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Gov. chief ed adviser’s firm major supplier to state ed


Ohanian Comment: Those interested in press failure to check facts should read the Deadspin article on the claims made about Richard Parsons' basketball career at University of Hawaii.

That is, of course, secondary to the conflict of interest that nobody seems to care about, the one involving Governor Cuomo, Parsons, and the state's heavy investment in technology in the schools.

Kudos, Claude Solnik.


by Claude Solnik

One of the governor's chief education advisers is employed by a firm that does millions of dollars of business with the stateâs schools, although that has not been disclosed to the public.

Richard Parsons, the leader of an earlier state education commission that recommended heavy investment in technology and head of a new education task force, works for a company whose principal holdings include an education technology firm that does a substantial business with the state.

Parsons, the former chairman of Citigroup and CEO and chairman of Time Warner, was recently named the head of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's task force on the Common Core.

Since 2009 he has been a senior adviser at Providence Equity Partners -- whose principal holdings include numerous education technology firms. The state disclosed his position there, but did not indicate that Providence had any involvement in education technology firms.

"That definitely should have been disclosed," said one education official who asked not to be identified. "I knew him from Time Warner."

The state in its brief biography of Parsons describes Providence as "a leading private equity investment firm specializing in media, communications and information companies."

It pointedly omits education, even though Providence on its website clearly lists education (in particular, high-tech education) along with those three other sweet spots.

Providence Sweet Spots

Providence owns Blackboard, a high-tech education firms whose roots go back to a consulting firm founded in 1997 to work with non-profit IMS Global Learning Consortium and merged with CourseInfo the following year.

Venture capital firms and venture capital arms of companies such as Pearson, Dell, AOL, The Carlyle Group and Novak Biddle Venture Partners all took stakes in Blackboard, which went public in 2004.

Investors led by Providence Equity Partners later bought Blackboard for $1.64 billion, taking the firm private. Blackboard remains one of Providence's key holdings with contracts around the country, including New York State.

Blackboard in December of 2011 obtained a $6.8 million contract for the State University of New York system, according to state records, in 2012 obtained another $1 million contract and in 2014 obtained a $7.5 million contract.

The company also obtained a $5.9 million contract with the City University of New York in 2012, followed by an additional $1 million contract over the next two years.

Blackboard has been building its New York business, even as Parsons has risen to a high rank among the stateâs education advisers.

Allison Breidbart White, a critic of the Common Core and of the task force Gov. Andrew Cuomo created, said there is "no doubt, lots of conflict of interest on that panel, not just with Parsons."

He also served as the head of the governor's 2012 committee to reform education that recommended heavily investing in technology.

The state indicates that the New York Education Reform Commission that Parsons led "played an instrumental role in developing a blueprint to improve the quality of education for all students through its final report in January 2014."

The New York Education Reform Commission under Parsons focused heavily on the benefits of and need to spend heavily on rolling out more technology.

"Simply put, technology can bring learning to students wherever they are....Digital learning has the potential to leverage technology to transform our educational system," according to the commission. "The commission therefore recommends that the governor and the Legislature invest in access to technology â from computers to high-speed broadband deployment."

While technology clearly provides benefits, balancing technology against teaching has become a hot button issue in recent years. Gov. Cuomo in 2014 proposed and New York State approved $2 billion to invest in school technology through the Smart Schools Bond Act.

Parsons studied at, but did not graduate from, the University of Hawaii before attending and graduating from the Union University of Albany Law School.

While many articles about Parsons attribute his poor performance at the University of Hawaii to time playing on the varsity team, he doesn't appear to have played for that team.

Parsons in a 1990 article in The New York Times after he became CEO of Dime Savings Bank of New York: was incorrectly described "a varsity basketball jock" as well as "a social chairman of his fraternity" at the University of Hawaii, according to Deadpsin.com.

Articles in The New York Times in 1993 and 2001 reiterated the claim that he played varsity basketball, according to Deadspin.com, which questioned Parsons' basketball past after he took the helm at the Clippers.

"Something had to come up short," he told PBS in a long interview after saying he did poorly in college, while playing on the basketball team.

"I didn't make my mother proud, I'll put it that way, in terms of the grades I got while I was out here," Parsons told one interviewer, while telling another interviewer that his poor grades resulted in part from efforts to improve his bridge skills.

He said he started as a physics major, but "that required more time and attention than...all these other activities afforded me."

Parsons apparently did nothing to correct numerous statements about his performance on the varsity basketball team, at least until it was publicly questioned.

Clippers spokesperson Seth Burton told Deadspin that Parsons "played one season on the JV team at Hawaii," although Deadspin had a great deal of difficulty in substantiating that.

Parsons never graduated from the University of Hawaii, but took the LSATs and has said he was nonetheless accepted into law school, working in addition to attending class.

"I just knew the answers," he told PBS. "And so I did very well in law school, without having to work too, too hard."

Parsons soon became involved in government, working as of counsel for Nelson Rockefeller and then as a senior White House adviser to President Gerald Ford.

He later transitioned to a high ranking advisory position among Democrats when then President-elect Barack Obama appointed him to his Economic Transition Team in 2008.

Parsons earlier served as managing partner at Manhattan law firm Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler, before serving as CEO of Dime Bancorp, chairman of Citigroup and CEO and chairman of Time Warner.

He from May through September, 2014, served as the interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers, following a scandal involving one of its owners.

Parsons serves on the boards of the Estée Lauder Companies, Lazard Frères and Co. and Madison Square Garden Co. and is a director of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Although he had not been heavily involved in traditional public education, he has been an outspoken advocate for charter schools, serving on the advisory board of Deborah Kenny's Charter network, Harlem Village Academies.


— Claude Solnik
Long Island Business News

2015-10-27

http://libn.com/2015/10/27/gov-chief-ed-advisers-firm-major-supplier-to-state-ed/#ixzz3poDyxYv1

NY


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