Turnaround for Children Inc.’s lap dog fighting back: “Cohen lacks cred”

Seems Tom Vander Ark is a little sensitive to criticism of his string of fawning articles on Turnaround for Children Inc.

Vander Ark’s latest vacuous piece was published in Education Week. (See following post for details on that disaster.)

van ark fights back

As you can see, Vander Ark wrote:

“I have investigated Mr. Cohen’s claims and they don’t appear to be accurate or credible.”

My reply:

For someone who writes nothing but fawning pieces about Turnaround for Children Inc. – and then reposts them on his blog – you speak with no accuracy or credibility.

If you can cite one instance of lack of accuracy, I would be more than happy to provide you the information you need to clear up your journalistic jaundice.

===

OH, YOU SAY YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT CRYBABY VAN DER ARK?

http://ischoolexcellence.wordpress.com/tag/newark-new-jersey/

To wit:

President of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Tom Vander Ark, is walking away from a multi-million dollar project to open new charter schools in NYC.

The New York Times is reporting that after spending more than $1.5 million of investors’ money on consultants and lawyers, Tom Vander Ark, president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has walked away from the project to open new charter schools in New York City.  As a result, the new schools will not open as planned this fall.  This shocking move has left many frustrated.

MORE HERE:

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/07/plans_for_newark_charter_schoo.html

AND HERE:

http://newarknj.patch.com/groups/schools/p/two-charter-schools-to-still-open-after-setback

AND HERE’S CRANKY TOM AT HIS, UH, BEST?

http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/11/vander-ark-getting-cranky-regarding.html?m=1

‘Education Week’ in the tank for Turnaround for Children Inc.; Blogger Cohen cries bias

ed week bias

When Education Week sees an op ed that suits its purposes – lavishing fawn on its bed mates – it hops right into the sack with its suitor.

But when confronted with a critical piece about one of its partners, it runs for the hills.

Consider Ed Week’s latest fawn on Turnaround:

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_innovation/2013/08/fortified_environments_can_turnaround_the_adverse_impacts_of_poverty.html

Turnaround’s president Pammy Cantor liked the piece so much she posted it on her Facebook page – the same page that prohibits critical public comments.

See a pattern here, folks?

I mean, why don’t you all just get a room.

Who needs a lap dog if you have Tom Vander Ark?

In recent years he has written six laudatory pieces about Turnaround, three of which were in Education Week.

How much are Turnaround officials paying Vander Ark to flak for them?

Tom Vander Ark

Turnaround’s lap dog Tom Vander Ark

Here’s the piece of mine Education Week REFUSED to publish:

Turnaround Children Inc.’s transparency claim transparent The top school official in a major American city as part of an education-reform initiative is bringing in yet another private foundation, yet as little is known about Turnaround for Children Inc. as is known about how it fits into Supt. Cami Anderson’s plan to modernize Newark, New Jersey’s schools.

Anderson arrived in New Jersey’s largest school district in two years ago this month, bringing with her an education-reform movement.

The city’s public schools are among the lowest-performing in the state, even after the state government took over their management in 1995.

Although the school district continues to struggle with low high school-graduation rates and low standardized-test scores, the mayor of Newark, Cory Booker, insists, “Newark, New Jersey can become one of the first American cities to solve the crisis in public education.” This vision for better school district is also shared by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who made a $100 million donation to Newark Public Schools in 2010.

HuffPost’s Joy Resmovits called Newark “a national test case for the fixing of troubled urban schools and the use of major philanthropic dollars in an educational system.”

Now, Turnaround For Children is interviewing schools in Newark for September.

What is Turnaround and what is its proposed role in Newark?

The best source for information would be Turnaround, right?

Wrong.

Turnaround has refused to provide information about its failed foray into Orange schools and whether that experience foretells problems in Newark.

Turnaround’s entry into the 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.

If Orange school officials are to blame for Turnaround’s failure in their schools, then they are apparently taking the accusations in stride.

Orange Supt. Ronald Lee failed to respond to questions until he received a formal open-records request.

