Archive for March, 2011

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 21-27, 2011)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

U.S. Group Stirs Debate on Being ‘Pro-Israel’.” By Ethan Bronner. New York Times. March 25, 2011. On one side were members of the Israeli Parliament and advocates who argued that there was only one legitimate way to support Israel from abroad — unconditionally. On the other were those who insisted that love and devotion did not mean withholding criticism. For an electric two hours on Wednesday, the sides fought bitterly inside a parliamentary hearing room. As they spoke, tensions on the Gaza border rose and turmoil spread across the Middle East; hours later a bomb went off in Jerusalem, killing one person and wounding dozens. Israelis are feeling increasingly insecure about any criticism they believe could help their enemies. At the center of the parliamentary debate was a three-year-old American advocacy group, J Street, which calls itself pro-Israel and pro-peace, a left-leaning alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, the pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States. J Street opposes Israeli settlements in the West Bank and urged President Obama not to veto an antisettlement resolution in the United Nations Security Council recently. The conveners of Wednesday’s hearing, a hawkish Likud legislator named Danny Danon and a conservative colleague from the centrist Kadima party, Otniel Schneller, wanted to expose J Street for what they believed it to be — a group of self-doubting American Jews more worried about what their neighbors say than what is good for the state of Israel. “This is a dispute between those who care what non-Jews will say and those who believe in being a light unto nations, between the mentality of exile and that of redemption,” Mr. Schneller said. “J Street is not a Zionist organization. It offers love with strings attached. They say, ‘We love you only if you behave the way we like.’ ” Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s founder, came from Washington to defend his group, which claims about 170,000 supporters

Chicago nonprofits fund Emanuel team’s transition; Leading foundations agree to cover $200,000 in costs.” By Kristen Mack. Chicago Tribune. March 26, 2011. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel asked some of Chicago’s largest nonprofit foundations to pay for his transition, and they agreed to the tune of $200,000. Typically, Illinois politicians turn to their campaign funds to cover costs as they prepare to take office. On the federal level, outgoing presidents set aside money to help their successors acclimate — President George W. Bush requested $8.5 million for President Barack Obama. Emanuel submitted grant proposals to the MacArthur, Joyce, McCormick and Spencer foundations because he did not want to solicit contributions from private donors, according to his spokesman. A large part of the foundation money will pay the salaries of some staff holdovers from Emanuel’s mayoral campaign. The result is that nonprofit money is being used to keep part of Emanuel’s political team intact until he perhaps chooses to put those staffers on the city payroll after being sworn in. “It’s novel,” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which is supported by some of the same foundations. “I haven’t heard of any other transition funded that way. There’s no reason that they couldn’t use campaign money for this.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 21-27, 2011)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

ARTS & CULTURE

Shades of gray in Eastside art institution’s move; Many locals who grew up frequenting Self Help Graphics in East L.A. are saddened by its departure for Boyle Heights. But the director says the new site will give the center a fresh start.” By Esmeralda Bermudez. Los Angeles Times. March 21, 2011. Inside the old mosaic-covered building housing Self Help Graphics & Art, the packing has begun — of the angels and the devils, of the colorful skulls, of the masked lucha libre wrestlers. It will relocate just three miles away in Boyle Heights, to a former sea-urchin packing plant (painted black and white to resemble an ocean liner.) But for the many locals who grew up with the center’s workshops, exhibitions and elaborate Day of the Dead event, the move is still bittersweet. Though the nonprofit moved out of necessity, because of the cost of rent, the move to a new location will give the center a fresh start, said Executive Director Evonne Gallardo. It will be across the Los Angeles River from downtown on 1st Street, where local artists are trying to create an arts district. Already, a gallery, a theater and a bookstore are part of the mix. Sister Karen Boccalero, a Franciscan nun, founded Self Help Graphics in the early 1970s out of an East Los Angeles garage. In 1978, the organization that had become known for producing silk-screen and intaglio prints highlighting cultural, political and social justice issues moved to the 1920s-era building on Cesar Chavez. It didn’t have to pay rent, because Boccalero’s order owned the property. But in 2008, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles sold the building, and those rent-free days ended abruptly. Self Help Graphics didn’t think it made sense to spend as much as it now had to in order to stay in the building, especially since the center’s space had been roughly cut in half, to about 8,000 square feet. At the new location, Gallardo said, the rent will be “significantly less” and the savings will go toward expanding programs. The center will find ways to partner with local youth, particularly at the Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center, a high school across the street, she said.

