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Who We Are »
Betsy Combier

Help Us to Continue to Help Others »
Email: betsy.combier@gmail.com

 
The E-Accountability Foundation announces the

'A for Accountability' Award

to those who are willing to whistleblow unjust, misleading, or false actions and claims of the politico-educational complex in order to bring about educational reform in favor of children of all races, intellectual ability and economic status. They ask questions that need to be asked, such as "where is the money?" and "Why does it have to be this way?" and they never give up. These people have withstood adversity and have held those who seem not to believe in honesty, integrity and compassion accountable for their actions. The winners of our "A" work to expose wrong-doing not for themselves, but for others - total strangers - for the "Greater Good"of the community and, by their actions, exemplify courage and self-less passion. They are parent advocates. We salute you.

Winners of the "A":

Johnnie Mae Allen
David Possner
Dee Alpert
Joan Klingsberg
Harris Lirtzman
Hipolito Colon
Jim Calantjis
Larry Fisher
The Giraffe Project and Giraffe Heroes' Program
Jimmy Kilpatrick and George Scott
Zach Kopplin
Matthew LaClair
Wangari Maathai
Erich Martel
Steve Orel, in memoriam, Interversity, and The World of Opportunity
Marla Ruzicka, in Memoriam
Nancy Swan
Bob Witanek
Peyton Wolcott
[ More Details » ]
 
Miami-Dade Superintendent Rudy Crew Starts With a High-Risk Strategy for Schools
The community should demand funding to meet its needs, he argues, not expect its needs to meet funding.
          
EDUCATION
Crew bets on 'high-risk strategies'
Superintendent Rudy Crew is betting his reputation he can lure the community into finding more funds to make his initiatives happen.
BY MATTHEW I. PINZUR, mpinzur@herald.com, February 27, 2005

LINK

Every time Miami-Dade Superintendent Rudy Crew unveils another ambitious education program, jaws drop, eyes bulge and the question gets asked: How can he pull this off?

In an era of ever-tighter budgets in almost every urban school system, Crew has proposed one expansion after another, including ramping up school construction, tripling the size of summer school and creating an institute for teacher development.

But he has only a fraction of the money he needs to do any of it.

''It's always easier to create the picture of what education looks like and then affix a price tag than to do it the other way around,'' Crew said. ``This is a very high-risk strategy, but my mind says this is the time for high-risk strategies.''

If he convinces voters to fund construction through additional taxes, a new charitable foundation to fund teacher development and corporate and community leaders to pitch in for summer school, he would cement his reputation among the leading American school chiefs, taming the education-budget beast.

If he falls short, he could be criticized as a sky-gazing idealist unburdened by fiscal reality or, worse, an unscrupulous huckster promising delights he knew could not be delivered.

''If he gets slammed, he'll be in bad shape personally,'' said Paul Hill, a Brookings Institution fellow who studies urban education and has watched Crew's career through other school districts. ``He may feel he has to quit.''

Unlike previous superintendents, who sweated over how to squeeze the district's plans into the budget, Crew wants to expand the budget to meet his plans.

He said current state and federal funding are insufficient to provide the education students need, so he is pushing a carefully orchestrated strategy: If he first dazzles voters, business moguls and civic leaders with grand ideas, he figures he can then convince them to pay.

`RARE EFFORT'

''Rudy generally has taken the attitude that you formulate good things and then people fund them, rather than begging for money,'' said Hill, who is also director of the Center on Reinvention Public Education at the University of Washington. ``Any big-city superintendent you talk to knows they haven't got the horses -- this is a rare effort to do something about it.''

When School Board members hold community meetings to hawk the $3 billion construction plan, for example, they rarely mention that the district expects to receive only about $1 billion from the state and would need voters to approve a whopping new bond referendum to raise the rest.

For example, when board member Martin Karp met with a few dozen constituents at a South Beach cafe last week, he bragged on the eight new schools that would be built in their neighborhoods to relieve overcrowding and the $100 million for improvements of nearly all the existing schools. He never mentioned the funding or a new tax to fund a bond issue.

''We don't shy away from it, but we don't make a big deal of it, either,'' Crew spokesman Joseph Garcia said.

That strategy is completely different from Crew's predecessors, who routinely cut back summer school and other programs to balance their ever-tightening budgets.

''I wouldn't have said that we're going to achieve these things without knowing that I could deliver on it,'' said Merrett Stierheim, the career public administrator who preceded Crew at the district. ``It's probably just a matter of style -- I'm just conservative when it comes to money.''

As the plans keep coming without clearly defined funding, some School Board members are starting to bristle.

''Is it ethical to be doing this, to be getting people all excited when there's an agenda behind it?'' asked board member Marta Pérez, who pressed Crew this month for a clearer plan to fund his summer-school proposal. ``I don't have the answer right now. It's not that I'm opposed to it. I just want to know how we're going to pay for it.''

In some ways, Crew's strategy is a car-salesman's strategy -- get people to test drive the newest model and inhale that new car smell before talking about price.

`DEFINE THE DEBATE'

It also gives him a chance to control the debate and constrain his opponents. A tax-hawk conservative can easily speak out against a vague $2 billion bond, but it may be harder to tell voters to quash a new high school up the road.

'You do get a chance to say, `If not this, what?' '' Crew said. ``We get to define the debate.''

Crew's methods also provide him political scapegoats if the plans fail -- he can shift blame from himself to the voters, leaders or officials that refuse to find the money.

''Either the community's going to come together and find ways to make these necessary steps occur, or the community will expose itself as only having been rhetorically supportive,'' said Mark Richard, interim director of the United Teachers of Dade, who has enthusiastically supported Crew's plans. ``It really is judgement day in the community regarding whether leaders will just pay lip service to reform or put resources into it.''

A GRANDER PLAN

Hill said Crew does not spend much energy looking for ways to deflect accountability but acknowledged that his strategy does leave him that advantage.

Crew portrays it as part of his grander plan to shift the discussion away from what he calls ``thinking like minimalists.''

The community should demand funding to meet its needs, he argues, not expect its needs to meet funding.

''It's not about doing a quick, slick sales job,'' he said. ``The strategy here is much more of demonstrating to people that there is a huge demand and a huge set of expectations.''

With a four-year contract that may be extended through at least 2010, Crew's national reputation -- and ultimately his legacy -- will be tied to his success in Miami-Dade. To introduce all of his sea-changing ideas in curriculum, operations and school management, he said he will have to take dramatic risks.

''The downside of this is that you can lose big,'' he said. ``But I wouldn't mind losing big over this.''

 
© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation