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A conversation with Jeremy Nowak of the William Penn Foundation

By Benjamin Herold on Jul 23, 2012 12:59 PM
Photo: Benjamin Herold

William Penn Foundation president Jeremy Nowak says he wants to support "great practices" in education.

by Benjamin Herold for The Notebook/Newsworks


Jeremy Nowak believes that Philadelphia is at a crossroads.

“There’s a scenario where this becomes one of the great cities in America, and there’s a scenario where we keep going in decline,” said Nowak.

“I think this is a critical time for us to decide which direction we want to go.”

Listen to excerpts of Benjamin Herold's interview with Jeremy Nowak for WHYY.

Nowak, the hard-charging new president of the William Penn Foundation, hopes to have a big influence on that direction.  Later this year, William Penn will release details of a new 10-year strategic plan, which will include a revamped approach to bolstering the city’s cultural sector and making the region more environmentally sustainable.

It will also include details of Nowak’s plan to use philanthropic dollars to help transform the city’s troubled school system – an effort he already begun to aggressively push.

In recent weeks, William Penn – traditionally averse to the spotlight – made a big splash by giving a massive $15 million grant to a two-year old nonprofit organization that supports “great schools.”  The foundation has also generated headlines for contributing more than a million dollars for private consultants who recommended a radical overhaul of the embattled District, then paying for a $160,000 public relations campaign to counter fierce opposition to the consultants’ plan from organized labor and some community groups.

In an extensive sit-down interview last week with the Notebook/NewsWorks, Nowak said that William Penn, which currently has more than 70 active education grants, is not moving in an entirely new direction. 

But under his watch, Nowak said, big changes are coming: William Penn intends to focus its education-related efforts on closing the achievement gap, not just by seeking to influence policy, but by “supporting great practices.”

“The perspective that William Penn has taken is that we have to increase the supply of high-quality schools so that low-income kids in the city of Philadelphia can move forward,” said Nowak.

“We want to shift the supply of great things so that Philadelphia families will come to expect that there will be great resources for them.”

Nowak’s signature move in that direction was a huge $15 million grant to the Philadelphia School Partnership, announced in early July.  By comparison, William Penn in 2010 spread a total of $20 million in new grants across dozens of organizations funded through its “Children, Youth and Families” program.

The massive gift to PSP this summer came on top of more than $400,000 given to the organization in the preceding year for planning and development work.

Over the next several years, PSP aims to re-grant most of the money directly to schools – charter, parochial, or District – in order to increase the number of “high-performing seats” in the city.  Nowak calls that “tri-sector approach” a “great opportunity” for Philadelphia to become a national leader.

But when PSP made its most recent set of gifts to schools last week, no District-managed schools were included.

Nowak acknowledged concerns among some that the organization is a vehicle for promoting charters at the expense of traditional public schools.

“We want their grant portfolio to be much more diverse,” he said. 

Nowak also downplayed worries that PSP’s board includes a number of prominent voucher supporters.

“Some of my best friends are on the right on these issues, and some of my best friends are on the left on these issues,” said Nowak.

“I think we’ve got to get over that.”

Like the SRC and many of the city’s education leaders, Nowak believes the city’s focus should be on expanding the city’s available “high-performing seats,” which he defined as seats in schools where a certain percentage of students score proficient or above on state tests.

Nowak was asked for evidence showing that successful schools can be scaled up in ways that don’t simply result in the movement of more well-prepared, well-supported students from struggling neighborhood schools into magnets or charters.  In response, he cited the work of Mastery Charter Schools – whose board he previously headed – and the early positive returns from the first year of the District’s Renaissance Schools initiative.    

“You’ve got to make a bet somewhere,” said Nowak.

“Whether it’s Mastery or anyone else, how do we make sure that there’s another 20 of those in the next few years?”

Of course, not everyone agrees with this rationale or strategy.

Nowak says he has heard the skepticism of those who believe that the new focus on expanding “great schools” is code for dismantling the District.  He’s also heard the intense criticism of the SRC’s “transformation blueprint.”

