Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Corporate style reform

On another post, Anonymous wrote:



Anonymous said...

It is scary that Eli Broad & Gates are mentioned on top of scripted curriculum.

The end goal is scarier.

Anonymous said...

Tonight's agenda review is quite festive.

Proposed is a contract with Two Bell Group LLC to provide financial analysis of the district, paid for primarily by Gates and Broad.

There is no corporate filing with the Commonwealth for Two Bell Group LLC:


The street address listed in the Board action information sheet is for a residential property in - surprise - the 14th ward:


Good luck trying to Google Two Bell Group LLC expecting to find a robust web site with information about the principals, prior projects, methodology, references, etc.

Questioner said...

Speaking of the agenda review, the materials don't seem to include anything about the problem with overcrowding at U Prep due to students choosing or defaulting to U Prep instead of the single gender academies.

But, word is that students will be assigned elsewhere so that U Prep enrollment does not run over. What would be a good assignment?
Options might be:

1) Including mixed gender classes at Westinghouse

2) Sending students to the nearest comprehensive school (Allderdice) to the extent there is space

3) Sending students to Oliver since that school if very underenrolled (although there does not seem to be any precedent for a feeder in a different East/North/South region, and the distance to Oliver is so great that as a practical matter it wouldn't be a real alternative as a feeder).

Anonymous said...

I was skimming this and thought PPS contracted Taco Bell for financial guidance!

Questioner said...

Same here!

Questioner said...

With all the corporate references, it may be a natural reaction.

Anonymous said...

The quote in this morning's Trib is priceless:

All 500 schools districts in the State are making tough choices in the face of the Governor's budget. Steel Valley just sent fulough notices; others, like North Allegheny have stopped hiring; some are talking about consolidating districts.

What is PPS' doing in the face of the Governor's budget:

1. Not rescinding the Raise-gate actions from March 7th, adopted less than 24 hours before the Governor's budget;

2. Full speed ahead for communications and marketing. Another $200,000 approved in March for the colorful and nicely finished Back to School Package.

It's time to take back our schools.

My heaven's, when lower cost school districts with less robust central offices are able to put plans together while PPS - rapidly approaching $25,000 per student in cost - claims it does not have "capacity" to do so, I think the fat lady has sung.

Sad part is that the original Gates proposal itself is pretty explicit that implementing this next wave of the reform agenda would require more school closings, reductions in force and other efficiencies.

Is hiring a consultant a way to make someone else own these unpopular measures?

How are school districts with 1,000 kids figuring out that 65% of a school district's costs are in salaries and benefits, with most of the rest in buildings, etc.

Scariest part is that the horizon planning seems to be occuring at is much shorter than the peak of the problem. Next school is not the peak of the retirement rate spikes (this chart been handed out dozens of times at PPS meetings).

anony said...

The trouble with assessing buildings to be closed in a downsizing is the "close any school you want to, EXCEPT MINE" thinking.

As far as the financial analysis by Two Bell, even if they provide suggestions, you can always just ignore those. Cute name though, made me think of a cow. Nice research anonymous.

Anonymous said...

PPS hires consultants to consult their consultants.

The level of redundancy & layers of management is insane.

anony said...

It seems that the principal of Two Bell has some credentials that justify the selection.

Call me crazy, but could this be the party who speaks and is heard?

Anonymous said...

That's an interesting observation to make Anon 8:48 AM since:

1) the Board action information sheet posted on the PPS website contains no information about credentials;

2) the PA department of state has no public filings that can be found for this firm whatsoever;

3) this firm has no website whatsover to find any information about them?

Sounds like another example of insider ball - where is the request for proposals to make sure the right help was selected?

How are 499 other districts going to figure out how to get there with Two Bell?

Based on your comment on how impressed you are with the credentials, I can only presume that you are a PPS insider with not publicly available information. It might be helpful in the future to sign your posts "communications & marketing."

Anonymous said...

Let's see, who are the property owners?

At least used to work for McKinsey: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/fashion/weddings/12Fischer.html

Still listed as consultant there, but no "Two Bell" listed anywhere in the profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/gregacton

Or perhaps she's the one doing the work? Doesn't look like it: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/erin-fischer-acton/6/28b/915

Questioner said...

Re: "close any school but mine"- that really does not seem to have been the case. In general parents and students have stood up for schools when they saw real and special value in those schools and otherwise (in the majority of cases) have been open to other arrangements (clear and logical alternatives do best).

Anonymous said...

Has PPS matched the Gates grant yet?

anony said...

Wow, I am as "outsider" as you can get, but yes I used the property owner name to get some employment history. McKinsey has often been cited in presentations and education news. Never having been employed in any school, I depend on my personal experience with my own kids and learn a great deal from teachers and my fellow parents. The facilities study the district paid a lot of money for just a few years ago, contained some recommendations that were ignored. The point is that despite the possibility that the evaluation will be conducted with fidelity, the results can be ignored.

Anonymous said...

But they didn't hire McKinsey, right? They hired someone who also works for McKinsey who is using a home address and an unregistered business name.

