurring structural budget deficit.

On Feb. 16, the SRC approved a $1,447,941 contract with BCG to help design a plan for decentralizing the District and closing a projected $300 million budget gap for the 2012-13 school year. 

That “Phase I” of BCG’s work was paid for with external funding provided by the William Penn Foundation

The fee proposal submitted by BCG called for a team consisting of Puckett and Bailey, two project managers, six consultants, and a group of “expert advisors” including former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. They were to be paid $289,588 per week for five weeks.

As it turned out, five key BCG staffers have overseen the bulk of the firm’s work in Philadelphia, Knudsen said.

  • Puckett is the head of BCG’s Education Practice. According to a biography provided with the RFP response, his “recent experience with PK-12 education at BCG include creating a transformation plan and providing implementation support for the New Orleans Public School system, redesigning the State of Delaware’s education system [and] developing a transformation plan for the Dallas Independent School District,” among other engagements.  

  • Bailey co-leads the Education Practice. Her biography cites work done to help Hillsborough County, Fla., schools secure a $100 million grant from the Gates Foundation for a teacher effectiveness program and “supporting the successful Race to the Top application for North Carolina, which resulted in over $400M in funding.”

  • Reggie Gilyard also co-leads the Education Practice. His biography cites financial restructuring efforts in Cleveland, developing a “district-wide Performance Management System for the Los Angeles Unified School District,” and “leading transformation planning for post-Katrina New Orleans Public Schools.”

  • Tyce Henry, the lead project manager for the work in Philadelphia, is responsible the day-to-day management of a “joint district/BCG team.” 

  • Bob Tevelson is an expert adviser on procurement.

Knudsen spoke highly of the capacity the BCG team has brought to the District.

“Without their assistance, expertise, insight, and intellectual support, we would not have been able to do this work,” he said.

Work remains private

In its proposal, BCG recommended that its consulting team report to a newly formed “steering committee” consisting of Puckett, Bailey, Knudsen, SRC representatives, key District staff, and “potentially other stakeholders.”

Knudsen and undisclosed members of the SRC were joined by William Penn Foundation president Jeremy Nowak on the steering committee during BCG’s first five weeks of work, wrote District spokesman Fernando Gallard in an email.

Since then, Gallard wrote, “The work of the steering committee was transferred to the District’s Executive Cabinet.”

According to the firm's proposal, BCG was expected on March 29 of this year to deliver to the District “a plan, with business case and options, to reach future-state academic model and a balanced FY2013 budget.”

That was to include an assessment of the District’s “special education/ELL support model” and “charter school performance and financial impact,” as well as recommendations for change in both areas. 

It was also to include options for cost-saving measures in District operations and advice to “inform labor negotiations.”

Knudsen, however, said that it is difficult to separate out what BCG did independently from what was done in collaboration with District leadership.

“They didn’t go off in a corner and come back and suggest this is what we need to do,” he said.

“They delivered options to us that we conferred about. … It is a joint effort between the consultants and management as to what the end product is.”

In April, Knudsen and members of the SRC unveiled a “transformation blueprint” calling for the closure of 64 schools over five years, a dramatic expansion of charters, and largely replacing the District’s central office with autonomous, independently managed “achievement networks.”

BCG clearly played a role in developing that “blueprint,” but the presentation makes no mention of the consultants’ role.

Neither the District nor the SRC made public any documentation of BCG’s recommendations or work relating to the controversial $2.5 billion operating budget for 2012-13, adopted last week at a raucous SRC meeting.

The lack of public disclosure may be the result of a stipulation in BCG’s contract requiring the District to obtain prior BCG approval before sharing any of the consultants’ work products with anyone other than District staff and selected representatives from the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and the William Penn Foundation.

“That was a legal requirement on their part. It was negotiated,” Knudsen said.

In an attachment to BCG's proposal, the firm cites reasons for the restrictive intellectual property terms. They include the possibility that public disclosure “could constrain how we work with you, impeding the success of our work together” and that BCG hopes to “avoid the misunderstandings that may arise if our advice is shared with third parties, who may not appreciate the scope or other relevant details of a project.”

At the stormy SRC meeting on May 31, Chairman Pedro Ramos, responding to pointed questioning, said that the SRC had asked BCG to “synthesize and compile” their “analytical work” and present it “in a way that can be useful.”

That work to prepare documents for public release is now underway and will be done in about 30 days, wrote Gallard.

Continuing work

The SRC has not approved any contracts for work done after March 29 by BCG on behalf of the District. But the consultants have continued to a Phase II of their work, supported by private donors channeling money through the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The scope of work for BCG’s Phase II work was “agreed upon and signed by the William Penn Foundation,” wrote Gallard.

Knudsen said he could not recall the specific reasons that led to Phase II of BCG’s work proceeding independently of an SRC resolution authorizing a contract for that work.

But BCG’s original proposal makes clear that an engagement exceeding five weeks was always the preferred option.

In February, BCG proposed a “Scope of Services” encompassing “three interconnected work streams over a period of 21 weeks from mid-February until the end of July, with a decision point after 5 weeks.”

“We would recommend keeping a BCG team until at least the end of July,” stated BCG’s RFP response.

As originally proposed, Phase II of BCG’s work was to focus on developing an “implementation roadmap,” providing a more detailed design of new academic and operational models for the District, and offering “execution support for savings initiatives,” including negotiations with suppliers and labor unions.

