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Monday, February 15, 2010

Portrait of Eli Broad

The NY Times had an article about Eli Broad, founder of the Broad Foundation(s) which has wings for education, arts, science and civic life. The article was in the Arts section but did manage to mention his educational forays and give insights into how he gives out money.

From the article:

A billionaire philanthropist whose beneficence comes with not just strings but with ropes that could moor an ocean liner, he is known to pull his support, resign from a board or, in some cases, decline to fulfill his financial promises when a project comes together in a way he does not like.

This explains the wording for the Broad residents (the district has two people who are coming to the end of their two-year residency with SPS - if they get hired, then I know the fix is in. We can't afford to keep these people on but the Broad website makes it fairly clear that the expectation is they will be hired at the end of the residency.)

An interesting take on his influence:

His remarkable influence — even his critics suggest the results of his patronage have been overwhelmingly good for the city — says much about Los Angeles and its still-adolescent philanthropic culture, diffuse power base and lack of civic investment among many of its richest residents.

Mr. Broad and Bill Gates, in 2008, financed a political campaign called Strong American Schools, to focus campaign attention on education. They promised $60M to the campaign. Mr. Broad likes results and he let the communications director for the campaign know that one way to judge the success of its impact is the number of column inches in newspaper about it.

In the end, Mr. Broad said, the campaign did not have the impact on voters that he’d hoped, so he reduced his pledge to about a third of the original promise.

“If we’re not getting results,” Mr. Broad said during an interview in his offices in the Westwood district, surrounded by modern art on the walls and framed by the spread of Los Angeles behind him, “why should we spend all that money?”

Mr. Kolton said the campaign staff saw an ever-moving goal post.

“Just because we couldn’t make education the main campaign issue when we were fighting two wars and the country was slipping into a depression, it was held against us,” he said.

Meaning, if you don't do what I want or I don't like your effort or outcome, I'll pull the money.

The last paragraph is telling for the future:

“Eli does nothing without strings, but I happen to think you need strings,” said Jane Nathanson, a longtime trustee of the Museum of Contemporary Art. “I think there is a new type of philanthropist now. With old-family wealth, people gave money because it was the chic thing to do. New wealth is earned, and if you can get it, there is going to be a great deal of control.”

I absolutely understand wanting some control and benchmarks/matrix for results. It's your money as a philanthropist. Mr. Board seems a bit of control freak with a streak of stubborness.

But what is key to me looking down the road are two things. One, Ms. Nathanson is right. This is a new breed of philanthropist. These people are not from inherited wealth but earned wealth. It is not so much doing good for good's sake.

Two, it's putting a stamp on this country in terms of outcomes AND direction. I sense impatience on the part of these two and, in something of a vaccum, they are seizing the opportunity to push what they believe is the "right" way to go in education. (By vaccum, I don't mean there aren't plenty of education foundations/initiatives but that Broad/Gates are on a huge scale with a lot of visibility.) I think they want to see results and change (read: reform) and while I can applaud the deep caring I believe they bring to their efforts, I am also wary of two people who are neither elected nor appointed to make this kind of wholesale change to the face of education in our country.

Money is a great motivator especially for a government/state/district strapped for cash. But dangling money cannot trump scrutiny and careful assessment of what the money has to be used for in our schools and for the overall educational system.

17 comments:

wseadawg said...

Drug dealers hook users by giving away lots of freebies up front. After the hook is set, they'll threaten your life if you don't give them what they want, as you become ever more dependent on their toxins and can't live without them. This leads to degradation, humiliation, criminal behavior and usually prostitution by the victim to support the habit and pay the dealer, who now not only profits from the dope, but from new pimping opportunities created from the addictions to the dope.

Hmmm. But when a rich white guy in a tie employs similar methods, we thank him and call him a "venture philanthropist." So perhaps our jails are full of "venture philanthropists" then.

wseadawg said...

Noted education historian Lawrence Cremin:

"American economic competitiveness with Japan and other nations is to a considerable degree a function of monetary, trade and industrial policy, and of decisions made by the President and Congress, the Federal Reserve Board. ...Therefore, to conclude that problems of international competitiveness can be solved by education reforms, especially educational reform defined as school reform, is not merely utopian and millennialist, it is at best a foolish and at worst a crass effort to direction attention away from those truly responsible for doing something about competitiveness and to lay the blame instead on the schools. It is a device that has been used repeatedly in the history of American education."

So, why not just blame WWI & WWII on bad teachers?

From simple minds come simple answers.

Anonymous said...

The Broad (which rhymes with "toad") Foundation claims to be a philanthropic organization, created by billionaire Eli Broad.