$12 Million Gift for Concert Hall in California.” By Robin Pogrebin. New York Times. March 22, 2011. The financier Sanford I. Weill and his wife, Joan, have given a $12 million gift to Sonoma State University — the largest cash gift in the university’s history — for the completion of a concert hall at the Green Music Center, the university announced on Tuesday. The opening is scheduled for fall 2012. “I think it’s going to be an incredible destination,” Mr. Weill said in a telephone interview. The Weills learned about the project shortly after buying a home in Sonoma’s wine country, and Mr. Weill asked to visit the center, which he said had been in the works for 12 years at a cost of $100 million. “I saw this hall and what they were doing,” Mr. Weill said. “I thought it was absolutely beautiful and to my ear the sound sounded terrific.” But, Mr. Weill added, he would never trust his own acoustical judgment, so he asked the pianist Lang Lang to stop by the hall on his way to a concert with the San Francisco Symphony. “I think the hall is extraordinary,” Mr. Lang said in a quote forwarded by Mr. Weill. “I was very impressed with its acoustics and overall beautiful look.” Designed by the architect William Rawn and the acoustician Lawrence Kirkegaard, the 1,400-seat Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall is modeled after Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood and aims to replicate the sound of Vienna’s Musikverein and Symphony Hall in Boston. The Weill gift, which includes a $4 million one-to-one challenge grant, will also help finish an adjoining terraced lawn for an additional 3,000 guests and a commons that can become an amphitheater with 10,000 seats.

Carnegie Unveils Music Education Program.” By James R. Oestreich. New York Times. March 25, 2011. Clive Gillinson, in his six years as executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, has developed an ever more expansive view of its mission and constituency. Carnegie has increasingly ventured beyond its walls with activities including neighborhood concerts in New York, partnerships with the Juilliard School and others, and festivals with citywide and cross-country collaborations. Now, together with the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, it undertakes one of its most ambitious projects to date, the Carnegie Hall Royal Conservatory Achievement Program, an attempt to set standards in music education and performance throughout the United States. It is based on the conservatory’s own program, already in use throughout Canada and, spottily, in the United States. Graded national standards are widespread in Europe and elsewhere. Available to schools, independent teachers and private individuals, it offers a graduated series of tests to track a student’s level of competency. The program provides a sequential course of study to support the testing in the form of syllabuses. These will be available for purchase or free download for each of the standard orchestral string, woodwind and brass instruments as well as for recorder, saxophone, euphonium, piano, harpsichord, guitar, harp, percussion and voice. The complexity of this program will entail a lot of organizational difficulties, and a separate company is being formed to deal with it, Mr. Gillinson said. It will also require additional staffing. Mr. Simon said: “We have quite a few American examiners already. There is a nascent infrastructure in place.” Finally, of course, it will require money. Carnegie does not release budget figures for individual programs but says it spends $7 million of its $70 million annual operating budget on music education.

