Conflict of Interest: Two Boston School Committee Members Serve on Boston Foundation Board

Those Entrusted With Guiding Our Schools Serve on Board Dedicated to Harming Them

The school year is coming to an end, and many of our school buildings will be closing for good. Under the terms of the new BPS contract with the Boston Alliance for Charter Schools, many of these buildings will be sold or leased to charter school operators. The selling or leasing of our buildings is a key piece of the much-ballyhooed contract that the Boston School Committee recently signed with the Boston Alliance for Charter Schools. A main proponent “€” a cheerleader “€” of this marriage is the Boston Foundation, a policy-generating, charitable foundation in Boston. The Boston Foundation is one of the chief proponents of charter school expansion in the state.

Herein lies the rub: While the Boston School Committee readies itself to turn over former school buildings to charter schools, two of its members, Chairman Rev. Groover and member Claudio Martinez also serve on the board of the Boston Foundation. It’s like two members of the board of directors at Microsoft joining up with Apple. Or Coca Cola’s doing the same with Pepsi.

What’s more, at least three members of the Boston School Committee head non-profit organizations that receive or have recently received significant grants from the Boston Foundation.

School committee member Claudio Martinez is the executive director of the Hyde Square Task Force. According to Form 990 in the Boston foundation’s tax filing for FY09, (the most recent year for which this is publicly available), the Hyde Square Task Force received a grant of $273,500 in FY09 from the Boston Foundation. Mr. Martinez is a member of the board of directors of the Boston Foundation.

Rev. Greg Gregory Groover, chairperson of the Boston School Committee is on the Board of Directors of the Boston Foundation as well. He is also the president of the Black Ministerial Alliance, which, according to the same IRS filing in FY09, received $157,750 that year from the Boston Foundation.

School Committee member John Barros is the executive director of the Dudley St. Neighborhood Initiative, an organization that received $55,500 from the Boston Foundation.

Given the potential conflict of interest between at least three members of the Boston School Committee and the Boston Foundation, it is high time to  examine the ins and outs of the their intertwined relationship.

The Boston Foundation has set about to harm the Boston public school system by continually attacking it, distorting its accomplishments, and writing ‘research’ to support its support for school privatization. Last week, the BF attacked the college matriculation rate for our graduates. The week before CEO Grogan wrote a piece in the Herald criticizing the Burke High School and the BPS-BTU contract. A few months ago, it was something else. How can two members of the Boston School Committee “€” a committee charged with setting policy and promoting the Boston schools “€” at the same time be on the board of directors of the Boston Foundation?

These conflicts of interest do not look right and they don’t feel right. Our BPS School Committee members need to be above reproach. And our schools need support. In this era of charter expansion with charter school operators trying to bury us, our schools need officials willing to fight for us “€” not against us. Even if that means going against the Boston Foundation.

Education in the News

Charter School Controversies Continue Over Space, Politics and Money

Good piece in the New York Times about the shared-space controversy in the New York Public Schools.

“In some ways, it seems like a natural cause for the N.A.A.C.P.: students – many of them poor, most of them black – treated as second-class citizens when the public schools they attended had to share buildings with charter schools. A lawsuit filed last month by the N.A.A.C.P. and the United Federation of Teachers described children having to eat lunch so early it might as well be breakfast, and getting less exercise because gym hours were evenly divided between the schools despite big differences in their enrollment sizes.

But black children have been major constituents of charter schools since their creation two decades ago. So when thousands of charter-school parents, students and advocates staged a rally on May 26 in Harlem, it was not so much to denounce the litigation as it was to criticize the involvement of the N.A.A.C.P.

Since then, a war has broken out within the civil rights community in New York and across the country over the lawsuit against the city and the larger questions of how school choice helps or hurts minority students.”

Read more.

A supporter of charter schools authored a provocative piece entitled, “Charter Schools and Their Unfair Advantages” in the Charlestown Patch.

“A city charter school builds itself a multi-million dollar home, while neighborhood public schools are left begging for more. How can this be fair”

Read more.

Performance Evaluation that Works

The New York Times reports about a performance evaluation program that works…

“The Montgomery County Public Schools system here has a highly regarded program for evaluating teachers, providing them extra support if they are performing poorly and getting rid of those who do not improve.

The program, Peer Assistance and Review – known as PAR – uses several hundred senior teachers to mentor both newcomers and struggling veterans. If the mentoring does not work, the PAR panel – made up of eight teachers and eight principals – can vote to fire the teacher.”

Read more.