Friday, February 09, 2007


The New York City Department of Education hired Chris Cerf as a deputy schools chancellor last December. Mr. Cerf is a former president of commercial school operator Edison Schools and he's been a little vague on just how much stock he still owns in Edison:

Mr. Cerf, who was named a deputy chancellor in December after working as a consultant to the city’s Education Department for about a year, had owned Edison shares that could have been worth as much as $6.7 million by 2008, according to company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Cerf described that figure yesterday in an interview as “1,000 percent speculative.”

Mr. Cerf, one of a number of consultants enlisted by Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein in recent years to help redesign the nation’s largest school system, did not disclose to parents that he had given up his shares less than 24 hours previously when he appeared yesterday before their group, the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council.

Asked by Tim Johnson, the group’s chairman, to describe his financial interest in Edison Schools, he replied, “I’d be delighted to do that,” adding: “I have no financial interest in Edison of any kind. Zero.”

When Mr. Johnson persisted, asking, “Can we ask when you divested yourself of Edison stock?” Mr. Cerf said he would be “delighted” to give Mr. Johnson a copy of financial disclosure forms he said he was required to file as a public employee. “That will answer all of your questions, and that’s what I’m prepared to say today,” he added.

Mr. Klein, who spoke at the meeting after Mr. Cerf, said simply that “he is divested.”

How's that for Cerf being open and honest about his financial stake in his old commercial schools company which continues to do substantial business with the NYC DOE through a subsidiary?

In many places, such relationship would be called a "conflict-of-interest" and Mr. Cerf would be criticized for being so slippery and vague about his continued financial stake in Edison Schools.

But not in Mayor Bloomberg's New York City and not in Joel Klein's Department of Education where the motto is always "No Crony Left Behind."

The old Board of Education certainly used to operate that way and Bloomberg and Klein were rightfully critical of the old ways of doing business in the school system.

But given the no-bid contracts they've doled out to campaign supporters, the cronies from the business world lacking in any education experience they've hired to run everything from the principals' academy to the school regions, and the blatant push to privatization that has allowed Bloomie and Klein to hire management personnel for the DOE who have a financial stake in privatizing the system, it seems to me that the new Department of Education is just as corrupt and full of cronyistic shenanigans as the old Board of Education.

The only change is the old BOE was pretty open about just how crooked they were. These new guys are sanctimonious assholes who want you to think every move they make is "for the kids" while they hand out no-bid contracts, cushy jobs to campaign supporters and business cronies with conflicts-of-interest, and push the system toward privatization that is going to make both their associates and themselves a helluva lot of money.

I believe he divested himself of that stock just the day before he announced it, though he started working for Klein in October 06.

I don't think Edison schools will be worth a whole lot in the future, as it's more likely they'll simply change their name to "NYC Department of Education.
Good point, nyc.

In your criticisms of Christopher Cerf, you seem to say that if his hiring results in a contract between the DOE and Edison Schools, it won't ruffle your feathers as long as he's not a stockholder in Edison. But it will upset you if he owns stock in Edison.

In other words, you don't question the basic premise that the DOE needs major improvements. You only care if one particular person profits if Edison stock rises as a result of a contract with the DOE.

Yeah, that really shows your interest in the kids.

If you believe Edison will get a fat contract from the DOE and you believe the contract will send the stock price higher, why not buy the stock?

Meanwhile, given the years of declining results in the NY public school system, on what basis do you conclude that an affiliation with Edison will drive results even lower?

Are you just guessing, or do you know anything about the realities of their academic strategies?
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