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Tutoring service disqualified at 5 Chicago schools

Why don't they disqualify this outfit nationally?

James Newton Founder of Newton Learning Corporation, is a nationally known consultant, facilitator and speaker. With over 20 years experience, James brings a unique blend of insight and business acumen, providing inspiration integrated with practical tools for application.

He assists organizations of all kinds to increase effectiveness and profitability by developing accountable individuals, enthusiastic, productive teams and organizational cultures based on trust and integrity.

Newton Learning Board of Directors

Michael Mack, Newton Learning Board Chair
Chairman, CEO and President of Garden Fresh Corporation

Michael P. Mack co-founded the Garden Fresh Inc. in 1983 which currently operates over 90 salad buffet restaurants in 15 states under the names of SouPlantation and Sweet Tomatoes.

Kenneth B. Hamlet is chairman of the board of TEC International, an international organization of CEOs. Ken is also vice chairman and president of Affinity2, a web-based portal designed to offer products and services to small and medium- sized businesses. He is also the president of Knowledge Universe Executive Education and Conferences LLC. and serves on several corporate boards.

Jeff Stiefler
President & Director, American Express (Retired)

Mr. Stiefler has been a senior leader of and advisor to companies ranging in size from American Express, where he served as President and Director, and Citicorp to LBO backed middle market businesses and Internet start-ups.

Senior Vice President and General Counsel, DURA Pharmaceuticals (Retired)

From 1994 to 2001, Mitch was Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Dura Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a San Diego based, publicly traded pharmaceutical company. Career concentrated on general business transactions, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory (SEC, FDA, etc.) work, and in the case of Dura a wide variety of senior management responsibilities (oversight of Human Resources functions, growth of the company from 120 employees and $16 million in revenues in 1994 to 1100

By Abdon M. Pallasch

The Chicago Public Schools' largest supplier of tutoring services broke state ethics rules and therefore is disqualified from providing tutors at five elementary schools, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

The state board sent letters Friday to New York-based Newton Learning and to the Chicago Public Schools informing them of the violations.

The tutoring, which is guaranteed by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, is supposed to be open to several private agencies from which parents can choose.

The state board became suspicious when all of the parents at some schools chose Newton Learning. The board's investigation found that Newton allegedly hired Chicago Public Schools staff to recruit students for Newton and were paying them bounties for signing up students.

One CPS employee admitted to switching students' choices on enrollment forms to Newton and calling parents to advise them to switch to Newton.

Newton's general manager, Joel Rose, said Saturday, "We take the allegations very seriously. We launched our own internal investigation to determine the facts. It didn't surprise us that so many students signed up for our programs this year. We ran a very successful program last year."

The incentive for private tutoring service providers to recruit is obvious, with a pot of nearly $60million in mostly federal tutoring funds at stake for Chicago Public Schools.

Can still work at other schools

"This program is set up to provide poor, struggling kids with tutoring services that are greatly needed. To find out that private companies are using overly aggressive methods to recruit kids is extremely disappointing and something we're not going to tolerate," Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan said in comments relayed by spokesman Peter Cunningham.

The schools' inspector general will investigate to see if any laws were broken.

Newton will not be barred from providing tutoring at the nearly 300 other underperforming schools where students can take advantage of free tutoring.

About 17,000 of the 60,000 CPS students eligible for tutoring signed up with Newton in more than 170 schools, Rose said.

Newton, a division of Edison Schools, has 30 days to appeal the state board's decision, but state board general counsel Jonathan Furr said he hopes to have an agreement to have them removed right away from the five schools: James Madison, Alexander Graham, Henry Nash, George Schneider and Julia Lathrop.

— Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times


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