He said, “Turnaround proposed to expand its program to a transformational model that encompassed academic, foundational and behavioral elements in the 2011-2012 school year. At the same time, the district was continuing or launching a number of significant initiatives to improve instruction and student outcomes. We mutually concluded that the district’s initiatives would require and deserved the full focus of the district staff principals and teachers. Therefore, we discontinued the program in Orange at that time to allow these innovations to take hold.”

Felsen, too, will not go beyond her prepared statement.

When asked who funded the Orange effort and who will be funding the Newark plan, Felsen replied, “You have my statement.”

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

Ted Cohen of Maine is a veteran newspaper and radio reporter who follows trending national issues. He can be reached at tedcohen@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Tedcohen1.

Reporter to Cami, Cerf: “Open those files;” appeal imminent?

TRENTON, N.J. – A veteran newspaper reporter – fed up with the administration”s stonewalling over disclosing Turnaround for Children Inc.’s finances in its cozy government relationship – is threatening to file a denial-of access complaint with the New Jersey Government Records Council here for an open-records request from the Newark Public Schools.

Ted Cohen said that before he files the appeal, he is “exhausting all legal remedies.”

Cohen has refiled an open-records request to give government officials one last chance to make good on their refusal to come clean.

“If it becomes necessary to appeal, I will name the chief records custodian – Newark schools Superintendent Cami Anderson,” Cohen said.

Cohen said that, if an appeal becomes necessary, he will insist that Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf recuse himself from review of the complaint.

“He sits on the council,” Cohen pointed out, “so he would be in clear conflict by ruling on his own department’s business.”

Cerf serves as one of four council members.

Cohen added: “Anderson reports to Cerf and I have without success filed numerous open-records requests. It’s high time for some accountability.”

-From staff reports

ted mug2

Ted Cohen

Can ‘Turnaround for Children’ friends help Cami get her bonus?

cami anderson

The Newark Teachers Union is circulating an on-line petition – on MoveOn.org – requesting that Superintendent Cami Anderson not be given a $50,000 bonus after cutting Newark school budgets by over $50 million.

The petition, addressed to Gov. Chris Christie and Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, is not restricted to teacher signators.

https://newarkschoolsforsale.wordpress.com/no-cami-bonus-petition-why-gave-her-a-50000-bonus

The following email is being sent out on behalf of
John M. Abeigon, NTU Director of Organization
Today New Jersey Spotlight reported that the Christie Administration is considering giving as much as a $50,000 bonus to Newark’s controversial superintendent in the same year she’s forced over $50 million in cuts on Newark schools. [1]Tell Education Commissioner Cerf: No bonus for Cami Anderson while Newark’s schools are on the chopping block.

This spring Christie-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson pushed through a school budget that cut $56 million from Newark schools, slashing funding for some schools by as much as 15%. [2] In response nearly 1,000 Newark students walked out of class and marched on a meeting of the New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee to demand the funds their schools are entitled to under state law.But in the end Anderson and Christie prevailed; no additional funds were offered to Newark. That the Christie Administration can now consider giving $50,000 to Newark’s superintendent while schools have been closed and programs are on the chopping block is simply obscene.Tell Commissioner Cerf that Cami Anderson shouldn’t get a bonus while Newark schools bleed.
chris cerf mug
Commissioner Chris Cerf

While Chris Christie and Commissioner Cerf may be happy with Anderson’s willingness to carry out their attacks on Newark public schools, Newark’s community is not.

This year the Newark Board of Education gave Anderson a vote of no confidence and the Newark City Council unanimously called for a moratorium on her future proposals
.Newark residents realize their public schools are being hollowed out from within.
Instead of working to improve public education, the Christie Administration is pushing a pro-charter, pro-voucher agenda that will be great for some people’s pocketbooks but totally inadequate to meet the needs of students.
They’re even on record as saying that they haven’t done a good enough job.
When Newark residents demanded that the state give up its stranglehold on Newark schools and give control back to the community, Commissioner Cerf shoo’d them off and said that Newark school performance wasn’t where it needed to be. [3]
But if school performance is lagging, how can they possibly justify giving the person they charged with improving it a massive bonus?
This is cronyism at its very worst, and it’s an insult to Newark students, educators, and residents
John M. Abeigon
Director of Organization
Sources
[1] Mooney, John. “Newark’s school chief is up for her next performance bonus.” New Jersey Spotlight, July 22, 2013. http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/13/07/21/newark-s-school-chief-is-up-for-her-next-performance-bonus/
[2] “The backstory: Why Newark’s high school students walked out.” New Jersey Spotlight, April 12, 2013. http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/13/04/11/op-ed-the-backstory-why-newark-s-high-school-students-walked-out/
[3] “Acting Commissioner dramatically lowers state monitoring scores.” The Education Law Center, July 5, 2012. http://www.edlawcenter.org/news/archives/other-issues/acting-commissioner-dramatically-lowers-newarks-state-monitoring-scores.html
Mike Maillaro
Director of Research and Communication
Newark Teachers Union
 
