1 star too many for Turnaround for Children Inc.

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Ted Cohen

Turnaround for Children Inc. has a long way to go when it comes to transparency.Guidestar.org to its credit requires transparency, yet Turnaround officials have refused to share with the public any financial and program information it fears might shine a negative light on its attempts to promote its glossy image.Credibility suffers in an informational vacuum.Turnaround’s entry into the school-reform movement began with Orange, N.J., as well as New York City and Washington, D.C.But as soon as the Orange effort began, it failed, according to Turnaround’s nonprofit filing with the Internal Revenue Service.Tax documents filed with the IRS by Turnaround disclose the program’s unexpected suspension. The documents, a public record, also reveal that Turnaround was forced to return the remaining part of the grant that funded the program.”Management decided to terminate its three-school program earlier than planned,” Turnaround officials told the IRS.

In their IRS filing, Turnaround officials blamed the short-lived program’s demise on what they vaguely described as a “shift in organizational priorities.”

But officials failed to disclose what they meant by the change or who instigated it.

Turnaround officials say they suspended their request for the remaining funding they were to receive for the Orange project, but they made no mention of the amount of funding they had already received and the amount they were still due.

Turnaround officials issued a prepared statement defending their Orange pullout.

“Our hope was to expand the partnership, to deliver a significant amount of professional development to teachers and to increase our engagement district-wide,” said Kate Felsen, vice president of communications. “Unfortunately, Orange Public Schools did not have the capacity to take on the professional development we had to offer during the 2011-12 year. For this reason, we ended our partnership amicably.”

Though Turnaround proudly announced the Orange project in its September 2010 newsletter, there is no evidence on the organization’s web site that Turnaround officials ever notified the public of the program’s suspension.

Orange Supt. Ronald Lee said that school officials severed ties with Turnaround but details from both sides remain sketchy. No one has explained what went wrong.

Felsen refused to discuss Turnaround’s problems in Orange. “You have my statement,” she told a reporter.

More to the point, attempts by journalists to procure information from this so-called “transparent” group – have been met with silence, stalling and arrogance.

Ways to make it better…

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would…

Come clean with the public. Be transparent. Stop hiding.

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