Eccentricity Gives Way to Uniformity in Museums.” By Nicolai Ouroussoff. New York Times. March 26, 2011. After years of bitter legal battles over whether it could be relocated, the Barnes Foundation, one of the country’s most beloved and quirky museums, is finally leaving its idyllic setting in suburban Pennsylvania. By midsummer, the last of its galleries is expected to be packed up for the foundation’s move to downtown Philadelphia in 2012, and one of America’s unique art experiences will be changed forever. But the relocation of the Barnes is about more than the dismantling of a single museum. It also marks the end of an era in American cultural history. Over the past 15 or so years, some of the most original and idiosyncratic art institutions in the country — the Barnes, the ’Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston — have embarked on major expansions to modernize (and in some cases, to generate more revenue), significantly transforming their identities. All three museums, each built by a wealthy eccentric, once represented intensely personal visions. All were conceived as alternatives to the offerings of the elite cultural establishment. And by the time the Barnes completes its move, all will have been remade into slick, corporate artistic institutions of a sort that their founders no doubt would have deplored. Yet even more striking is what these transformations suggest about what we’ve become as a culture. The three museums’ iconoclastic collectors, and the institutions they built, embodied an America that still embraced an ideal of stubborn individualism. That spirit is now mostly gone, a victim of institutional conventions and corporate boards, and by a desire for mainstream acceptance that has displaced a willingness to break rules.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 21-27, 2011)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

CORPORATE PHILANTHROPY & SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

The State of HBS: Changing the curriculum is not enough.” Editorial. Harvard Crimson. March 21, 2011. The end of this school year will mark the one-year anniversary for Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, and the four-year anniversary of the tempest that swept him to the helm of one of the University’s most prominent professional schools. Nohria took charge at a time when HBS faced charges that its graduates played an outsize role in facilitating the financial crisis, and when the positive social value of an HBS education was in question. As Cabot House Master Rakesh Khurana told the Wall Street Journal in February 2011, “It’s not clear what the purpose of business education is. It’s got to be more than high-paying jobs and more than a place to build elite social networks.” Nohria has since been a vocal advocate for business schools that teach “judgment” skills as well as traditional analytical skills. Thus, in January, HBS announced that it would considerably retool its existing M.B.A. program to include a new set of course requirements that stress teamwork and ethics. As of now, one out of the ten required courses, Leadership and Corporate Accountability, deals with questions of ethics. True, a short-term review of Nohria’s tenure is somewhat facetious. Institutional change is not easy to effect, let alone at a place like Harvard in which so many have a stake. It would be fairer to rate Nohria and the HBS leadership at ten years out rather than one. In that sense, then, the question that the aspiring managers across the river should ask is this: If HBS continues on its present path, what will be its projected social value in ten years?
Frankly, we are not certain it will be much more than it is now. Firstly, HBS has yet to articulate that social impact is part of its educational mission, and, additionally, the change HBS seeks to make cannot be effected without changing the composition of its student body. Like all of Harvard’s professional schools, the business school should be a tool to stimulate social cohesion rather than individual advancement. This seems obvious—why invest institutional resources in a professional school that actively or passively hurts society by funneling its resources for the benefit of a chosen few? However, HBS’s rhetoric regarding its expectations of its graduates is appallingly neutral when considered on the spectrum of Harvard schools in general.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 21-27, 2011)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

EDUCATION

CHARTER SCHOOLS

Furor in N.J. Over Charter School Space.” By Barbara Martinez. Wall Street Journal. March 22, 2011. The union representing Newark’s teachers is rallying its members to what is expected to be a raucous meeting Tuesday night over whether charter schools should share space with traditional public schools. “Say No to peaceful co-existence in the same school building!” said an e-mail that went out to all 4,800 teachers of the Newark Teachers Union asking them to appear at the regular meeting of the Advisory School Board. The space battle is the first frontier of a system-wide restructuring effort spurred by a $100 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Over the past month, the school system, which is under the control of the Christie administration, began raising the possibility that charter schools could take over space in under-used public school buildings. Almost immediately, the teachers’ union and others objected. “There isn’t going to be any way that there will be co-existence with charter schools while I’m breathing,” Joseph Del Grosso, president of the NTU, said during an interview Monday. He said sharing space sets up the opportunity for “the haves and the have-nots” because some charter schools raise money from private donors, which allows them to upgrade their part of the building. “We’re saying to kids: ‘You don’t get into the lottery and you’re banished to the school down the hallway?’ That’s horrible, it’s just wrong,” he said. Charter schools, which have more demand than spots, hold lotteries to determine entry. Thousands of children are on waiting lists in Newark.