Such concern, says Nowak, is “perfectly understandable,” especially given the relentless squeeze caused by the District’s ever-shrinking revenues.

“There is pain, and the pain is everywhere,” he said.

“Part of what we’re going through right now is an enormous, very frightening moment of change.  All of us are nervous about what that means.”

Nowak says he’s committed to listening to such criticism:

“I’m a great believer in the public sphere, in the public marketplace of ideas." 

In recent years, William Penn has provided substantial support to a number of parent and student organizing groups that are now vocally criticizing the massive reforms that the foundation is pushing.  Nowak said that reports that William Penn will cut off those groups are premature.

William Penn still needs to determine the full range of strategies it will support in its efforts to close the achievement gap, he said. 

"We’re going to stay agnostic and pragmatic and take a look at it."

That also goes for William Penn’s long-standing support of coalitions that have advocated for equitable state funding and better early childhood education systems,  he said.

"We’re not going to abandon policy,” said Nowak, who described William Penn-funded efforts to improve the state’s education funding formula and establish a rating system for early childhood centers as “terrific.”

But the question for William Penn moving forward, he said, will be how to balance that work with a new focus on market-based strategies.

Just shifting policy, argued Nowak, doesn’t automatically result in improvement on the ground. He also wants to see a greater willingness to intervene when the public sector is failing.

To that end, Nowak described a formative experience in his thinking about the problems of urban public schools: a visit to the Holy Name school across the river in Camden, NJ.

Students at Holy Name, said Nowak, were far outpacing their peers in a dysfunctional public school down the street. But parents had to take money out of their already struggling households in order to get their children a quality education.

“Here were these parents, very poor, who were trying to scrape up $1,500 to send their kid to a parochial school,” said Nowak.

“When I walked out of there, I thought to myself, ‘We’ve gotten ourselves to a place in society where we can’t deliver a high-quality public good.’”

To fix that problem, says Nowak, Philadelphia needs to embrace a “post-ideological framework” that transcends long-standing tensions between public and private and among traditional public schools, charters, and religious schools.

As a prime example, he reached outside the world of public education, citing the recent transformation of Franklin Square Park in Philadelphia’s historic district.

For decades, Franklin Square languished; its dysfunction was immortalized in the classic urban planning book The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

But in 2006, the city, which still owns the parcel of land on which the park is located, rededicated Franklin Square under the management of an independent nonprofit organization.  Later, a privately owned café was allowed to open on the park grounds. 

The result, said Nowak, is an “extraordinary place” that is now used by the whole city.

“You have all three templates of American social life – public, private, and civic – that work together.  And what they end up doing is producing a high-quality public product,” he said.

It’s a model for what Nowak hopes can happen with the city’s schools – with an assist from the William Penn Foundation, regardless of the resistance that the continued blurring of lines between public and private is sure to generate.

“This is a city that’s going to have figure out whether it wants to be captive by its past,” says Nowak, “or whether it wants to lean to the future.”

Disclosure: The William Penn Foundation is a major funder of the Notebook.

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Comments (64)

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on July 23, 2012 5:55 pm

My reaction to this whitewashing cannot be properly contained in a PG-rated fashion.

I don't think I'll be renewing my membership to the Notebook.

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on July 23, 2012 7:19 pm

Jeremy: You are a BS artist and have said nothing of substance at all. Actions speak louder than words and what you support is always about the privatization of our public schools.

It is never about how to improve our public schools so they serve our children better.

You and Mark Gleason need to take your psychobabble and your privatization agenda elsewhere. You two are orchestrating a corporate raid on our public schools. Pure and simple.

The audacity by which you push your agenda is just amazing.

We see through you.....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 23, 2012 10:56 pm

We see through YOUR union B.S.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 23, 2012 10:34 pm

Mark Gleason, go back to playing with your spreadsheets. Making you can figure out how to make your chairs perform.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 23, 2012 10:57 pm

^^^REAL COMMENT OF THE YEAR. Sorry Timothy. Sucks to suck.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 23, 2012 8:33 pm

It's is truly amazing to listen to big money people like Nowak speak about the lives of millions of people like they are pawns on a chess board for them to experiment with.

