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5-10-12 Education & Related Issues in the News
NJSpotlight Q&A: The State of Facebook’s $100 Million To Newark…Greg Taylor, head for Foundation for Newark’s Future, talks fundraising, relationship-building, and visit with Mark Zuckerberg

Courier Post - State: 26 charter schools apply…5 Camden candidates only ones from S.J.

Press of Atlantic City - Paid union leave has cost New Jersey taxpayers $30 million since 2006, report says

NJSpotlight Q&A: The State of Facebook’s $100 Million To Newark…Greg Taylor, head for Foundation for Newark’s Future, talks fundraising, relationship-building, and visit with Mark Zuckerberg

y John Mooney, May 10, 2012 in Education|

Greg Taylor is nearing his first year anniversary as head of the Foundation for Newark’s Future, better known as the organization that is distributing the $100 million given to Newark by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

NJ Spotlight sat down with Taylor in his Newark office yesterday to talk about the progress so far, his thoughts on the fundraising to date -- including a required $100 million match -- the community’s role in the foundation’s work, and even current teacher contract talks and where Foundation for Newark’s Future could play a role. And he shared a little from a recent meeting in California with Zuckerberg, a trip he made with Cami Anderson, Newark’s new superintendent.

NJ Spotlight: Where are things with the foundation? The last came last year with the announcement of teacher grants and strategic planning to come.

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Greg Taylor: We are really excited by the momentum we have going. The board has approved our partnership with Newark Charter School Fund, and we are excited to build on their leadership, commitment and understanding on the charter and school options side to help us make available as many school options as we can for kids.

NJS: How much money?

Taylor: As the group raises dollars, I fully expect we would invest in a way that supports the plan they are putting forth. It’s a little premature to talk about dollar figures. Significant resources will go to our school option strategy.

NJS: What about community engagement? It has been a criticism that the foundation has not included enough community representation.

Taylor: There are three areas where we are excited on the community engagement. One is leadership development of new voices in this community, young leaders and by that I mean 30-somethings and maybe a little younger. There are leaders in every community in every neighborhood, and we hope to provide both training and leadership for them and also platforms around issues like ed reform and community building.

Secondarily is the community advisory committee, and we are excited to name the board chair, Robert Johnson, the dean of the medical school at UMDNJ, and we are in the process of building out additional members of the advisory board.

Lastly, we know that there are existing groups of community-based organizations that could use a level of resources, leadership development and some real capacity building. So we are hoping to network the organizations across the city who are already going after the issues we care about and also frankly working on other issues important to this community.

We will make grants in all of those areas to the right partners. For 2012, we will put a little less than $1 million, about $900,000 as investment across all three.

NJS: What has taken so long with the advisory board?

Taylor: It has taken longer, but in fairness, partly because we wanted to do it right and in part we had worked through what the advisory board would be. We want it to be an authentic entity. It has taken longer but not for the lack of work and taking the time to uncovering the emerging leaders in this community who have a tremendous voice.

NJS: What else are you planning?

Taylor: Newark is ripe for investment in early childhood, so we are excited to invest in a quality rating and improvement system for providers. It will help to provide what are the particular markers of quality, the ratio of teachers to students, the size of classrooms, the materials. As the individual organizations achieve those markers, they get compensation from the state to grow those. We will do some of the money and also leverage what the state will invest. That’s about $1.5 million.

NJS: Give me bottom line on what has been spent and raised so far, including toward the $100 million match required in the Facebook gift?

Taylor: We have spent a little over $15 million to date, and we have raised a little over $50 million. In this time, raising $50 million is no small feat. We should pause and absolutely celebrate that. I know in light of the urgency and the challenge before us, we certainly want to leverage the full $100 million. We want as many resources available to help meet the needs in a community as rich as Newark, but I want to be very clear, we are very excited that we are more than halfway to meeting our goal in the short timeframe we have been working on this.

NJS: After early success, has it been slower progress than expected in fundraising?

Taylor: In the spirit of fundraising, part of what happened was the fanfare initially and folks met that challenge, and we have consistently raised the dollars going forward. Now what happens is the dollars to be raised will be on strategy and leadership and results, and that’s a fair place to be. But rest assured, $50 million is an extraordinary accomplishment.

NJS: On the grants, what have you done lately?

Taylor: We have invested in Education Pioneers, which is a pipeline for education professionals to work in the education space and community building space to really help do some projects, planning and other efforts.

NJS: Some might say you are taking your time spending your money? What else is planned?

Taylor: We don’t take a direct role in the negotiations of the teachers contract, but what we are excited about is any steps that are taken that insure every classroom has a high quality teacher. We don’t know what that [dollar] number will be, but we are excited to help play a role. We don’t know what the strategies are yet, but we know that it will require an aggressive strategy by the superintendent.

NJS: Do you support Anderson’s reorganization plan, which includes the closing of schools and consolidations of others?

