Thursday, February 15, 2007

An Instructive Moment-NOT!

The New York Times editorial page -- which, OTHER THAN the topic of school reform, I usually agree with! -- is sinking to new lows.  The latest is a silly hatchet job on Chris Cerf, one of the most passionate, committed and effective warriors for school reform in the country.
Chris used to work at Edison and had some stock options that might someday be worth something.  Edison does some contract work for the DOE, so there is certainly a potential conflict of interest, but it was handled properly: Chris disclosed his Edison position, recused himself from any business related to Edison, it was thoroughly vetted by the DOE's general counsel and all of the rules were followed to the letter. 
Despite there being no issue, to be squeaky clean, Chris decided to renounce his ownership of the Edison options -- to repeat: he VOLUNTARILY gave up something that might be worth MILLIONS of dollars to avoid even the APPEARANCE of impropriety!
So, in the bizzaro world of "gotcha" that enemies of meaningful school reform like to play -- and as final, indisputable proof that no good deed goes unpunished when it comes to trying to improve schools for our neediest children -- here's what happened next, according to the NYT editorial:
The Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council met on Thursday to address the privatization of school services. The group’s chairman asked Mr. Cerf whether he owned stock in Edison Schools, the for-profit education company where he was president before he joined the school system. When he said he did not, the chairman asked when he had sold his shares. Mr. Cerf refused to answer, referring parents to his financial disclosure forms. The answer, it turned out, was the day before the meeting.
Ooooooooo!  Now THAT deserves a lengthy story and a scathing editorial, which ends with this outrageous, snitty, nonsensical, arrogant comment: "An honest and open dialogue is less distracting for everyone than having parents feeling ignored and misled, and fuming on the sidelines."  Gimme a freakin' break!  Perhaps, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Chris should have just answered "yesterday", but SO WHAT?!
February 10, 2007

An Instructive Moment

A meeting of an organization of New York public school parents this week turned into a lesson in how a school system can go wrong in trying to win parents’ trust. As chronicled in yesterday’s Times by Elissa Gootman, the parent group’s chairman asked Chris Cerf, a new deputy schools chancellor, a direct question about his finances. Mr. Cerf’s response was not untrue, but it was hardly forthcoming. School administrators will have to do better if they want to improve their standing with parents and the general public.

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