Submitted by enough (not verified) on July 23, 2012 8:19 pm

My how far we've fallen William Penn foundation. Instead of working to ensure that all students have access to quality schools, the William Penn foundation pretends to know ALL about what a district needs. We'll all be around long after this has blown up to clean up the mess.What's most shocking and audacious is that $15 million could have bought countless counselors or smaller class size . . things proven to work. Instead, they'll go to high performing charters. Mastery just got a major kickback from the District to pay for what in-District schools have no choice but to pay. KIPP gets renewed even though KIPP West Philly didn't make AYP and the KIPP High school lost over 27% of their students in the last two years. Notebook, be brave keep on the issues, and ask Jeremy harder questions. If he pulls his funding, I will work to ensure that we raise that money elsewhere--not to mention countless others.

Submitted by Mick (not verified) on July 24, 2012 9:51 pm

I know--It's all enough to make a cat laugh--corruption 101 and right in our face. The worst part is that their motive---to make money off the poor--is stunningly obvious and this guy, Nowak, has been dirty for years and years. These cretins have no shame. I agree-Nutter is thick as thieves with these rats, especially Kenny Gamble and Dwight Evans. Just horrible, unconscionable stuff. PEOPLE better get active before this carnage takes total control.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 23, 2012 8:47 pm

None of the chairs in my classroom perform. Could I get some of that money for high performing chairs? I'm sure my students would be amused before they get back to taking a test.

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on July 23, 2012 9:22 pm

Comment of the year!

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on July 23, 2012 9:22 pm

I know! My seats break when kids push on them too much, and screws come out. Sometimes the desk half comes loose and wiggles around.

Oh, no, I think I just admitted to being a crappy teacher with "low-performing seats"!

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on July 23, 2012 9:03 pm

Nowak says his "high performing seats" are based on PSSA (and I guess upcoming Keystone) scores. So, even though many charters were renewed with "low performing seats" based on PSSA scores, those seats will be maintained while the public school "low performing seats" will be put out in Nowak's trash. Parochial/private schools have the benefit of no PSSA/Keystone judging their seats. Apparently, those seats have been "blessed" and therefore are not judged by any test!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 24, 2012 5:25 pm

I have to admit, your post is very funny--I'm very jealous !! Yes, this guy is a swindler of the first degree, just a BS artist and EVERYBODY I know who knows him, knows that. The Charter Lie Group better get a better spokesperson. Nowak and Gleason are different sides of the same hand and it ain't pretty. Even the Mastery Con artist is better than they are. TRUTH is this is ALL about swindling money from the poor to give to the already rich under the masquerade of helping urban kids--what a crock !!

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on July 23, 2012 9:46 pm

Mr. Nowak needs a better analogy than schools and one park to justify his plan to dismantle public schools. Also, Camden and Philadelphia are not synonymous other than paying leadership in the School District ridiculous salaries / benefits. (We are still waiting to find out Hite's "package...")

Nowak is loyal to Mastery and the voucher proponents. His "post-ideological" comment is shallow. Unelected officials - from the SRC to the William Penn Foundation to the Great School Compact to the Boston Consulting Group - are running a public institution. This meets Nowak's "market driven" ideology.

Now, we learn Ackermaneque PR tactics are being funded and implemented by Nowak to sell "his gullible public" his privatization agenda. I won't hold my breath to see if the William Penn Foundation cuts off the organizations - like Philadelphia Student Union and Youth United for Change - because they dare challenge the Nowak propaganda. Then, the rest of us need to stand with the students who dare try to keep the public in public education!

Submitted by Anon (not verified) on July 23, 2012 10:15 pm

It hit me the other day: if they were really to dramatically increase the number of FREE public "high-performing seats" to meet demand what parent, other than the religious, would choose the parochial option that COSTS MONEY? How does this market-driven ideology work without vouchers? Tell me I'm paranoid.

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on July 24, 2012 10:00 am

Last evening a comment was deleted because it suggested Nowak is not unlike a monkey playing with a razor and the monkey would not be hurt by this but many others would. This comment resonates strongly with me and yet it was deleted. The writer used her name. She is willing to stand by her words. She is able to articulate clearly the frustration of professionals in our schools who labor daily with Philadelphia children on the front lines. Just because a comment is so "spot on" that it makes a reader think, "ouch!" does not suggest it should be deleted.
We on the front lines do not have millions of dollars in private money to move our agenda forward. We have only our ability to use our intelligence and our right of free speech to help the reader understand out perspective.
I don't think the notebook can afford to lose commentators like Joan Taylor.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 24, 2012 12:49 pm

I don't care who you are and where you come from, but an ad hominem attack is toxic to intellectual discourse and an embarrassing display of intemperance and immaturity. Deletion of the comment does good in reminding us that name calling deserts any attempt at dialogue between people of disparate views. Just because you think the situation is LIKE that of a monkey with a razor blade doesn't mean it is appropriate to say such a thing publicly on a local news outlet. If I were Jeremy I would take offense to such an ignorant comment. I hope Joan can take this as a learning opportunity and be more prudent next time she comments.

Submitted by Eileen Duffey (not verified) on July 24, 2012 1:04 pm

And I hope that Jeremy Nowak lies awake at night and it dawns on him that in spite of all his experience and all his wanting to lend a hand that he is now mired in something he knows nothing about. I hope he takes to heart the reasoned commentary of the teaching professionals which appears on the notebook in response to the William Penn Foundation.
Thanks for your reply.

Submitted by Dan (not verified) on July 24, 2012 4:44 pm

That's a bit of a nasty and uninformed view, Eileen. Why do you assume he knows nothing about it? Jeremy Nowak attended public school in the PSD and he's worked extensively with city officials and other charitable foundations.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on July 24, 2012 4:42 pm

I don't know Nowak's age but if he attended public school in Philly it was at least 3 decades ago. Times have changed. Attending school (K-12) does not give one expertise on making educational policy. Nowak sent his children to school in Lower Merion - one of the best funded school districts in the state (and probably US). They had everything imaginable and, I'm sure, had more than Mastery test prep.

Nowak is neither elected or appointed to make educational policy in Philadelphia. Because he control an extremely wealthy foundation, he is exercising his political connections and economic power. That doesn't equate with sound educational policy.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 24, 2012 6:00 pm

Times have not changed. Philly schools have been shit for decades. Times WILL change if people stop letting union and union affiliates indoctrinate them with disinformation.

Right, attending school does not give one expertise on making educational policy. But years of experience do.

Funding is not the issue. Yes, I agree that high property taxes shouldn't help determine school funding and that there should be a baseline for district funding adjusted for inflation. But money doesn't trickle down from the districts to the classrooms and that's because of profiteering in the world of contracts and culpable bureaucrats. Look up the $15 Annenburg donation to a public district. Flooding money helps no one, and that's why Republicans like Corbett like to pull funding and funnel it elsewhere, like their own pockets.

Also fun fact - Lower Merion per pupil spending is the same as that in Camden. Look it up.

Because he isn't appointed he need not play a part in slimy city politics. And that doesn't equate with sound educational policy because it is completely unrelated. Sound educational policy is an equitable system with the ability to hire and fire teachers and administrators who should take responsibility for the failure of our public schools and not continue to feed like vultures on a union-protected status quo.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on July 24, 2012 6:42 pm

Is this Nowak or Scott Gordon or Gleason of the "Great (Parochial/Chart) School Compact? So, Central and Masterman administration and teachers are great and South Philly and Ben Franklin teachers and administrators are lousy? All Lower Merion politicians, teachers and administrators are quality and on the "up and up?" Bull.

Money matters. Nowak's plan to take over the SDP will not eliminate high perks/salaries for Hite, Nixon, Nunnery (why is he still around?), etc. It will take money out of the pockets of the custodial staff and teachers and then tell us to "give and give" or Nowak will shut the schools down.

Many educators gladly take responsibility for their students during the school day. The SDP has a history of promoting inept and well connected administrators. They are Nowak's friends.

Submitted by tom-104 on July 25, 2012 6:59 am

"look it up" Where? Give me a website, a document..something that says Lower Merion spends the same per student as Camden (!) I have experience in Philadelphia and have observed the program in Lower Merion. My facts are on the ground, not just from a spreadsheet. I know in Philadelphia I taught in a computer lab with ten year old eMacs. In Lower Merion students have computers with mutimedia capability and produce movies and DVD's. I could teach that but I don't have the tools!

Do you have kids? If you do, are they in a public school? If they are I'm sure you were highly selective in what neighborhood you moved into so you could put them in schools that have the latest in textbooks and technology, and pay their teachers a salary that keeps them in the school system. You avoid schools that are starved of funds. Your fantasy that funding doesn't matter is not based on reality.

The "waste of money" line in regards to the School District of Philadelphia has been going around for decades. It continues even though the school budget has been managed by the state through the SRC for eleven years! Now the same people who used this line suddenly see a chance to make big bucks off of low income schools. Look at how they suddenly have money to throw around to bring their privatization fantasy, and the big bucks they hope to make, to fruition. (To say nothing about the $700 million Corbett budgeted for prisons in last years budget, including three new for- profit prisons!)

Submitted by tom-104 on July 24, 2012 1:51 pm

Should we really remain "prudent" as our public schools are being delivered to private entities whose main concern is money? Should we remain "prudent" as we are being lied to about their corporate agenda and the public schools are maligned, not to fix them, but to destroy them? Should we remain "prudent" as our livelihoods are threatend? Seems to me we are being too prudent!

Interesting that your main concern is "Jeremy's" feelings, not the consequences of this assault on public education for an entire generation of students.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 24, 2012 1:02 pm

I don't know Joan, but in my opinion, Joan exercised a great deal of prudence when she liked this situation to a monkey with a razor blade. Many of us reasonable, well-educated citizens would have been a lot less kind, had we responded, so take that as MY disparate view!

Submitted by brononymous (not verified) on July 24, 2012 4:56 pm

Maybe if you were so well-educated you would recognize a grammatical mistake when you typed one. "She liked this situation" sounds like it's coming from an elementary school student. Try "compared this situation with that of a monkey..." or "wrote that this situation is alike that of a monkey..."

Submitted by tom-104 on July 24, 2012 4:39 pm

Is it necessary to be so petty, especially when your give your own awkward construction, "alike that of a monkey"? She obviously meant "She likened this situation".

As someone who is prone to typos and occasional grammatical errors, I think we should give people a little slack for such errors (I know, hard for a teacher to do). The previous generation of writers had proofreaders before they were published. We are our own proofreaders which doesn't always work out so well. I can read over something I wrote several times, post it, look at it five minutes after posting and find an error I totally missed despite proofing several times before I posted.

At least there is an Edit function on the Notebook if you are logged in.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 24, 2012 5:08 pm

Thank you, tom-104. I didn't read this until after I responded to the Grammar Police, or I would have just let you speak for me :)
I'd like to add that I am a fan of yours. You've posted a lot of useful information on this site, and I appreciate it.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on July 24, 2012 10:02 pm

point well taken. while you're on the subject, not to be picky, but surely you didn't mean $700,000 for prisons. zeros (three omitted?) do matter.

Submitted by tom-104 on July 24, 2012 10:32 pm're right $700 million

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 24, 2012 5:07 pm

Oops- I meant to say "likened." My sleep-deprived brain missed it. I've been up late, writing papers for my 5th teaching certification. I'll get some sleep tonight and I won't be so foggy-brained tomorrow :)
You, however, will probably wake up every bit as cranky tomorrow as you are today. Thank you, Grammar Police!

Submitted by Charles R. (not verified) on July 25, 2012 6:03 pm

Stay anonymous you boob.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 24, 2012 2:33 pm

Sounds like Nowak et al are getting something for their public relations dollars.
Too bad it's not something that benefits kids.

Submitted by Charles R. (not verified) on July 24, 2012 9:47 pm

Nowak's agenda has NOTHING to do with educating kids and everything to do with making enormous money from those kids. If that's not disgusting enough, they throw in the joke that their motives are pure as the driven snow. For me, the ugliest piece is that EVERYBODY with an ounce of sense, knows the truth but it continues unabated like putting lipstick on a pig.

