Schmidt Speaks: Why Didn't Anyone Notice That The New Teacher Project Grew Into A $750K Contract?

As many of you know, I've been trying to include a broad variety of voices on this site -- from downtown, from the community, from teachers and principals.  In recent months, this has included CPS spokersperson Peter Cunningham, former accountability czar Phil Hansen, a world-weary small schools teacher. Others are welcome.  The latest addition comes from none other than George Schmidt, editor-in-chief of Substance. 

Schmidt writes: 

To read Chicago's daily newspapers, the average informed citizen might
think
that nothing of interest had taken place at the September 27 meeting of
the
Chicago Board of Education, other than the approval of a strange
program that implied Chicago needed help from New York to figure out
how to hire teachers for its roughest inner city schools.

The biggest news story to come out of the September Board meeting,
incomplete
and a day early, was that Chicago was going to spend $150,000 to hire a
New
York firm ("The New Teacher Project") to train Chicago principals to
pick
teachers better when they were hiring staff. For reasons nobody
bothered to
explain, both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times reported the
plan to hire The New Teacher Project as if it were the only newsworthy
item on the Board's agenda in September.

Had either the Sun-Times or the Tribune bothered to get a copy and read
the agenda, they might have noted that the proposal from CEO Arne
Duncan to hire the "New Teacher Project" was actually for a total of
$765,000 (not the $150,000 as reported), and that the plan seemed to be
a little more than was reported in the
press.

According to the item that appeared on the Board's agenda and was approved by the Board, "Consultant will develop and implement six training workshops
for 100 administrators to instruct and evaluate effective hiring strategies"
Further on in the Board Report (06-0927-PR14) a careful reader learned to
things.

First, the project was to train principals for selecting teachers out of
something called (caps in original) Alternative Certification Programs. It also
seems that most of the $765,000 is to go for the development of a website
which "will have the capability to manage the on-line application process,
provide various reporting functions, and ensure accountability of submitted
applications."

In most major cities, when a municipal body proposes to spend three
quarters of a million dollars on something that isn't needed to do something that's already being done nearby, there might be some critical scrutiny, either in
the press or at the meeting of the municipal body's board.

Between the two stories, the Tribune gets into the issues a little deeper and begins with a quote from two city high school principals (Prosser's Ken Hunter and Robeson's James Brashears).

Why didnt anyone notice that the program is much bigger than advertised?  How did it go from $150k to $260k to over a quarter of a million dollars?  Why does CPS still need outside help to do what its supposed to have been doing better and better, according to some reports all these years (and that many local districts have had for years)?

[George N. Schmidt retired this month after a 28-year career teaching in
Chicago's public schools, mostly inner city high schools. He is currently working
as editor-in-chief of Substance and serving as director of research for SEIU
Local 73 in Chicago. He also does free lance writing and investigative
reporting in his spare time.]

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