Knudsen said he was not prepared to talk in detail about the Phase II work now underway.

“Phase I was … sufficiently detailed that we could draw conclusions about a future direction,” Knudsen said. “Phase II then starts to take that substantive design and give us even more information, background, and data.”

BCG’s continued involvement in the District and the unusual funding arrangements supporting the firm have drawn fire from many labor and community leaders.

“I think the current level of criticism is not warranted,” Knudsen said.

“This is a work in progress. As we get a little further down the road, I think it will become patently obvious exactly how extensive is the value of the services brought to the District and the City of Philadelphia by BCG.”

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Comments (84)

Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 7, 2012 7:32 pm

"Knudsen said he could not recall the specific reasons that led to “Phase II” of BCG’s work proceeding independently of an SRC resolution authorizing a contract for that work."

does anyone really believe a word that this clown says?
no confidence!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 7, 2012 7:42 pm

Nobody's left to lie to. They're not even trying to hide their corruption any longer. Anybody who can hit google, can get the info.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2012 6:03 pm

This comment is off the track but, I'm curious about a few things regarding the new paradigm for the SDP beginning September 2012. For one thing, principals have been clustered into twelve learning teams. One principal who is called team leader will facilitate each team, with about 25 schools. This idea has been pushed as a "great opportunity for autonomy."

If regions are closing where are current regional superintendents going? What will their job titles be next year? Who will be the rating officer for principals in learning teams? Will team leaders be more than paper chasers gathering documents to be forward to central office? How is this role different from regional superintendent except that team leaders are full time principals of schools? Is there additional support and compensation for team leaders?

Within the twelve learning teams, there will be smaller teams called affinity? The question here is if high performing schools choose to team up, what happens to school with poor performance? Do they form into smaller teams?

Why are principals buying into this " great opportunity for autonomy" without more specific details? Does anyone have any answers?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 8, 2012 6:01 pm

No it is not off track. It is the first discussion of something which may improve what we do for children in our schools. It is refreshing to read.

But my question is: What structures are being discussed for giving teachers actual authority in the decision-making process of our schools.

I want to see governance designs which raises the level of professionalism within our district. Do any of our leaders realize that teachers in Pennsylvania are legally "professional enployees?"

We need our schools to become true professional learning communities.

What is the plan for that?

(Or hasn't the Boston Consulting Group ever heard of professional learning communities? The concept has been around for years.)

Submitted by seo consulting (not verified) on September 25, 2012 11:05 pm

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Submitted by Philly Teacher (not verified) on June 7, 2012 7:45 pm

Even if BCG had given us a great plan--using "intellectual property" disclosure agreements to bypass state transparency laws is reprehensible.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 7, 2012 7:35 pm

Knudsen must be used to speaking to people with an 80 I.Q. The truth of all this is, this is a shell game designed to divert attention until the proverbial last minute when they will try to bull rush this privateering upon us. The question is, will we be ready to combat it?

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on June 7, 2012 9:14 pm

 Does anyone else read page 10 as, if you really want this to work, you'll have to pay us more money to finish the job? 

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on June 7, 2012 9:25 pm

Page 10 does seem like that. It seems like they wanted to get their foot in the door, and then maintain that they needed more time and money to complete the job.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 7, 2012 9:10 pm

Meanwhile, nearly 300 people are being laid off and Universal Co. gets a free ride...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2012 4:57 pm

More than that. They didn't announce the CASA layoffs that happened today.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 9, 2012 12:47 am

what Casa layoffs? Casa is always so secretive and quiet.. yet their ranks suffer just like the teachers do.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 9, 2012 6:00 am

When are the 440 lay off coming? What about Nunnery? Driver? Darden? L. Miller? Bratton? The lay offs announced to date are "from the bottom rung" - none of the big pay positions. Why?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 9, 2012 11:11 am

They've laid off APs again.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 9, 2012 4:41 pm

Wow... I hope this isn't true.. My aps are great and both of them, are very new..

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 9, 2012 4:28 pm

Does anyone know how many Assistant Principals are being cut? I assume this will include those hired in the last 2 years.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 9, 2012 6:03 pm

Our AP had a meeting about his own layoff. The notices were sent home in the mail like the PFT members'.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2012 12:34 am

wow.. so can these AP's at least go back into the teacher ranks? I hope so, it would suck for them to be put out with no job..

Submitted by Concerned Philadlephian (not verified) on June 10, 2012 4:53 am

As I understand it, AP's lose their teaching seniority because they are now part of CASA and obviously not a teacher. So, no, they would have to apply to be a teacher.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 10, 2012 9:44 am

We have a Pennsylvania School Code and there are Pennsylvania Supreme Court precedents which speak to "realignment demotions." Realignment demotions are those which are required by budgetary constraints and the realignment of personnel.

AP's have a property right under the tenure provisions of the School Code and related precedents to continued employment within the district as AP's, and if the budget necessitates cuts in AP's, they have a property right to continued employment as a teacher.

The tenure provisions of the Pennsylvania School Code are a Great thing and are very well thought out by our General Assembly over the years. Tenure provisions do not protect bad teachers or AP's. They protect the "due process" rights of "professional employees" from arbitrary action of school boards, and they protect professional employees from being subjected to "unfounded charges." Very few people in the district understand tenure rights and how they play out under the law.

The tenure provisions of the School Code vest personally in teachers, AP's and Principals and can not be waived or taken away from them by their unions or anyone in power. They are personal rights which we have which are separate from those gained through collective bargaining agreements.

Professional employees who are "aggrieved" by illegal action of a school board, the SRC, can elect the remedy of proceeding through arbitration or through the procedures set by the School Code. If the PFT or CASA does not take a case to arbitration for an employee, the employee still has the independent right to a hearing and remedies pursuant to the due process provisions of the School Code.

Of course, the SRC believes thay have the power to "suspend" provisions of the School Code, but "due process" is Constitutionally protected. So again, it is my position that the SRC will lose if they seek to press that issue through litigation.

Constitutional law is complex litigation, but the 14th Amendment of our US Constitution is easily understood. Even our basic level readers in high school can understand the concept that a person's property rights can not be taken from us without "due process of law."

This is still America is it not?

Submitted by Concerned Philadlephian (not verified) on June 10, 2012 10:48 am

Are you saying an AP can bump a teacher? Of course, this is assuming an AP would take a teaching job.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on June 10, 2012 10:56 am

AP's CANNOT bump a teacher. When they take an ADMINISTRATIVE position, they leave teaching, are no longer PFT members, and could only go back to teaching by getting back on the list (at the bottom) for their speciality.

Submitted by Concerned Philadlephian (not verified) on June 10, 2012 11:10 am

Therefore, if an AP has one certification other than administrator, there might not be open positions assuming they are put at the bottom of the list. That leaves site selection which closes on the 15th. I'm sure they will get opportunities for site selection since they can have their principal call another principal and get them in...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2012 12:27 pm

No. They can't. They can't just switch from one thing to another, just like we couldn't switch to noon-time aide when we got laid off last year. I've seen them try.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2012 4:59 pm

Another question comes to mind. If regional offices are closing where are region superintendents going to be next year if they do not retire or leave the district?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 11, 2012 7:22 am

I am not a techy but let me see if this works. Here is an internet address for Section 11-1125.1 of the Pennsylvania Public School Code. It is the statute which controls layoffs due to reductions in teaching staff.

Perhaps it will help us out in this discussion of bumping of teachers by AP's.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 11, 2012 8:17 am

To understand Section 11-1125.1 of the School Code, it may be helpful to read Section 11-1124 which is referred to in Section 11-1125.1. Those two sections of the School Code govern layoffs and bumping rights.

The bottom line is that there are "last in, first out" provisions in the School Code and the union contracts. The relevant provisions of the PFT & CASA collective bargaining agreements also apply because of Section (e) of 11-1125.1. The PFT won the seniority battle with the SRC last year on contractual grounds.

CASA and the PFT are joined at the hip in this one. Hopefully, the SRC will have enough collective wisdom to avoid turmoil.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 10, 2012 7:57 pm

Please do not get upset about the issue of AP's bumping teachers out of jobs. It is unlikely at this point that it will become a real issue as there will probably be enough retirees.

One of the most heartwarming things I saw at the SRC meeting where the community blasted the BCG privatization plan was PFT President Jerry Jordan, and CASA President, Robert McGrogan sitting side by side. (I even have a picture to prove it.)They also made passionate speeches to the SRC with similar themes.

CASA and PFT have always worked together to resolve such issues. What everyone should understand is that it is time for PFT and CASA to stand together.

The PFT and CASA must not be adversaries now because our whole profession is under attack. I know there are some bitter relationships throughout the district, but it is time for everyone to put aside their differences and join together. CASA and PFT need each other now.

Teachers, principals and AP'S have rights under both their labor agreements and the Public School Code. Tenure is a series of legal provisions written into the Public School Code. Tenure rights do not emanate from the labor agreements. They are rights provided by Statute -- The Public School Code.

Public education itself is under attack and unity among our community is primary.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2012 8:51 pm

While harmony might sound nice, the reality is CASA represents the bosses. I can't imagine an AP, who has had the power to rate teachers, returning to teaching and being rated. There is also a lot of questionable appointments of APs and principals in the SDP. Too many are incompetent and are more model bullies than leaders. In my 20+ years in the SDP, I've had one AP who I thought knew something about teaching and could write a succinct report. I've had a number of principals who know local politics and are connected through various sororities / fraternities / ethnic organizations (Italian, Irish, Jewish, etc.) but in any other district would be dismissed. So, the kum ba ya won't go too far at the school level.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 10, 2012 9:24 pm


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 11, 2012 12:52 pm

Why doesn’t the SRC trust its teachers?
The SRC’s approach to school reform is to make turning schools around someone else’s job. That’s what its decision to give Creighton Elementary to Universal shows.

The School Reform Commission’s decision to convert Creighton Elementary School into a Universal Cos. charter school, instead of supporting a group of dedicated teachers and engaged parents to turn the school around, speaks volumes about how the SRC feels about teachers, as well as its philosophy of public school education.

The SRC’s decision says to me that the commissioners don’t trust their own teachers and staff; don’t believe in local control of neighborhood public schools; don’t want engaged parents; and has no interest in turning public schools around themselves.

It seems they’re too busy building a “portfolio” of schools to worry about educating children or turning struggling schools around.