Submitted by Deja Tu (not verified) on July 24, 2012 3:30 pm

Truth is the principals would prefer black teachers in there - particularly for the boys.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on July 24, 2012 9:53 pm

I missed the back and forth that followed my earlier comment that we had put a “razor blade in the hand of a monkey” when it came to setting up Jeremy Nowak as a de facto education czar. I have been chided for imprudence in doing so, but would humbly submit that my only imprudence has been opening myself up as a target to the bureaucrats who lack the intelligence or backbone to speak truth to power.

For whatever reason, people who have achieved financial success are regarded with an unhealthy degree of awe. Take Bill Gates, an amazingly talented businessman who has become an outstanding humanitarian. He may be entitled to sainthood for his work in Africa, but his humanitarian efforts do not mean that he is a man of unlimited wisdom, and his support of alternative educational systems, while well-intentioned, shows his total lack of experience in this field.

The same is true of Jeremy Nowak. He may have a lot to offer. I’m sure he’s a great guy, maybe even a good dancer…but he’s no educational expert. What he has is money, and some pie in the sky ideas about how the market will make everything work efficiently. His friends, who also have a lot of money and like to think of themselves as minor masters of the universe, all agree. They can not only make education better, but they can make it make money.

The only way to make money on public education is to do it in a way that ultimately attracts federal prosecutors, as June Brown and David Shulick have done.

If what Mr. Nowak will bring to every child in Philadelphia is the same exact level of services that his own children received in Lower Merion, I will gladly move over and let the charter operators in. But this isn’t what our children are being offered, and that’s why the United Way has to front a big PR team to tout their message. The problem is, it’s going to get harder and harder to PR a way around the fact that charter schools, left unregulated as they are, are going to generate one June Brown after another, one David Shulick after the next.

And that's what I call putting a razor blade in the hand of a monkey.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on July 24, 2012 10:26 pm

Absolutely right, Joan. Everyone should see Chris Lehmann's blog on "Educational Colonialism" to understand why these rich folks are doing wrong:

Submitted by concernedparent (not verified) on July 25, 2012 8:30 am

Let's clear up a few things:

Jeremy Nowak is NOT rich by any means. I know the family. They're bleeding heart liberals who live in a small but comfortable home. He's the CEO of a $2 billion foundation and he's in that position for a reason. The same reason why people defend his educational reform ideas.

There is no way he can make money off of education. If you have a flow chart to show me how that's possible, I'm all ears.

Check the Mastery Charter School model. There are plenty of corrupt and shitty charter schools headed by bad people. This isn't one of them. It was recognized by President Obama. Right-wing privatization machine? I think not. Plus public charter schools are not private schools.

The only way to bring the same education offered at schools like Lower Merion is to make the funding formula more equitable AND allow teachers and administrators to be hired and fired for free. Look up how much it costs the district to fire the teacher. It's despicable. Charter schools are just a stepping stone towards replicating suburban school models (only possible for a district if it is more efficient with its funds, which is sometimes more important than more funding).

They need PR because there is so much disinformation being spread by the unions and teachers who, obviously, would like to keep their jobs. It's a scary thing, change.

Oh, and funny how the Labour party in the UK actually supports charter schools.

It's all about politics. And in the end, we'll all lose.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 25, 2012 10:00 am

Oh yes, poor widdle William Penn Foundation is having trouble selling its BCG plan because of the big mean unions and stoopid community not because it sucks and has giant gaping holes for corruption, mismanagement and inequity.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on July 25, 2012 11:40 am

He's the CEO of a $2 billion dollar foundation...and struggling to make ends meet? I think many of us need to take a chill pill when we plead poverty--or even modest incomes. Look at the average income of Philadelphians, and face up to the fact that Mr. Nowak is--like me--much closer to the top of the food chain than he is to the middle.

Submitted by concernedparent (not verified) on July 25, 2012 12:59 pm

Joan - I never said anything about struggling to make ends meet. Reread the post, and next time don't interpret something to fit your own agenda. Reminds me of Dan Denvir.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on July 25, 2012 12:34 pm

He's the CEO of a $4 billion dollar foundation. Get a grip.