“Stay strong, stay focused, stay united”

Turnaround for Children Inc., Campbell Brown: kissin’ cousins?

Image

By Ted Cohen

The top school official in a major American city as part of an education-reform initiative is bringing in yet another nonprofit foundation, yet as little is known about Turnaround for Children Inc. as is known about how it fits into Supt. Cami Anderson’s plan to modernize Newark, New Jersey’s schools.

Anderson refuses to respond to open requests for information, and Turnaround officials  – where the secretive ex-newsie Campbell Brown sleeps on the board (http://gawker.com/5936190/campbell-brown-is-incapable-of-understanding-the-concept-of-disclosure) – are equally evasive.

Brown’s lackings also caught the sharp eye of Karoli Kuns. (http://crooksandliars.com/karoli/campbell-brown-crawls-out-under-her-rock-sl)

Attempts to contact New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris Cerf have been met with similar silence.

Cami Anderson

chris cerf mug

Chris Cerf

As a longtime newspaper reporter, I find transparency hard to come by. Nonprofits should make transparency their middle name.

In fact, Guidestar.org is helping promote transparency, announcing recently its intent to “encourage nonprofit transparency on a national scale.”

A bit of history: Anderson arrived in New Jersey’s largest school district  in 2011. She brought with her an education-reform movement. The city’s public schools are among the lowest-performing in the state, even after the state government took over their management in 1995.

Although the school district continues to struggle with low high school-graduation rates and low standardized-test scores, the mayor of Newark, Cory Booker, insists, “Newark, New Jersey can become one of the first American cities to solve the crisis in public education.”This vision for better school district is also shared by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who made a $100 million donation to Newark Public Schools in 2010.

HuffPost’s Joy Resmovits called Newark  “a national test case for the fixing of troubled urban schools and the use of major philanthropic dollars in an educational system.”

Joy Resmovits

Now, Turnaround For Children is interviewing schools in Newark for September. What is Turnaround and what is its proposed role in Newark? The best source for information would be Turnaround, right?

Wrong.

Turnaround has refused to provide information about its failed foray into Orange schools and whether that experience foretells problems in Newark. That’s not the way to run a nonprofit. Obfuscation begets journalistic cynicism – and scrutiny.

Turnaround’s entry into the 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 – accessible through Guidestar.org – 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.”

Kate Felsen

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.

If Orange school officials are to blame for Turnaround’s failure in their schools, then they are apparently taking the accusations in stride. Orange Supt. Ronald Lee refused to respond to questions. He submitted a statement finally after receiving a formal open-records request.

Ronald Lee

He said, “Turnaround proposed to expand its program to a transformational model that encompassed academic, foundational and behavioral elements in the 2011-2012 school year. At the same time, the district was continuing or launching a number of significant initiatives to improve instruction and student outcomes. We mutually concluded that the district’s initiatives would require and deserved the full focus of the district staff, principals and teachers. Therefore, we discontinued the program in Orange at that time to allow these innovations to take hold.”

Felsen, too, will not go beyond her prepared statement. When asked who funded the Orange effort and who will be funding the Newark plan, Felsen replied, “You have my statement.”

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

To garner and cultivate pubic support, i.e., more dollars, nonprofits need to be open, accessible. Not hiding. What language do they understand – “lawsuit?”

Ted Cohen of Maine is a veteran newspaper and radio reporter who follows trending national issues. He can be reached at tedcohen@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TedCohen1.