When the district announced it planned to convert four more neighborhood schools into charters, Creighton Elementary School teachers and parents decided to fight for the opportunity to improve their own school and maintain local control.

Led by Delores Brown-Waters, a dynamic and outspoken president of Creighton’s Home and School Association, and National Board Certified Teacher Regina Feighan Drach, the staff swung into action, quickly researched teacher-led turnarounds and put together a detailed proposal for the SRC in a matter of days. Parents and staff sought and gained the support of State Representative Mark Cohen, who spoke at an SRC meeting in favor of keeping Creighton a district-controlled turnaround school, and State Senator Shirley Kitchen, who helped Home and School leaders to mobilize parents to save their school.

The teachers’ proposal used a “distributed-leadership” model, developed at Harvard University’s School of Education, in which leadership is shared by teachers and parents who, together, can attend comprehensively to the various aspects of school management, student achievement and school climate. The approach would play to team members’ strengths, was research-based, thoughtful and innovative.

The teachers had the full backing of this union, which has a long history of supporting distributed leadership and teacher empowerment. The PFT has been at the forefront of supporting teachers with innovative, PFT-led programs, including ER&D, union-led professional development and induction courses, Peer Assistance and Review and the Peer Intervention Program. The PFT also stood ready to help Creighton teachers and parents to create a “community school,” which takes a comprehensive approach to meeting students’ academic, social, health and enrichment needs by engaging families and community partners to make the school the hub of neighborhood activity and services.

It appeared, for a moment, that the SRC might respond positively.

When SRC members voted to give Crieghton Elementary to Universal, they made it clear to everyone that they would rather dabble in education experiments and fads than put their faith in the parents, teachers and staff who have devoted their lives to students, schools and communities.

And that’s a shame, because it will be the same parents, teachers and staff who’ll be called upon to pick up the pieces and rebuild their neighborhood school after the latest experiment in school reform fails Philadelphia’s children.

Jerry Jordan, PFT President

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 7, 2012 9:40 pm

So, why does Knudsen have a job ($25,000/month) if BCG is doing the work? Why is there a Phase II when there has been no public commentary/debate on Phase I?

Submitted by LS Teach (not verified) on June 8, 2012 8:26 am

I agree with your point about Knudsen. I thought he was hired to get the SDP's finances under control. But, instead he goes out and gets a company to come in and do his job? Looks like he will be the fall guy and take all the criticism from the public....and I am sure he is fine with that. He's not sticking around too long and he is making a a few bucks in the process.

Submitted by Mike C. (not verified) on June 7, 2012 9:21 pm

Here's the worst part of the response for the Request for Proposal. Nowhere on the first page does it mention education, students, or achievement. BCG is looking at this school district as a business. No more, no less. Their goal is to just make the money aspect work. I thought education was about closing the achievement gap and helping our students make something of their lives. Two words that stood out in this letter are "cost savings." That's what it's all about now. Cost Savings. Where are the "cost savings" when Universal gets a $1.8 million free ride this year? Where are the "cost savings" when BCG gets $1.5 million to offer a way to fix the finance problems? If they cared so much about public education and helping the school district couldn't they do the job pro-bono? Where are the "cost savings" when Knudsen gets $150,000 to do whatever it is he does?

At some point, the constant conflicts of interest have to stop. Lenfast, Gamble, and so on. When will there be some logic thrown into the mix and people that can make a difference realize that all of these decisions are being made to benefit the people making the decisions?

Submitted by Ken Derstine on June 8, 2012 6:35 am

What is just as outrageous is the "team" (see the link on that word in the article) that is assaulting our community. They are ALL business consultants. Not one has anything remotely having anything to do with education, child development, or pedagogy. All they know is spreadsheets and flow charts. To them the students are commodities and the parents are customers.

Just as BCG has spent the last 25 years getting very rich while downsizing companies and destroying working class communities, they are now taking their methods to the public sector. Arne Duncan said that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans because it gave them a destroyed school system to work out their privatizing schemes and now they are taking what they learned national.

Note that included in the “expert advisers” is former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. She served on the Board of the Broad Foundation, a leading promoter of privatization, at the same time as Arlene Ackerman who was on their Board while she was Superintendent of Schools in Philadelphia. (

Paul Vallas, after having destoyed New Oleans public schools, has started his own “turnover” company because he wants to join the feeding frenzy.

Nutter is right at home with them. Many of these “consultants” come from Wharton just like he does. They are aspiring CEO’s just like him!

It is obvious that the siege of the Philadelphia public schools has been in the works for ten years ever since the SRC was established. Now I know what towns of the Middle Ages that were under siege by a foreign invader, who starved them into submission, felt like!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2012 6:16 am

So what are we prepared to do to combat it? Are the Churches the only force to man up? Jerry Jordan ??

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2012 8:06 am

Feather Houston pushed for Knudson - she was head of the William Penn Foundation and is a Corbett appointee. Ramos, also a Corbett appointee, is a Knudson supporter. Knudson was brought in to "trash and burn" public schools in Philadelphia. The SRC "team" also has no education experience. The exception, to any degree, is Carey but she has mostly been silent or "on the love train."