Submitted by concernedparent (not verified) on July 25, 2012 4:54 pm

*$2 billion

And I hope you're not this rude over coffee, Joan.

Submitted by tom-104 on July 25, 2012 6:16 pm

$2 billion and (according to you) $2 billion in assets, making $4 billion. What assets? And why shouldn't they be considered part of the William Penn worth? Or does the $2 billion of "assets" just weaken your argument so we should just pretend $2 billion is not there?

Submitted by concernedparent (not verified) on July 26, 2012 8:17 am

"In recent years, the William Penn Foundation also has disclosed in tax documents that it will be the recipient of an additional $2 billion, technically bringing its total assets to $4 billion.

Bruce Bergen, director of finance and administration, said Thursday that the $2 billion represented money that has been pledged to the foundation decades into the future. IRS rules require the foundation to disclose the funds even though it does not control them and they do not produce income that could be disbursed to organizations."

$2 billion wasn't argument, just fact.

Submitted by Joan Taylor on July 26, 2012 2:23 pm

Perhaps I'm an unsophisticated rube. $2 billion; $4 billion: either way it's a whole lot of money, and on top of that, it's beside the point.

Having money doesn't make one incapable of good judgment; lacking appropriate expertise does.

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on July 25, 2012 12:59 pm

Hate to break it to you, but those teachers in Lower Merion are unionized, too.

Charters are a stepping stone to teachers being interchangeable recent college grads on their way to a different career. A stepping stone to make sure our education system is completely segregated by class. A stepping stone to the end of public education.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 25, 2012 12:02 pm

Teachers use to support charters in its original concept until the carpetbaggers perverted that concept. Politicians turned it away from a real school reform to a way to make money for themselves. Whatever money you think you might be saving by doing away with unionized teachers will quickly be eaten up by overpriced CEOs and the political protection they pay for to stay in business.

Submitted by A Touch of Sense (not verified) on July 25, 2012 2:47 pm

I appreciate your input into this discussion but I believe you are buying into the charter school privatization propaganda.

Yes, charter schools were originally supposed to be public schools, but they all are being operated as private businesses for the profit of those who operate them.

Mastery is one of the worst offenders. Try to get a public and transparent accounting of how much money they have, to whom does it go and where their additional funds come from. See what happens.

I assure you Scott Gordon and his backers have designs to build a business empire out of their supposedly "nonprofit organization." They have even proposed a charter school in New Jersey? How does that benefit the children of Philadelphia? It only benefits his grandiose designs. Mastery is supposed to be a Pennsylvania Charter School and is supposed to be operated by law for the best interests of its pupils.

Mastery was created as a charter school. It was not created as a charter management organization. Why is he being allowed to operate as a charter management organization?

Look at all of the money that we are spending on these business oriented charter operations. They don't educate children any better. They violate student rights regularly. They don't save us any money. In fact, they suck up money that should be going to children.

What would it be like if all of our money went directly to children in the form of direct services?

But no, all of the profiteers have to get their hands in the cookie jar.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2012 7:12 am

Mastery may have been recognized by President Obama (who I intend to vote for as the lesser of two evils) but Obama's track record on education is indistinguishable from the right wing.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on July 26, 2012 7:06 am

Yes - Duncan and Obama are proponents of privatization of education. Race to the Top is worse than No Child Left Behind. Meanwhile, they take unionized workers for granted. Obama has never sent his daughters to public school. The education they are offered at prestigious private schools (Chicago Lab School and Sidwell Friends) will never be available to urban students because it is contrary to the privatization / standards-data "drive" model required by Obama's policies.