The Broad Foundation supports privately run charter schools and actively develops a system of charter schools in urban areas.

Broad claims it engages in "venture philanthropy":
"Our Approach to Investing: Venture Philanthropy. We take an untraditional approach to giving. We don't simply write checks to charities. Instead we practice 'venture philanthropy.' And we expect a return on our investment."

Many of us have discovered the Broad Foundation's presence within SPS and have requested an explanation for why it is here and what its' objectives are. We never got an answer.

Our superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is a graduate of their superintendent's academy and has been on their Board of Directors since at least 2008.

Seattle has three "Broad Residents", and two Broad graduates now working within SPS. One of them is our superintendent who is a graduate of the Broad Academy which trains superintendents, and is also on the Broad's Board of Directors.

Another Broad graduate and a onetime Broad resident in SPS, Brad Bernatek, is now Director of REA, Research, Evaluation and Assessment within SPS. That department is responsible for student statistics including enrollment, demographics, evaluation and standardized testing.

The Broad Foundation provided Dr. Payzant, also a Broad graduate, to be a part of our superintendent’s yearly review in 2009. How convenient.

Broad gave SPS a $1M "gift." That money is now in the hands of the Alliance for Education and no one knows how the money is being spent.

All in all the Broad Foundation has been quite generous to the Seattle Public School system and as Eli Broad states himself, he expects a return on his investment.

For additional articles about Mr. Broad, see:

Eli Broad describes close ties to Klein, Weingarten, Duncan
http://gothamschools.org/2009/03/11/eli-broad-describes-close-ties-to-klein-weingarten-duncan/

Bully in Search of a Pulpit
http://www.slate.com/id/2153362/

And, you're gonna love this one:

Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy Class of 2009
http://susanohanian.org/show_atrocities.php?id=9151

Anonymous said...

Eli Broad will go either of two ways with a school district. He will get his foot in the door and then completely take over as he did in LA, directly hiring just about everyone who he thought the school district needed. See:

Key L.A. Unified staff positions are funded privately

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/dec/16/local/la-me-lausd16-2009dec16

Or he will cut his losses and run. See:

Broad Foundation, Center for Reform of School Systems Leave Antioch Unified School District

http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2009/06/broad-foundation-center-for-reform-of.html

Josh Hayes said...

From the article:

"Jane Nathanson, a longtime trustee of the Museum of Contemporary Art, [said] “I think there is a new type of philanthropist now. With old-family wealth, people gave money because it was the chic thing to do. New wealth is earned, and if you can get it, there is going to be a great deal of control.”"

"New money is earned"? WTH? Like the founders of Google and Facebook somehow "earned" their absurd billions more than, say, Andrew Carnegie "earned" his robber-baron plunder? This is just plain lazy thinking. The real point is, people with lots of money think they can tell everyone else what to do, because, hey, they have LOTS of MONEY! So they must be, you know, beloved of God or something.

Aggh. Spend a couple of years in a classroom, preferably in a stressed school, and then maybe, MAYBE, I'll listen to your money. Otherwise, tell your money to shut up. This Daddy Warbucks mentality has got to go.

Anonymous said...

And this is what happens when Eli Broad doesn't get his way. He spits on the mayor. In this case, the mayor of LA.

Broad Attacks Mayor's Plan for Schools (Because he knows better)

http://articles.latimes.com/2006/jul/15/local/me-broad15

And to get their word across within our Seattle Public School system:

How the Broad Gets Their Word Across in Seattle, see page 38 of

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/strategicplan/SPS_Strategic_Plan_2008_Appendices.pdf

"In August 2007 SPS commissioned the Broad Foundation to perform a review of the District’s
core communications efforts. (DID anyone approve this that we know of?)

Following the Broad Foundation review, the District commissioned
Pyramid Communications to conduct a review and develop strategies to improve stakeholder
engagement practices District-wide.

The Pyramid review is expected to be completed by the end
of June 2008 and will be posted on SPS Web site at that time.

A summary of the Communications peer review report can be found at the Seattle Public
Schools’ Strategic Planning Web site: www.seattleschools.org/area/strategicplan.

This document is intended to identify the connections between the Communications peer review
audit and the District’s proposed Strategic Plan, as well as the District’s ongoing efforts. While
an initial response to this review has been completed, District staff will continue to work to
develop a complete response to the recommendations, including timelines for implementation
where appropriate.

