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    New DPS contract sparks concerns

    Ohanian Comment: Byrd-Bennett was superintendent in residency for Harcourt School Publishers. Then she was hired as Detroit's chief academic and accountability officer. Now
    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has received a contract for the largest single deal ever.

    Just a coincidence.

    There were data problems when Byrd-Bennett was chief executive of the Cleveland schools where she left a string of budget issues, not to mention teacher firings. See more of her history here.

    On October 8,2002 US Conference of Mayors President Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, Chair of the Education Standing Committee, hosted a meeting on Mayors and Public Schools in Cleveland, the first of a number of sessions held under the joint partnership between the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Broad Foundation.

    Eli Broad, Founder of the Broad Foundation, addressed the mayors and shared with them his education reform agenda. Broad does not believe that education is for educators alone. He feels that necessary change will come at the leadership of mayors. "I believe mayors should have direct control over their cities' school systems. I believe there have been greater achievements where mayors are involved. But whether direct control or not, you have the power to make education reforms," Broad said, adding that "I call on you to challenge the status quo."

    Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Chief Executive of the Cleveland Municipal School District, addressed the group: "In less than four years, I have seen phenomenal progress, not in the number of things that have happened, but in the depth of things that have happened." She went on to describe the most significant changes in the school system and closed saying, "Now one person is accountable, now one person is responsible, now the school system is in the hands of the mayor of the city."

    Source: US Mayor Newspaper

    You expect union protest of any of the huge teacher layoffs in any urban district?

    Guess who is chair of the AFT Innovation Fund? Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Guess who's funding it? The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation [listed in alphabetical order]. AFT says their money is in there too.

    Meanwhile, back in Detroit, the Broad Foundation is paying $450,000 of a $972,000 no-bid contract given to Public Financial Management, Inc, where Robert Bobb, Fellow of 2005 Broad Foundation Urban Schools Superintendents Academy, and current emergency financial manager of Detroit Schools, was a senior managing consultant

    And if you think this is evidence of Eli Broad's takeover of urban schools, take a look at what's going on in Chicago. Los Angeles.

    Where's the union? People paying union dues should follow the money.

    Marisa Schultz

    A $40 million contract with a book publishing company has resurrected concerns over Detroit Public Schools making business deals with former employers of its administrators.

    DPS contracted with Boston's Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a Web-based teaching product called Learning Village, and for curriculum, training and books. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the district's chief academic and accountability officer, used to work for Harcourt School Publishers.

    The contract is the largest single deal ever for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the oldest publishers in the nation.

    The agreement follows Bobb's hiring of Public Financial Management Inc., where he was a part-time consultant, under a $972,000, no-bid contract. (The Broad Foundation is paying $450,000 of that contract.) The Philadelphia company was contracted to work on DPS finances.

    Byrd-Bennett wasn't available for comment, but DPS spokeswoman Jennifer Mrozowski said the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt contract was competitively bid and the publisher was chosen over the two others that gave the district proposals because it had the highest evaluation from a panel of senior academic staff. Byrd-Bennett was not on this panel, Mrozowski said.

    "She was not a part of the bid process or the selection with this company or any of the others," Mrozowski said. "Because she has had relationships with so many (education companies), she deliberately does not participate in the process."

    Byrd-Bennett was the former superintendent in residency for Harcourt School Publishers starting in March 2006. The company did not provide details on her salary or term of service, but Mrozowski said her role was to work with school superintendents and principals on professional development and training.

    Steve Conn, a DPS teacher and union activist, was outraged the district would spend $40 million with Byrd-Bennett's former company for high-tech products he believes are "questionable" in boosting student achievement. Meanwhile, teachers are being laid off, some children don't have textbooks and Bobb is asking for $45 million in teachers union concessions, Conn said.

    "It's just so deplorable and outrageous and wrong," he said.

    The contract is signed by Bobb and runs from Aug. 31, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2010.

    Josef Blumenfeld, vice president of corporate communications at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, said the company is proud to win the contract and implement a teaching model that will help schoolchildren. The publisher is investing in a 13-person project management office in Detroit to help launch the products.

    "We are full-blown committed to making this work and benefit the students in Detroit," Blumenfeld said.

    The Learning Village program will drive student achievement by measuring how well students are learning, he said. The program creates exercises to address the gaps and provides teachers with strategies for improving instruction.

    — Marisa Schultz
    Detroit News


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