Sunday, February 26, 2012

More evidence-based hypocrisy

Among other things, Cerf recommends the governor convene a task force to explore...whether poor students should be "presumed to be educationally at-risk."

Commissioner Chris Cerf--did you really say this?

Chris Cerf is a bright man.

He's had a couple of public displays of disingenuous behavior:
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 [of Edison, Inc., worth potentially millions]  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.

Nothing illegal, and there's a reasonable chance that Mr. Cerf would have obtained the waiver he sought for his private holdings in Edison--but I'll let his own words stand as evidence of his forthrightness.

He went on to solicit funds from Edison, in violation of the City Charter
The city’s Conflicts of Interest Board closed the matter without taking action against the deputy chancellor, Christopher Cerf. But in a letter to Mr. Cerf, the board’s chairman, Steven B. Rosenfeld, said that Mr. Cerf had used his city position to benefit the Darrow Foundation, a nonprofit group on whose board he sits. The letter also provided a “formal reminder of the importance of strict compliance with the city’s conflicts of interest law.”

Again, nothing illegal, and again, nothing more than a public letter reminding him of his role. Still, his response to this is telling:
“If you’re asking me do I have any regrets, I will tell you absolutely not,” Mr. Cerf said. “I did absolutely what I was supposed to do. I disclosed everything; the Conflicts of Interest Board gave it the back of its hand.”
“Raising money for a not for profit, tell me, what’s wrong with that?” he added.
“There is nothing here other than an investigation that exonerated me. The only real story here is that I was put through a rather tortuous experience.”
Then there's the small issue of misplaced businesses. Global Education Advisers, founded at Cerf's home address, received a half million dollars from the Facebook money given to Newark. Global Education Advisers is now led by Rajeev Bajaj, but still listed Cerf's address after his appointment as our Education Commissioner, an "entirely ministerial" relationship according to Cerf.

Mr. Cerf says he left the company before the money was received, and that he got none of it and I have no reason to doubt him. (Maybe he had a line painted in his home separating the company from his living quarters--but I'll leave that the Montclair Zoning Board .) To claim no interest in a company that shares the same address as yours does takes some chutzpah.

If nothing else, the man has mastered the art of splitting hairs, has a fine command of the language, and no doubt has some idea of the hurdles facing children in our poorest neighborhoods.

He's looked me in the eye and told me he deeply cares about the children caught in the web of poverty, and I believe he believes he cares.

Before spending a penny on convening a state task force to determine whether poverty puts a child at educational risk, take a look at the work that's already been done at the National Center For Education Statistics.

You told me you were a numbers guy--I am, too. Peak expiratory flows, lead levels, home temperature, decibel levels, NOx ppm, rate of caries, etc., all correlate with poverty, all affect a child's ability to sustain the effort needed to learn.

I know zip code does not dictate destiny, but I also know that poverty tilts the playing field.

No more sophistry, no more hypocrisy, no more delays. We have important work to do, Mr. Commissioner. Let's get to it.

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