There are a number of actions that have been completed or are underway to improve the core
communications functions of the District, including:
• Adding a position in 2007 dedicated to media relations, which has permitted us to be
more proactive in developing positive story ideas;
• Piloting internal communications tools with the Strategic Plan, including
communicating with union partners, school leaders, building representatives, senior
leadership and expanded senior leadership teams;
• Hiring a Customer Service manager in 2008; and
• Implementing “School Messenger,” an automated telephone messaging service that
will allow us to reach thousands of homes simultaneously with messages recorded in
multiple languages. (About how well our superintendent is doing)

The Broad review also identified 17 areas for improvement. This section outlines the specific
recommendations and their links to ongoing work.

It should be noted that while communications
strategies are not specifically included in the proposed Strategic Plan, each of the
recommendations included in the Broad review will help move the District forward.

Recommendation 1: Develop a clear set of messages that capture the history, priorities,
strengths and future of the Seattle Public Schools.

While communications is not a specific strategy in the proposed Strategic Plan, being able to
clearly communicate the priorities in the Plan and the District’s focus moving forward will be
integral to the success of the plan. We are in the process of developing concise, attractive
communication tools that will convey the core messages of the Plan in a versatile format."

How's that for manipulating the message? And we paid for it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I note that the News and Calendar section has just one new item (Thanks for voting for the levies) in about a month. How is that for communications? Not even a direct link to tours?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I note that the News and Calendar section has just one new item (Thanks for voting for the levies) in about a month. How is that for communications? Not even a direct link to tours?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I note that the News and Calendar section has just one new item (Thanks for voting for the levies) in about a month. How is that for communications? Not even a direct link to tours?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I note that the News and Calendar section has just one new item (Thanks for voting for the levies) in about a month. How is that for communications? Not even a direct link to tours?

hschinske said...

"He gives the kids free samples, because he knows full well
That today's young innocent faces
will be tomorrow's
Clientele ..."

Tom Lehrer, "The Old Dope Peddler"

Josh Hayes said...

Gee, Melissa, you seem to feel really strongly about that calendar thing. :-)

uxolo said...

"Another Broad graduate and a onetime Broad resident in SPS, Brad Bernatek, is now Director of REA, Research, Evaluation and Assessment within SPS. That department is responsible for student statistics including enrollment, demographics, evaluation and standardized testing. "

The person who previously held that position was around for many-a-supt. I wonder how such a person gets pushed out. He was always helpful and provided data without question.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I mentioned the News and Calendar a lot because it the basic front line of communication to the public. You are supposed to be able to go there and see the latest on information going on in the district. The fact that we provide more information here than there should tell you something. No, wait; it should tell the district something.

Brad Bernatek is fine. But these people are not cheap. So now we have two more Broad residents at the end of their two-year residency (with the expectation from the Broad Foundation that they will get hired). They each make $90K plus benefits. It's a little hard for me to believe that the work they do is so valuable that we have to keep them. It's hard for me to believe they could be more valuable to this district than a teacher.

It would be fine to get high-quality people for a couple of years at half-price if that was all that was expected. I hope Dr. Goodloe-Johnson doesn't think she'll just slide this by.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why not. DGJ has gotten everything that she has wanted so far. Whose going to stop her? Or, should I say, whose going to stop the Broad?

Anonymous said...

And, even though you say Bernatek is an OK guy, I still have concerns about him being in that position.

Lately because of the closures, the rif's, the new SAP and the MAP, he has played a key role in what has been happening in our schools. Is it a coincidence that a Broad graduate is in such a critical position? As my daughter would say, "I think not".

And I will go back to something that I have mentioned before on this blog, how do you rif teachers when you know that there is an over-enrollment of students by 1,200 as happened last spring? And then you go back and hire most of them back?

Was that "just" a huge oversight on the part of Bernatek's office?

I'm still curious about that one.

And how about closing schools just to open them again. That would be in Bernatek's arena. He's also the enrollment guy.

Just another error in judgment? We saved an entire $3M on that one. And how much are those MAP tests going to cost?

Going back to the communications thing. The Broad states on their blog that they support their superintendents once they are "placed" (by the Broad).

One thing that I have noticed about the Broad is that appearance is everything and it is vital to them that DGJ always appear good and in a positive light. If she doesn't, they have wasted their money and time. It's all about the PR and I have a feeling that all of those press releases that I come across in my Google searches regarding our superintendent and her strategic plan are a part of this process that was set into place by working with the Broad.

wseadawg said...

Read the legislation being passed in Olympia right now. It will lead to more testing, standardization, alternative certification route teachers, and data, data, data and more data. This will eventually displace many teaching functions and will lead to a huge expansion of IT folks in the schools. Now who's that philanthropist friend of Broad's who's so keen on IT in the schools? At home? In the bathroom? In the car? Etc? Etc? What the Vulcans want, the Vulcans get.