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 8, 2012 10:23 am

I agree with you that they're looking strictly in business terms. To their credit, the SRC has said that the proposal is only a recommendation. Admittedly cost analysis has been lacking in the previous administrations; but this seems to be an extreme answer, with a huge price tag. It appears that the W.Penn foundation has fallen under the same illusion that the former SRC did in creating Ms. Ackerman's pay package. Already the BCG's proposal lacks connection to good judgement: Charter enrollment projection is based on previous/historical trends, yet every good investment advisor will tell you that historical trends are not good predictors of future activity. There is no understanding of the factors that have led to this historical trend, and what factors need to be in place to maintain charters (they require a minimum enrollment and often steady grant funding, which then makes their large scale existence as individual entities unpredictable). Curiously there is no mention of the overall roi(return on investment)/achievement gain that charters provide per $ spent as compared to a neighborhood school that consistently makes AYP. There is no consideration of the currently working pooled resources, such as the instrumental music program and nurses (though both are unsatisfactorily decimated at this time) that will struggle to exist or cost much more in charters or smaller "achievement networks". Where is the observation that key to better classroom achievement is managing the behavior/discipline issues... a key that leads to several thousand $ less per child required, in their proposal?

So I agree with you: Without understanding education and key factors, the cost savings are nonexistent, and the suggestions irrelevant and wasteful in the end. (I am surprised they didn't suggest outsourcing 440:)

Management expertise is worth $$ in the corporate world; how much of that translates to the world of public education will have to be shown to all of us.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2012 10:05 am

Ms.Cheng wrote
"... and what factors need to be in place to maintain charters (they require a minimum enrollment and often steady grant funding, which then makes their large scale existence as individual entities unpredictable)."

I'm not sure either of those things is a problem at all. Aren't the schools being taken over by the "for-profit companies" - Mastery, Universal, et al, considered charters? They do not have a problem with funding. The state is not looking for unfunded charter organizations to take over schools.

If your neighborhood school becomes a charter and your child is not a behavior problem, then they will attend that school. Few parents bus their child to a school further away when they have one within walking distance.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 12, 2012 2:43 pm

Yes, that's true for schools which the District gives to charter operators. In which case the District has the decision whether to increase their enrollment or not. It does not happen independently/on its own. What BCG is using are the stats of charter enrollment for the recent past, which includes the time frame in which they were created. They use these stats as a reliable predictor (neglecting the role the District itself has); however going forward, this trend will not necessarily hold. Right now the parents/caregivers who are actively enrolling their children in charters are those who feel their neighborhood schools are either not safe or present inadequate academic challenges. What they don't see right away is that often charters can't offer what can be offered in the traditional public school; it's a tradeoff. What BCG's proposal does not take into account is that if the District can become more proactive and effective in addressing the challenges of poverty and neglect, i.e. the behavior in the classroom, the trend to charters can be reversed.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 12, 2012 8:45 pm

School Restructuring, Private Management, and Student Achievement in Philadelphia (See:

The authors of the report concluded that:
"On average, schools managed by private providers were doing neither better nor worse at raising student achievement than were schools in the rest of the district, in math and reading, in each of the first four years of private management. Contrary to expectations that results might improve over time as schools gain experience with providers, there is no evidence suggesting that results for private providers have improved relative to the rest of the district over the four years of the intervention" (pp. 39-40).


I don't understand the powers that be of this District other than that they are all about money. A well-functioning school district requires many qualified people in various capacities. It starts with a focus on teaching and learning as the core function of the District. This means that there needs to be excellent evaluation systems in place to ensure that teachers, principals, and other faculty are performing well. There should be someone in every school whose primary job is to coach and evaluate teachers. This person would be doing:
- Weekly informal observations,
- Monthly formal observations,
- Looking at a teacher's grading procedures to ensure he or she is grading fairly and providing enough feedback
- Looking at curriculum-based and formative assessments that teachers administer to students,
- Holding weekly or monthly conferences with teachers to discuss how teachers can improve,
- Coordinating peer evaluation systems, and
- Looking over every teacher's lesson plans every week, among other duties.

The District should have administrators who are responsible for evaluating principals and administrators at every school. Duties should include the following:
- Visiting each school in his or her area at least monthly,
- During every visit, checking the school climate: Is there a positive behavior support system in place? What measures are in place to address violence and other disruptive incidents?
- Interview a couple of students during each visit,
- Interview a couple of teachers during each visit,
- Evaluate the principal and administrators on core functions of teaching an learning. Are they evaluating teachers and staff? Are they maintaining a school climate conducive to learning? Are they looking over lesson plans weekly? Are staff such as janitors doing their jobs? Is there toilet paper in the bathrooms? Are school personnel managing or taking care of maintenance or facilities issues?
- Ask if the principal can use support in any areas, such as related to students who are chronically truant or late, maintenance issues, school supplies, personnel issues, etc.

There should be special education administrators who visit each school monthly and look at the following issues:
- Do IEPs meet legal requirements?
- Are teachers implementing IEPs and evaluating progress toward goals?
- Speak with students and ask them how they feel about their education,
- Speak with teachers and ask them how they feel about their work environment and student learning.

In order to be focused on education, the people at the top need to have a BACKGROUND IN EDUCATION!!! Every principal needs to have teaching experience and everyone above principal needs to also have teaching experience. If a superintendent also has an MBA in addition to education degrees, then great. But education experience is a must.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2012 7:42 am

Was it part of their plan to secretly lobby state republicans for an amendment to Act 46? Or did the SRC come up with that gem on their own.

The SRC's era is over. We need an elected school board.