Taylor: First and foremost, we support the superintendent’s leadership and the plan she has put in place for transforming education in the city. We know that requires tough decisions, and really have been glad to be part of the follow up meetings that resulted in increased understanding on why the decisions have been made. The community reaction is understandable in any community where a superintendent has proposed closings, its an emotional moment, it’s a tough decision. But by the same token, you have to recognize the footprint in Newark is shrinking, and the notion that the superintendent is leading an effort requires some thoughtful decisions.

NJS: Have you spoken with Zuckerberg about the progress so far?

Taylor: I have had a chance to talk with Mark, and I think he is pleased with the progress to date. He knows this is difficult work, and I think he is deeply respectful of the challenges that urban education faces nationally. He has not played any strategic role, nor is he interested in that. He recognizes he is not an education expert. He really has not. There is no question we want to keep him informed about the work, but he plays no role on strategy development.

NJS: When did you speak last?

Taylor: We met about a week ago in California, with Cami [Anderson] in that meeting. It was an hour and a half, a real chance for the superintendent to share her vision for change in this community and our chance to update him on progress to date.

NJS: Any lessons from all this so far?

Taylor: There are definite lessons, first and foremost understanding and clarifying the execution steps. You’ve heard me say before that our rhetoric got ahead of our execution, and I think that it’s fair to say there is a lesson there. It takes time to build the relationship, and while I respect the urgency, we also want to really make sure we are working in partnership with folks in the community. This is not a race, but about being diligent and thoughtful in the work.



Courier Post - State: 26 charter schools apply…5 Camden candidates only ones from S.J.

6:28 AM, May. 10, 2012 | Written by Courier-Post staff


CAMDEN — State education officials have announced 26 qualified charter school applicants for 2012, including five candidates in Camden.

The state this year has sought applications from charter school operators from around the country in an attempt to encourage “successful and replicable” models.

Two of the Camden schools also would serve students from the Pennsauken district, according to a list released by the state Department of Education.

The five schools are the only applicants from South Jersey on the list.

They include Multicultural Public Charter School and Knowledge Empowers Youth (KEY) Charter School, both intended to serve Camden and Pennsauken. Projections call for 250 students in kindergarten through fourth grade at Multicultural Public Charter School, and 400 students in grades 5-8 at KEY Charter School .

Applicants also include Camden’s Rosedale Charter School, with a projected 225 students in grades K-5; International Academy of Camden Charter School, with a projected 700 student in K-6; and the Laboratory Charter School of Camden, with a projected 600 students in K-5.

Additional information about the Camden applicants was not immediately available.

A spokesman for DOE said the release of that information requires an open public records request, which the Courier-Post submitted Wednesday.

Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf is to announce final decisions on charter applications Sept. 30.


Press of Atlantic City - Paid union leave has cost New Jersey taxpayers $30 million since 2006, report says

Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 6:25 pm By ANDREW DUFFELMEYER Associated PresspressofAtlanticCity.com | 0 comments

TRENTON — New Jersey taxpayers are picking up the tab for some public employees to conduct union business, according to a report released Wednesday, but the state’s largest teachers union says that’s a longstanding practice that actually benefits taxpayers.

The report by the State Commission of Investigation calls for eliminating or substantially curtailing paid union leave for government workers, a practice that’s cost taxpayers more than $30 million since 2006.

 “Although it is not uncommon, nor is it necessarily improper, for government employers to grant some form of time-off for union work, the Commission found significant and questionable variations in how such leave is authorized, who qualifies for it, who keeps track of it, how it is constituted and who ultimately pays the bill,” the report reads.

The report noted that some union officials in New Jersey have been on paid leave for decades without performing any government work. Investigators said some received additional compensation in the form of attendance stipends or overtime at taxpayer expense, and taxpayers occasionally paid for cars, office space, computers and other equipment used for union business.

The practice can be confusing and inconsistent, the report noted, with different rules for different classes of public employee. The investigation also uncovered instances of “sloppy and incomplete record-keeping,” as well as “lengthy and inexplicable delays” in documents being provided.

The report further recommends enhancing public disclosure and transparency of the practice, setting uniform rules for granting union leave and all recipients of full-time paid union leave providing immediate notice to officials.

New Jersey Education Association President Barbara Keshishian said the report didn’t uncover any evidence of wrongdoing, noting that granting leave for workers to conduct union business is a common, longstanding practice.

She also questioned the timing of the report, saying the state has seen attacks on public education and unions recently. The NJEA represents nearly 200,000 educators New Jersey.

“Agreements for release time, including full-time release in a limited number of instances, have been around for decades,” she said. “They have always been a matter of public record. The fact that the release of this report comes in the midst of a sustained attack on public education and public sector unions in New Jersey is a remarkable coincidence.”

Keshishian said the cost of such leave is almost always borne by the union, not by taxpayers. And granting leave for union business actually saves time and money for school districts, she said, making it faster and easier for union officials and schools to resolve issues.

The report examined 120 school districts, 17 towns, all 21 counties and 12 government departments.

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