Things that make you go hmm. I didn't know that people who work for McKinsey also, um, moonlight?!

Questioner said...

MR always used to hire Rand. Studies included a new way to measure graduation rates (which was expected to document progress the district would be making) then suddenly they were out of the picture. Did the results not come out the way he wanted or what?

Anonymous said...

Gates Foundation & Mckinsey are business partners in many ventures including PPS.


They provide Gates what he asks for.

Anonymous said...

But again -- is "Two Bell Group" some affiliate of McKinsey?

I understand Rand and McKinsey. I also understand hiring a local company with a good track record.

But this looks like neither of those things.

Anonymous said...

And the best part is that it is $150,000 for what appears to be one consultant for roughly three months????????

Really, this looks like a political payback.

What a shame.

Anonymous said...

Questionner 2:56 PM:

The connection with RAND was that a primary RAND researcher was the son of the former Chief Operations Officer (Gill) who just - coincidently - happens to be a Broad Superintendent's Academy graduate.

To add to the coincidence, as soon as that researcher left RAND and went to Mathematica, all of the large, no bid, no RFP research contracts started to go to Mathematica instead of RAND.

Anonymous said...

I have been watching this happen here in the PPS. When I question one of the PFT exucative board members about this, they called me paranoid.

We don't need no Broad Teachers Academy
We don,t need no Gates control
Hey Corparate America, leave us teachers alone.

All & all its's the, end public education in America

Inspired by Anouther Brick in the Wall part II by Pink Floyd

Anonymous said...

I am truly coming to believe that Dr. Lane, The Board members and those at the Administration Building that seem to be following them blindly think that the public at large are a bunch of rubes. There is a press release that makes a big deal out of "streamlining the Central Office" and saving the District $141,000 but when they hire a Company (Two Bell) that by all accounts is not registered anywhere as a legitimate business for $148,000 it's done as quietly as possible. When I read the General Authorization for this contract I could not help but be stunned that the Central Office that is chock full of PhD. and master degrees had to hire someone to, and I quote: "work with the District on a framework for prioritizing, addressing and communicating the difficult financial decisions surrounding the projected deficit". What exactly is the purpose of the central Office if they can't prioritize, address and communicate difficult financial decisions. I think it is more than reasonable to assume that Mr. Greg Acton is going to be the Central Office's SPIN DOCTOR to justify their poor decisions and enable them to keep their high paying jobs while others in the District worry if they will be employed in the future.

Anonymous said...

It makes me sad to think that the only way that this District will get its act together is if a state or federal audit is performed to determine how this Districts Central Office and the Administration Building in general has become so pathetically inept.

Anonymous said...

Each and every one of the very highly paid Central Office Administrators have hired consultant upon consultant to do the jobs that, presumably, they had been hired to do, but had neither the expertise nor experience to execute at that level.

The cost of these positions has become exponentially costly without producing satisfactory results for PPS students.

Again, the adult agendas, whether professionally of financially profitable, are the only winners.


Anonymous said...

Paranoid, that's what some teachers have call me for years

Eli Broad= Sun Finacial Boston

Think about it, His Educational pursuits/ The Broad Super. Academy Ect.Ect.

They boast on their web site about how many school districts their in & their networking system.

Look at all the consultants, pre packaged curiculum ect. ect.

Think about this from the investment side, Its like insider information on a host of educational companies & consulting firms.

This could be the biggest scams in education history of america.

Hell, they could also be investing in charter schools like Propel like how bookies take action from both sides.

This nation was built on Public Education, if you control that or deystroy it. We enter a new era of tolitarian coporate control of America. Hell, that happened last summer with that Supreme Court Ruling.

Anonymous said...

"Think about this from the investment side, Its like insider information on a host of educational companies & consulting firms.

This could be the biggest scams in education history of america."

It is the big scam! The district will be gutted and Lane & CO will run off into the sunset (Iowa) with the budget and never glance in the rear view mirror as they flee town. This is not about helping kids, it is about padding wallets to a select few during a recession and dismantling public schools so private companies can swoop in and make money.

Please read The Life and Death of the Great American School System and the article this post is about.

Anonymous said...

Just finished watching the agenda review and not one question was raised about the hiring of Twp Bell Group LLC. Si re-read the agenda review and realized thet of course in typical School Board fashion the vote to approve this expenditure will come AFTER the start date of this contract. The vote for approval is at the end of this month but the resolution in the agenda review document lists the start date of this contract as April,11 2011. Doesn't this violate proper parlimentary procedure, board policy and the law. Where is Mr. Weiss, the District Solicitor.

Everyday the transparency that is expected by the taxpayers and incumbent upon these supposed leaders drifts farther and farther from view.

Anonymous said...

I wonder where are the newspapers, television stations and all their investigative reporting at a time when it is needed the most. These "news" outlets were more than happy to drag a few custodians and laborers through the mud a few years back for their overtime pay, but, when they have the opportunity to truly break a huge story of how the District is being destroyed by those in power and their continuing cover ups of their ineptitude the "news" outlets are npo where to be found. I guess its just easier for them to attack low level employees than to investigate those who have truly done the most damage to the District.