The SRC is dead. Long live the school board! The SRC is dead. Long live the school board!

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on June 8, 2012 8:40 am

I totally agree--ALL thinking people should see this move clearly, if not before, certainly now. They're sneaking around behind the backs of people in Philly, trying to get their privateering agenda supported in Harrisburg. THEY ALL NEED TO RESIGN OR BE FIRED. IF THEY DON'T/AREN'T, THEN AT THE NEXT MEETING, EVERYBODY SHOULD BE SCREAMING AT THEM SO THEY HAVE NO AUDIENCE. IT'S WAY, WAY, WAY, WAY BEYOND TIME TO FIGHT THIS WHOLE MESS, STARTING WITH THE SRC. Your analogy about the Middle Ages strategy of starving out towns is right on the money. They starve us then blame us for starving. AND STILL, CHARTERS SUCK COMPARED WITH US. AMAZING !!

Submitted by Phantom Poster (not verified) on June 9, 2012 11:42 pm

Sounds like a Sunshine violation to me...

Submitted by Christa Parlacoski (not verified) on June 8, 2012 9:58 am

OK Jerry what's your move?? Rallies, protests, informal pickets, etc ARE NOT WORKING....Drastic Times Call For Drastic Measures

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2012 1:53 pm

A commenter above just said "Drastic times call for drastic measures."

That. is. the. point.

There is no money. The current "system" is beyond "reform." In fact, various "reform" movements have been in this city for the past three or four decaides. Now, we are far beyond "finding inefficiencies" and in need of an overhaul.

Open your eyes. See beyond yourself, your interests, and your own time. Help forge the agreement, don't just fight it because one of the current players in the game, with entrenched interests of his/her own, tells you to.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2012 2:45 pm

One of the dumbest posts ever. Sounds like Pedro.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2012 2:07 pm

Yeah, and let me guess--screw the teachers again??? Seriously, if Ackerman never put the District into a $629 million dollar hole we wouldn't be talking. Administration is to blame--take it out of their pockets. Besides, we have a contractual agreement until August 2013. A contract is a contract.

Submitted by B.E. Victim (not verified) on June 12, 2012 11:17 am

A contract is a contract...unless the SRC is successful at Lobbying for the dissolving of said contract by Act 46. Which is what Pedro Ramos and his Thugs attempted to do the week prior.

Drastic times calls for Drastic Measures and going to Harrisburg to Dissolve a written agreement (a Facility Contract) with the intentions to set salaries and benefits for individuals who are at the very bottom of the pay scale is pitiful!

Facilities did not cause this financial dilema. 53 percent of the Facilities workforce will be laidoff before September 9th!

CASA members are the union that oversees BJ32 workforce. Our Facilities Area Controllers are under the CASA umbrella. Principals and other administration staff are under PFT.

My statement...if the SRC is successful in dissolving BJ32 Union 1201 contract and setting our member salaries and benefits (for the remaining 47 percent) and effectively layoff the remaining 47% on December 31, 2012, then what happens to the PFT's and their contract? Is any union safe in the school district is our contract is dissolved. 32BJ Union 1201 is vital to the operation of the school district of Philadelphia (Bus drivers, Maintenance Mechanics, Building Engineers, Cleaners, bus attendants)...who opens the buildings, who drives the kids, who cleans the mess...BCG and who else more?

I still yearn to have the Ackerman Scenario happen to me, mess up my job horribly and get paid close to a million dollars to leave (NOT FIRE ME...allow me to resign!)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2012 4:58 pm

There is plenty of money if we spent all the money on schools and only schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 9, 2012 11:04 am

The PFT is BEGGING to be apart of the change. How about consulting US, rather than spending millions on a Consulting firm from Boston, a Businessman CEO from PGW, and non educator Business for Profit groups like Universal, Foundations and EDISON Inc.?

The teachers in this district are NOT, repeat NOT, against change. WE are the ones in the schools and classrooms each and every day (not the "Business for Profit" Charter groups or out of state consulting groups or State Legislators). We, and the kids Parents, know better than anyone what needs to be changed and what needs to be done, however, no talks are held with us, they just dictate TO the teachers and parents and then BLAME the PFT and the teachers as being obstructionist.

Submitted by Hope Moffett (not verified) on June 9, 2012 11:58 am

Universal and Foundations are non-profits not for-profit. Still, as we have seen, some non-profit organizations act as if they have a profit motive.

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on June 9, 2012 12:00 pm

And they pay their leadership for profit salaries and benefits

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 9, 2012 2:53 pm

Non-profits always manage to make a profit for those in charge of running them. They buy from themselves. Look at Chester Community Charter which profited Vahan, the owner, $60 million in a ten year span. There needs to be a law that forces charters to put all purchases up for public bidding. The problem is that charters are usually situated where the owners already have real estate that they own and are willing to sell at a inflated price to their "non-profits".

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2012 1:36 pm

Let's remember that "non-profit" doesn't mean "NO profit." :)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2012 10:03 am

Bleat---this must be you again. Nobody else is this clueless either on merit or by design.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2012 10:39 am

Silly !!!! Is you, Pedro ???? This is ALL a manufactured emergency, orchestrated by Corbett and other Tea party Nuts.