Hoosiers on the Lam; Indiana Democrats flee to block more charter schools.” No by-lines. Indianapolis Star. March 23, 2011. Unlike in Wisconsin where only budget legislation requires a quorum, all bills in Indiana require a quorum to pass. So even though Republicans outnumber Democrats 60-40 in the state house and 37-13 in the senate, Republicans can’t change state law without Democrats present to vote nay. Last month 39 Democrats fled to beautiful Urbana, Illinois, to derail “right to work” legislation that would make union membership and dues voluntary. Republicans then gave up on that legislation in hopes of bringing Democrats back to the state to vote on Governor Mitch Daniels’s education reforms. One month later, Democrats are still AWOL. This week the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee began running ads attacking Mr. Daniels and Republicans for “hurting middle class families” and trying “to kill collective bargaining, slash wages for workers and decimate public schools by sending our tax dollars to private schools.” Let’s hope Indiana’s public schools really aren’t so bad that Democrats don’t know how to read. In fact, they’re muddling the issues of collective bargaining and education reform to prevent the public from understanding the Governor’s modest proposals. One of Mr. Daniels’s reforms would limit collective bargaining for teachers to wages and wage-related benefits. Teachers could still bargain over pensions and health benefits, but working conditions, which often drive up school costs, would no longer be subject to negotiations. Also removed from the bargaining table would be evaluation and dismissal procedures. Under the proposed reforms, local districts would be required to develop teacher evaluations that take into account student achievement and year-to-year progress and to base salary increases and lay-off decisions on these evaluations. Imagine that. Job protections would be reserved for exceptional teachers who consistently receive positive evaluations. However, teachers’ current salaries would not be cut and teachers with tenure would not lose their job protections.

As Student Absenteeism Rises, a Charter School Fights Back.” By Karen Ann Cullotta. New York Times. March 24, 2011. The corridors were calm and the classrooms humming at the Chicago Talent Development Charter High School, but Kirby Callam, the school’s chief executive, was focused on one missing honor student. On a sunny March morning, that 15-year-old was chalking up yet another unexcused absence and falling further behind in his accelerated coursework. As Mr. Callam looked at his laptop, which is loaded with software designed to track the attendance of each of the high school’s 200 students, he said the student had only an 11 percent attendance rate during the last two weeks. Repeated phone calls to his home had not helped. The missing student is part of a worrisome trend. During the 2009-10 school year, Talent Development Charter’s first year, attendance was about 90 percent. This year, it is 85 percent despite a number of anti- absenteeism initiatives — including sophisticated attendance-tracking software, encouragement from a team of young AmeriCorps members, pizza parties and twice-weekly shout-outs called power greetings that welcome students as they walk into the school. Talent Development Charter’s attendance program was developed with help from Johns Hopkins University’s nationally renowned Diplomas Now initiative. While the school’s attendance rate dwarfs those of others in its hardscrabble West Side neighborhood — Marshall High School recorded a 53.5 percent attendance rate for 2010 — it is still losing ground. And Talent Development Charter’s mixed success raises questions about how other Chicago schools with fewer resources can attack one of the system’s most serious problems. At schools in the city and across the United States, chronic absenteeism is affecting performance, particularly among children from poor families. Absenteeism costs money for school districts, because they receive no state payments for students who are not at school. It also contributes to cycles of failure in neighborhoods already facing high rates of crime and poverty.

