'New Leaders' clout goes all the way to Obama, Duncan

Anyone in Chicago who believes it will be easy to unseat principals trained in the dictatorial executive practices of 'New Leaders for New Schools' needs to read the recent (July 10) story about "New Leaders" and the Obama administration from Politico. As Susan Ohanian has reported for years, the massive amount of money behind the current New Leaders programs is part of the same money coming from corporations and private foundations that is being used to push the entire model of education, from dictatorial principals to privatization and charter schools. Chicago has been at the center of it all since the day the mayoral control "miracle" was first proclaimed in Chicago.

The following article should give Chicago readers some insight into why principals like Prescott's Erin Roche have more clout than many people believe. The most amazing thing is that at both Ravenswood Elementary School and Prescott, Roche and his policies have been successfully challenged by organized parents, teachers, media (Substance) and some union solidarity (CORE and Substance, not Marilyn Stewart and the UPC).

Who Can Hook You Up With a White House Job?

By Politico, July 10, 2009

A key voice in the Obama administration’s decisions about filling top education posts is candid about his less-than-perfect record when it comes to executive recruitment.

Back in 2000, Jon Schnur was looking for someone to head up the Chicago branch of his fledgling nonprofit for training inner-city principals, New Leaders for New Schools.

“People told me the most talented person I could find was someone named Michelle Obama,” Schnur recalled. “I was able to reach Barack Obama, who put me in touch with her,” but the future first lady couldn’t be persuaded.

“She had other engagements at the University of Chicago. It didn’t work out,” Schnur said.

A domestic policy staffer in the Clinton White House and adviser to Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential bid, Schnur later advised Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate and during his presidential campaign last year.

Schnur’s suggestions, on both education policy and personnel, are closely heeded by the Obama White House, according to administration officials. “He played an important role — from the secretary job on down the line,” one top official said. “He helped a lot of people land.”

Schnur, 43, is close to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former Chicago schools chief, and sources said he promoted Duncan for the Cabinet job.

Philanthropist and Democratic donor Eli Broad, who funds Teach for America and Schnur’s principals program, said he considered Schnur a counterweight against the “bunch of academics” on Obama’s education transition team. Soon after the election, Broad said he told Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel that “the education secretary should not be an academic or ex-governor. ... He said, ‘I assure you. We’re going to have a practitioner.’”

“There are a number of people who could have been absolutely outstanding secretaries of education, but I don’t think there’s anybody who could have been better than Arne Duncan,” Schnur said in an interview. “He lived it. He understood what it took to move student achievement for high-poverty kids. ... The personal confidence you see the president having for Arne is just so important.”

Schnur continues to have an impact on decisions, in part because he has Duncan’s ear, officials say. Duncan touts Schnur’s “critical role” in the transition and says he expects to work closely with the education reform advocate in the future.

For his part, Schnur stresses that his main advice has been on policy issues but acknowledges putting forward names for various slots. He won’t discuss whom he’s lobbied for, but reform types continued to land top-level jobs.

Schnur’s involvement in Democratic politics has occasionally made for heated exchanges with his older brother, Dan, a prominent Republican strategist who was the communications director for Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2000 presidential bid.

“We try to keep it pretty civil most of the time,” Dan Schnur said.

Given Jon Schnur’s connections and impact, many in the education world were stunned in May when the Wisconsin native announced plans to return to his New York-based organization — passing up an offer to be Duncan’s chief of staff. Schnur said his two children — and one more on the way — with his wife, Elisa, were part of the calculus, but a bigger factor was his conviction that education reform in America will ultimately be a bottom-up endeavor.

“I can have the most impact in this path of education reform by trying, in a handful of cities around the country, to prove you can achieve exceptional results and then really transform that by scaling it up,” Schnur said.


July 11, 2009 at 1:40 PM

By: Where is the Rest of the Education Press?

Bless You George!

Substance is the only press watching CPS and public education across the country.

How have we let things get to the point where White, Black, and Hispanic legislators and media roll over and play dead? If it's because every man (and woman) has his price, at least stand up like men and admit that you're not going to criticize the mayor because you've been bought. Apparently, nothing will happen to you in Chicago or Illinois.

But for God's sake each time the schools come up wanting stop hitting that automatic response and printing "Bad Teachers. Lazy Teachers. Hold Them Accountable."

Look in the mirror. Can you see a reflection?

July 11, 2009 at 4:08 PM

By: Candy

How Do They Find Each Other?

The mystery is how a mean, arrogant dictator like Erin Roche could have known that New Leaders for New Schools was his cult. Is there a secret sign that normal principal candidates can't read? Roche should be their poster boy. He could make testimonials for them. "Just a few short years with NLNS and only $666 a month and you, too can be trampling on teachers' rights to your heart's content!"

July 13, 2009 at 11:28 AM

By: Leaders?

New Leaders

I understand that education needs change and America overall needs an overhall before we follow behind internationally, but is this the way you do it. By stepping on good teachers that never have a chance to adjust to new programs. Just because the system is not working does not mean the teachers are not good? It is the system. If you expect the students to learn under the new programs why not teach the teachers rather than come in and clean house of existing teachers. The teachers this program is clearing out have lives and bad write ups and reviews just to get them out hurts them forever. Not just a school. So transfer them or help them, but do not ruin thier lives for your agenda. Still keep with the agenda, but don't ruin families and careers for your own selfish reasons. New Leaders need to have some compasion during change or law suits and issues will only follow. You have to get the peoples buy in not just the goverments. America was built for teh people not goverment agendas. Jsut research new leaders and see how many issues these schools have had and how many teachers were written up for unregular items.

July 13, 2009 at 3:04 PM

By: Saturation Point

Change Needs to Come From the Parents and the Kids

The problem is that the "new programs" that New Leaders for New Schools holds out as better than what exists at a school are a smokescreen. None of their ideas are new. They are just repackaged and recycled.

What is new,however,( although immoral human behavior has been with us since the beginning of time)is that NLNS writes up its own success stories, peddles them to journalists who are too lazy to do traditional research that news stories require, and conducts purges of veteran teachers who aren't fooled by their lack of substance.

NLNS depends for their continued financial success on hiring baby teachers who NEED a job and won't recognize that the ridiculous, superfluous paperwork required is only necessary to give cover to the principals when they report to their LSCs how wonderful they are.

July 16, 2009 at 4:15 PM

By: HoldemAccountable

Simple Criteria for Accountability

Here are a few simple suggestions for holding NLNS principals accountable. (For high schools)

Are student washrooms clean and accessible?

Are teachers given student rosters that are reasonably complete and accurate before the first day of school?

Are teachers told what classes they will be teaching in time to have a head start planning and preparing before school starts?

Are teachers given more than two preps? Why?

Do students wander the halls during classes?

Are special education teachers available when and where they should be?

Is the subsidized breakfast and lunch edible and nutritious?

Are student schedules and programs accurate and available before school starts?

Are report cards printed and mailed on time?

Are principals able to observe full lessons and offer advice in a timely constructive way?

Is there an effective system for tracking student attendance and cuts?

Is technology support available in sufficient quality and quantity to enable teachers to use it effectively?

Does anyone read teacher lesson plans or are they simply filed in binders?

Do students have assigned lockers with working locks?

Is there a clear school wide disciplinary policy that is effective?

Are teachers and students physically safe from assault in and around the school?

These are some general and specific items that a well run district and school must provide. They are quantifiable or verifiable. These are necessary conditions for school effectiveness. They are not sufficient. In the absence of safety or administrative order schools will not be effective whatever you deem their goals to be.

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