So, Mr. Nowak, if you are aligned with Duncan/Obama, you are part of the right-wing, privatization agenda in education!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2012 10:11 am

As a Philadelphia public school teacher, I see many of my most academically talented students leave my "failing" public school for charters each year. I have personally observed how charters "cherry-pick" high-achieving students (application forms, involved parents) and have had explained to me by colleagues who have worked at charters the methods some schools use to encourage low-achievers to leave (attendance issues, threatening to retain students in the same grade for 3 or 4 years). What I would like to see is data that follows individual students as they move throughout the public school system, whether it be charter or traditional public schools. By analyzing individual PSSA scores or report card data, I believe we could get a better understanding of whether students are succeeding because of charters or whether they were succeeding at the "failing" public schools they left.

Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on July 26, 2012 12:04 pm

I agree with you on the data/test score stats. They should follow the child, not be a "snapshot" within a school. This should not be difficult to accomplish with existing technology. The stakes are high enough now with the "performing seats" movement, that I believe the PFT needs to make this an issue. The existence of neighborhood schools and many jobs are on the line.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2012 3:16 pm

I have been screaming this since NCLB.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2012 10:41 am

Your students leave because generally the public school establishment (the admins and academics more than teachers) refuse to enforce any behavioral standards and allow chronically disruptive students to harm students who want to learn.

Generally my perception of the PSD is that they are happier that 10 students receive something mediocre rather than that 5 students receive something good and 5 students receive something mediocre.

This is a bizarre view of ed academics that their primary mission to enforce social equality rather than to educate students. Really since the 1970's, efforts to use urban schools for social engineering have been counterproductive. In case you hadn't noticed, high performing students have been fleeing for decades now. Rather than go to charters, they go to the suburbs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2012 11:18 am

agreed. The PSD is much mre concerned with protecting the rights of the 1 or 2 students who can DESTROY a class, than defending the right to learn of the other 30 in the room. Teachers have been complaining about this for years. It will only stop when the parents of the other 30 kids start showing up on the school's door steps and yelling as loudly as the parents of the 1 or 2 who disrupt the learning.

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2012 12:59 pm

It will only stop when those 2 or 3 kids' parents stop making a living suing the schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2012 12:25 pm

One of the other unintended consequences of "cherry-picking" is that the braindrain from the high achievers leaving that school is often enough to tip the scale and cause the school to fail to make AYP.
We lose most of our brightest students after 4th grade, and it's probably not a surprise to anyone that our 5th grade PSSA scores tumble. I'm not naive enough to believe that the exodus of our high-achievers is the only reason that our scores drop, but it's the main one. It makes no sense that we are penalized for doing a good job preparing our students to be academically successful. So good a job, that they leave us for 'better' opportunities. Of course, the parents play a significant role as well :)

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2012 12:46 pm

This is an example of why individual teachers cannot be held accountable for test scores.

Who will teach 5th grade at your school and be unfairly labeled "failing" when they could teach 4th grade and get pay bonuses?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2012 1:40 pm

Imagine high school - the SDP has an extremely tracked / stratified high school system. Teachers in magnet / special admit schools - especially the super magnets like Central, Masterman, Girls, etc. - are labeled "advanced" while teachers at neighborhood high schools will be labeled "below basic" because they are open to everyone.

Submitted by tom-104 on July 25, 2012 9:31 am

The William Penn Foundation is an almost $4 billion foundation, the sixth largest in the nation, not $2 billion.

Until charter schools are required to be transparent, disclosing their financial and academic records, disclosing salaries and benefits of administrators (including CEO's) and teachers, disclosing their dismissal records, disclosing their Special Ed. and ELL information; they cannot cry about "disinformation".

The latest charter fraud scandal shows what the lack of regulation of charter schools leads to. There is a reason they want their records secret. Just look at the money being thrown around to advance the privatization agenda.

The same class of people who have said funding Philadelphia public schools is a "waste of money" for decades have jumped on the charter bandwagon because its the latest gold rush. It's not change that is scary, it is outright theft of the education of the next generation that is scary.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 25, 2012 1:58 pm

Just wait folks.... Foundations (yes that Foundations) and Mastery are opening up charter schools in Camden in the Fall. Next best thing to Lower Merion.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 26, 2012 12:34 am

"You've got to make a bet somewhere."

Really? We are real students, not dogs at a racetrack.

F this guy.

Submitted by Eskkveer (not verified) on March 20, 2017 12:56 pm

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