The Weekend Interview: Weingarten for the Union Defense; Teachers Union Chief Randi Weingarten on charter schools, reformers Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, and her star turn in ‘Waiting for Superman.’” By Jason L. Riley. Wall Street Journal. March 26, 2011. Teachers unions are on the defensive these days. The Obama administration is pushing various measures long opposed by the unions: charter school expansion, pay-for-performance, teacher evaluations and more. States and localities are looking to change collective-bargaining rules and scale back costly, bloated education work forces that have grown even when student enrollment was flat or declining. And Hollywood, in recent documentary films like “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” “The Lottery” and “The Cartel,” has highlighted how teachers unions block or stifle education reforms to the detriment of the low-income minority kids who populate the nation’s worst schools. When I sit down for an interview with Randi Weingarten, who has been head of the American Federation of Teachers since 2008, my first question is whether those films are getting her recognized more in public these days.

Charter School Champion Shifts Focus.” By Sam Dillon. New York Times. March 25, 2011. Green Dot, the schools group based in Los Angeles that challenged conventional practices by staffing its charter schools with unionized teachers, is going through a divorce with its founder, Steve Barr, who is leaving to build a new national charter group. On Friday, Mr. Barr and Shane Martin, the college dean who succeeded him as chairman of the Green Dot board in 2009, issued a joint statement announcing that Mr. Barr would no longer use the Green Dot name as he sought to open charter schools in New York and elsewhere. The Green Dot organization will continue, under the leaders who have replaced Mr. Barr, to run its network of 16 charter schools in Los Angeles. Mr. Barr’s exit left somewhat unclear the status of the Green Dot New York Charter School, which he helped organize in the Bronx in 2007 as a collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers. Marco Petruzzi, who succeeded Mr. Barr as chief executive of Green Dot in 2008, said through a spokeswoman that Green Dot had provided curriculum and other educational services to the Bronx school and would continue to do so. But Michael Mulgrew, the teachers’ federation president, said it would be up to the Bronx charter’s nine-member board of directors to decide whether the school’s future relationship would be with Mr. Barr’s group, or with Green Dot’s management. Alexander Russo, the author of a coming book on the efforts of Mr. Barr and Green Dot to overhaul the troubled Locke High School in Los Angeles, said, “Steve is a hard-charging visionary, as many founders are, and as Green Dot got bigger, people struggled to find an appropriate place for him in the organization.” In 2009, Green Dot reported to the tax authorities that an internal review had determined that Mr. Barr had charged more than $50,000 in expenses to Green Dot that were undocumented or unjustified, and he repaid the money

Charter school parents gather at Richard Riordan’s Brentwood home.” No by-line. Los Angeles Times. March 26, 2011. Well over 200 parents and school employees went to the Brentwood home of former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan on Saturday to express concern about the future of cash-strapped ICEF Public Schools, one of the nation’s largest charter school-management organizations. Riordan, who is chairman of the ICEF board, had called an ICEF board meeting at his home so that trustees could vote on whether to move forward with ceding control of ICEF’s 15 schools to Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, another large, local charter-school group. After more than an hour of discussion, the board postponed the vote. Riordan insisted that the move would be necessary because ICEF’s debt was too deep and philanthropists were not stepping forward with sufficient funds, according to parents and ICEF staff members who attended the meeting. ICEF Chief Executive Caprice Young holds out hope that the group can remain independent and that the debt load, though bad, is not as catastrophic as Riordan fears. In an interview, Young praised Riordan for raising enough money to keep ICEF afloat this year. Alliance Chief Executive Judy Burton has said that any merger would have to protect Alliance schools from being damaged financially by ICEF’s problems. She added that any takeover would not be hostile — that each organization’s board would have to be comfortable with moving forward. Charters are independently managed, publicly funded schools that, in California, are authorized by an education agency such as the Los Angeles Unified School District. L.A. Unified has more charters than any other school system in the country. Riordan said his plan is to use Alliance’s solid financial reputation to help raise the money necessary to keep individual ICEF schools open, which he said is worth doing even if ICEF itself is no longer in control.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Private school funding draws ire.” By James Salzer and Laura Diamond. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. March 20, 2011. [For story, go to Law & Public Policy].