Anonymous said...

When was the last time you saw or read a "balanced" news piece on PPS? It is rare to see anything questioned, they set the tone for being passive aggresive towards questioning authority when it gets in the way of their goals.

We sent Roosevelt off with a party, yet we are messed up due to him and still pay his life Insurance! I do not want to pay or it, I have no say.

The myth of the liberal media has been exposed over the past years.

The Gazette & most if not all TV stations are owned by people that have a vested interest in what Broad, Gates & Koch brothers are doing. Journalism is serving your boss now.

Anonymous said...

Important update:

Two Bell Group LLC has registered with the State!

This is so impressive that PPS would have the foresight to recognize the specific skills and qualifications of this firm to have them begin working on the very same day that their filing was made with the state.

Limited Liability Company - Domestic - Information

Entity Number: 4023922
Status: Active

Entity Creation Date: 4/11/2011

State of Business.: PA
Registered Office Address: 5412 Northumberland St
Pittsburgh PA 15217
Mailing Address: No Address

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...doesn't this change the economics of real estate assessment on this private house now operating as the corporate headquarters of Two Bell?

Don't hold your breath waiting for the school district's solicitor to appeal.

Anonymous said...

As far as Mr. Greg Acton and Two Bell Group llc is concerned, I wonder if Mr. Acton is the first Bell and Board Member Isler is Bell number two. This School Board is beginning to act like old time organized crime where they do what ever they want without worry of any repercussions.

Anonymous said...

At roughly $50,000 a month for one consultant with no overhead, this isn't Two Bell, this is the Dinner Bell baby! He's eating our lunch.

Some day there will be a reckoning.

Anonymous said...

By the time of reckoning, Dr. lane and her cohorts will have taken the district for every dime than can get and be gone. The people that will suffer from the reckoning will be those of us who work and care for the district, but most importantly it will be the children that depended on those in authority to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Are people finally starting to catch on? The reason I posted this article to this blog was simple.

Read it and decide for yourself. Do you see PPS in the mirror?

I did, but that is my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Thank you mark roosevelt you spent all our tax money on poor curriculum worthless consultants incompetent educational central staff team members.

Roosevelt's legacy and his board supporters rates an f grade unfortunately mr roosevelt left behind all his incompetent staff to grow his high cost no results plan.

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you hire or elect someone based on name recognition. Roosevelt. Bush. What's the difference?
How many here applauded the hiring based on the guy's name, and ignored the fact that strictly in education terms, he was woefully lacking compared to the other two candidates?

Questioner said...

The similarities between Bush and MR are uncanny.

And yet, would Antioch have ever considered Bush for Antioch president? Strange.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Not just lacking in terms of educational leadership, but leadership in general.

Folks you can't learn how to run a half billion dollar company in seven weekends with Broad.

The resume was never impressive and when you compare Pittsburgh's PSSA growth to other urban districts in PA it was frankly all pomp and no circumstance.

Broad props it's candidates up with sound bites and pre-fab planning tools. That's why John Deasy's acceptance speech in LA was almost the same as Mr. Roosevelt's four years earlier.

This kind of hire flounders when faced with the need to improvise and adapt because they have not done it at this scale.

He was a trust fund baby, a mediocre student, accepted to law school on name recognition, with primary work experience in PR, legislator & government relations.

We paid for his inattention to detail and disdain for administrative matters repeatedly, such as the kaplan curriculum; we paid even more for his love of the soundbite, with no greater example than the ridiculously expensive summer dreamers camps.

None of the educators in central office ever bought into the idea of using public finds - one time stimulus money that was always going away - to try to replicate Roosevelt's boarding school experience of fun summers in our public schools.

How foolish does this investment look now? Those one time title 1 dollars could have been invested in reading and math tools, materials and technology that would have served us for five to ten years.

When pressured to answer what the plan would be once the money dried up, MR would show disbelief, suggesting that others would fund this foolishness into perpetuity.

Anonymous said...

All TRUE; yet the majority of this city still does not get it. Why is there continued support, generally, for such a dismal failure, perpetrated on our young.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:41
Wow! Antioch has just hired the great-grandchildren of Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Thomas Dewey, and Adlai Stevenson. (Great-grandson of Howard Taft said no.)

I wonder how former graduate, Deborah Meier, feels about this?

But then again, there is a "disclaimer" regarding anything formerly "Antioch."

Anonymous said...

Re: MR at Antioch. He will be successful here without a doubt. Anyone who has ever seen him in person or in photos with grad students (a competition at Stanford or with his CMU class) or might have seen the pride on his face when he turned over a parent meeting to one of his young disciples (Franklin or Wilson) would know that his calling was in higher education.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The Antioch blog was one of the best written satire pieces I have read in a long time.

Roosevelt is out of his league.

Anonymous said...

Amen! 10;14. Glad to see someone raise the level of analysis here.