Submitted by CuriousPhilly (not verified) on June 8, 2012 2:51 pm

It seems the SRC/BCG is moving ahead with Phase II, while the community is still protesting Phase I - the transformation plan. I agree with everyone who says Philadelphia needs an elected school board. So what has to be done to make it happen? Is it the Home Rule Charter, state law or both that have to be changed?

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on June 8, 2012 2:53 pm

This is getting Faustian now. This is getting beyond unethical and reaching the criminal. I read those documents. What a farce the whole thing is.

Knudsen has just lost the remainder of his credibility. The powers to be and those pushing this stuff through have lost all of their credibility.

The BCG needs to go home where they belong and we need Mark Gleason to go back to North Jersey where he came from.

We do not trust you and we do not want you. You are circumventing the law of public schools with what you are doing. There needs to be a joining of forces and a class action suit to send these frauds packing. I have seen enough.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2012 3:44 pm

As broken as the school district is, it needs to be completely dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2012 4:03 pm

Maybe, maybe not but you don't rebuild the School District by decimating the teacher unions and giving the schools to scumbags like Kenny Gamble etc. Privatization is NOT about reform, it's all about making the rich, richer off the backs of the poor. What else is new?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2012 5:45 pm

Competition works.

Submitted by Hope Moffett (not verified) on June 9, 2012 11:24 am

Then the onus is on you to prove that competition and choice are actually a part of this reform effort. When parents have no vote and politically connected providers get exclusive contracts, what you are looking at is neither competition nor choice.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 9, 2012 12:54 pm

Hope--Of course, you are right. Ignore trolls. In any case, until we stop it, it won't stop. How best to proceed is the question. Jordan has been of little help overall and Obama has been a joke.

Submitted by bekim (not verified) on June 8, 2012 5:31 pm

Please support us...

Submitted by Ms. Chips (not verified) on June 8, 2012 7:15 pm

It may be useful to read the book The Boston Consulting Group on Strategy: Classic Concepts and New Perspectives, Carl W. Stern (Editor) Published by Wiley

Some quotes (make relevant substitutions, like Student for Product):

"The majority of products in most companies are cash traps . . . .[They] are not only worthless, but a perpetual drain on corporate resources."

"Use more debt than your competition or get out of the business."

"As a strategic weapon, time is the equivalent of money, productivity,quality, even innovation."

"When brands become business systems, brand management becomes far too important to leave to the marketing department."

"Most of our organizations today derive from a model whose original purpose was to control creativity."

"Rather than being an obstacle, uncertainty is the very engine of transformation in a business, a continuous source of new opportunities."

Submitted by Mrs. G (not verified) on June 10, 2012 8:08 pm

Maybe if the people in charge would stop paying people to change things and do their job we wouldn't be broke.

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on June 11, 2012 8:40 am

The crooks have us all surrounded. The latest joke is that slumlords owe the city almost half a BILLION Dollars. The Mayor and his minions have NO INTEREST in going after that money because the slumlords are almost all political friends of Nutter and others of his ilk. That money ain't EVER coming back and it's all by design.

Submitted by Marc Brasof (not verified) on June 11, 2012 8:08 am

Everyone should read about Chicago's decentralization movement in the 80s (Byrk, et al., 2011). The Chicago Public School system actually, in some ways, improved under this model. However, the CPS actually gave schools autonomy. For example, each school had its own advisory council in charger of hiring and firing administrators that were given 4-year performance contracts. When decentralizing, funds were redirected to schools ($500,000) as discretionary funding. 1/3 of the worst performing schools improved. Principal leadership and community resources made the difference.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2012 9:45 am

the plan is to destroy any threat the to district political and financial power brokers. unions and charter schools are both threats. turning the district over to mastery and universal destroys regular charter schools and crushes the union. bcd is paid for by the william penn foundation. william penn is run by jeremy nowak who was president of mastery. it's all connected. renaissance schools are taking over and being supported by the src and politicians.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on June 12, 2012 10:50 am

Yes, you are one of the first commenters to point out that the plan being put forth by the Boston Control Group (point of humor) not only destroys regular public schools, but destroys real charter schools.

The SRC is not turning schools into true charter schools. They are only turning schools over to "charter operators" which is disguised privatization.

May I just point out: Does anyone actually think that the real charter schools are going to allow themselves to be governed by the Boston Consulting Group?

The true charter schools are independent LEA's and they have every legal right to tell the BCG to stick their self serving malarky where it belongs. It is illegal to put BCG in a governance capacity over the charter schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2012 11:34 am

Please define regular charter schools and name some of them in Phila. I am unaware that any exist but I may be wrong. Gamble's gang and Mastery are just making money off the back of the kids they service. What makes Gamble even more egregious is that he plays the race card at the same time he's killing his own kind. Ask ANYBODY in Point Breeze about him and you'll be shocked. The guy at Mastery is losing his connections slowly and there soon will be lawsuits coming at him from disgruntled workers and ex workers. Bottom Line is the SRC is not our friend and needs to go. They're working against the kids and all workers not making the minimum wage. They mean us no good.

Submitted by Ken Derstine on June 12, 2012 1:33 pm

The SRC needs to be abolished completely. It is a colonial administration put here by the state ten years ago to open up the PSD up for privitization. They claim the takeover ten years ago was because the School District was being mismanaged. Isn't obvious the purpose of the SRC is open up Philadelphia public schools to private companies.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2012 2:27 pm


Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 12, 2012 1:30 pm

One "regular" charter is the Belmont Charter School at 41st & Brown Streets. I spent over 30 hours at that school doing field work. I also had numerous conversations with a couple of teachers and a staff person at the school. Belmont CS serves children in the neighborhood catchment and they do not turn away students. They take the neighborhood kids. And if a child has special needs and the school does not have the ability to serve him or her, the protocol is to apply for the child to go to an approved private school, not to dump them back into the District. This comment is to state how things are at Belmont CS, not to endorse it or non endorse it.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 12, 2012 2:03 pm

I had a somewhat uncomfortable encounter with a gentleman who sits on the school board which contracts out Special Ed services to Chester Upland. I did not have time to ask for details (I met him while my son was auditioning for an ensemble), but I did not like the terminology he used to describe the financial aspects: ..."every year the (Chester Upland) district stiffs us (for these services), so we garnish the money which they get from the State..."

For goodness sake, if someone can't afford the price tag, they aren't "stiffing" you; they just can't pay. Something is very wrong here. When you put a student in an approved private school, who is paying the bill, and do they have any say in what the bill can be? Honestly, I have to get some distance between me and this issue...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2012 3:41 pm

Yes and no. The problem is we can't believe the things we hear and yet, we hear them. We also can't believe the things we see yet we see them. It's a scary situation and we all need to be scared...............into action to stop it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2012 2:46 pm

Take a stand !! Actually, I am more than shocked the district approves APS for the kids.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 13, 2012 8:47 pm

It's not that shocking to me because I've been in a couple of approved private schools for practicum experiences. These schools often serve children with the most severe disabilities. Examples are the Overbrook School for the Blind (Malvern Ave), the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, and HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy (44th St & Baltimore Ave). Some children are medically fragile, and may need a one on one nurse. Some may need to be segregated from the general population of students in order to protect them from illness.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 13, 2012 8:04 pm

I was referring to Wordsworth and Greentree to name 2 serving kids with severe behavior problems.

Submitted by Education Grad Student (not verified) on June 12, 2012 12:53 pm

It's funny that Boston Consulting Group is proposing these achievement networks because BCG doesn't even state education as being one of its areas of expertise (See They have public sector on there, but the public sector is very diverse. BCG describes itself as "a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy" (See
There's nothing wrong with applying business principles to make the public sector more efficient and cost-effective. What is problematic is allowing the private sector to run public education as though public education is a business. Public education is NOT a business! When private operators or public entities run public education as a business or in accordance with markets (such as the SRC and SDP seem very happy to do), these market incentives can butt heads with legal obligations. I made a comment about this relating to the situation of students with disabilities in New Orleans, based on a case study which I read. I included excerpts from this case study article. (My comment is here, comment date 5/27/2012:
Here's a relevant excerpt (verbatim) from the case study as well as the case study's citation:

"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. 388).

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. (Nikki L. Wolf, the author, is a professor at the University of Kansas.)

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 12, 2012 4:32 pm

Many other commenters agree with you. Recalling again the situation with Chester Upland, I believe it was the charter reimbursements for Special Ed services that bankrupted them. This is a good point to remind the SRC on: that again, charters don't have the collective resources to provide these necessary (and legally mandated) services efficiently (most services at best cost), or even at all, and it will be far more costly to provide these through individual charters or even networks; i.e. = negative cost savings.

Curiously, I wonder of the parallel and actual success of "achievement networks" in the office/corporate world? Does BCG have the supporting stats? Superficially it looks that they are just putting middle management on volunteer status (and drive) and adopting the SRC 's current pet/fashionable terminology.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 12, 2012 11:50 pm

BCG is like Romney's Bain Capitol.

Look- we are late in organizing and short on time. Every school with any semblance of a Home and School Association needs to create - with their principal and teachers a good, "covers the bases" & serves our kids school level budget. Itemize every staffer, professional and non-professional support folks. Blast that number all over the airways and BLAST the difference between what we NEED and WHAT we are getting. Do NOT wait for someone to tell you its ok for you to make the "plan". YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT WORKS!! Now write it down, place a price tag on it and SUBMIT < SPEAK< LOBBY And DO NOT STOP.

OCCUPY if you need to. Make a list of every single elected leader that represents the ground your school is on and go to them with the two budgets side by side and demand that they get on the stick to find the difference. Account for poverty, ESL & special needs as the funding formula did. DO NOT CHECK OUT THIS SUMMER & work together - grow the positive momentum. Move beyond freaking out and into an action plan to get what our kids need. Reach to churches, civic associations, ward leaders, & Council. Education is a constituent service - the #1 service to communities.

Parents, teachers, principals WE ALREADY KNOW what WE need. IF all 50- 70 Home and Schools do this, we have an airtight justification from the people on the ground. If there are schools that cannot advocate for themselves, it may very well be too late to stop the corporate vultures from "edu-reforming" them. We lose the MACRO argument too easily b/c of unrelenting bad district PR. Ffight on the micro level en masse to create a chorus of what the REAL EDUCATORS, STUDENTS & FAMILIES are FOR.

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on June 13, 2012 8:43 am

One dilemma with anonymous comments is it the inability to continue these interesting conversations offline. If you care to reveal yourself to me (confidentiality will be maintained)then email me at If you choose not to respond I will respect your decision.

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