Secret Admirers Give University $100 Million.” By Kevin Helliker. Wall Street Journal. March 23, 2011. In a twist on a higher-education mystery, anonymous donors once again have bestowed riches on Kalamazoo, Mich. The city’s Western Michigan University said Tuesday that it received $100 million from anonymous donors to establish a medical school. WMU ranked it the seventh-largest cash gift ever to a public university. The announcement comes about six years after anonymous donors gained national attention for creating Kalamazoo Promise, an organization that covers tuition costs at state colleges and universities for graduates of Kalamazoo public high schools. Five years after Kalamazoo Promise began writing tuition checks—the total thus far exceeds $20 million—the donors’ identities haven’t been disclosed. That will also be the case with the new medical school, said WMU president John M. Dunn, saying only that the $100 million comes from individuals “passionate and affectionate” about Kalamazoo, the university and the state of Michigan. The medical school will open in the fall of 2013 or 2014 with a debut class of about 50 students. Its opening is part of a slow increase in the number of U.S. medical schools, a trend that many regard as vital to addressing an anticipated severe shortage of physicians.

SEAS nets $50 million donation; John Malone’s $50 million donation to SEAS is the largest in the school’s history.” By Drew Henderson. Yale Daily News. March 25, 2011. With a $50 million gift to the School of Engineering & Applied Science announced Thursday, University administrators say they now have the resources to put ambitious plans for the school into motion. Donated by John Malone ’63, the gift is the largest in the engineering school’s history and will enable Yale to create 10 new endowed professorships across all engineering disciplines. Dean T. Kyle Vanderlick said that the donation will provide the school with what it needs most in order to improve — prestigious faculty. “When you’re trying to grow a school, an academic unit, it’s about the faculty — that’s the engine,” Vanderlick said in an interview Thursday. “We’re so undersized relative to other schools of engineering, and that’s why this gift is important to us.” The gift supports the hiring of new professors across the school’s four core departments — Biomedical Engineering, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science — and interdisciplinary research centers. It also pays for two professorships with joint appointments in the School of Management. The engineering and applied science professors, who will be hired from within and beyond Yale’s faculty, will all be known as “Malone Professors,” which Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said will be similar to the Sterling professorship. A native of Milford, Conn., Malone attended Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven before graduating from Yale with a degree in electrical engineering. After obtaining his Ph.D. in operations research from Johns Hopkins University, he entered the telecommunications business and has continued to invest in media companies to the present. Malone has a history of support for Yale’s engineering programs: In 2000, he gave $24 million to construct the Daniel L. Malone Engineering Center, named for Malone’s father. The center opened in 2005 and houses the Department of Biomedical Engineering. At the time, it was the largest donation in the school’s history, University President Richard Levin said.

PUBLIC EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY

Bill Gates Seeks Formula for Better Teachers.” By Stephanie Banchero. Wall Street Journal. March 22, 2011. Bill Gates shook up the battle against AIDS in Africa by applying results-oriented business metrics to the effort. Now, he is trying to do the same in the tricky world of evaluating and compensating teachers. The Microsoft Corp. co-founder has moved on from a $2 billion bet on high school reform—much of it spent on breaking up big, failing high schools and replacing them with smaller ones. Now, he is venturing that improving teacher effectiveness is the key to fixing broken schools. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $290 million to school districts in Memphis, Tenn.; Hillsborough, Fla.; and Pittsburgh, and a charter consortium in California to build new personnel systems Mr. Gates hopes will be models for the country. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Gates said the nation spent a “mind blowing” amount of money on education. Still, he said increased taxes and a restructuring of budgets is the only way to substantially improve U.S. graduation rates. And, in the wake of moves by Republican governors in several states to cut costs and curb collective-bargaining rights for teachers and other state workers, he argued that lasting school improvement required more-targeted investment and close collaboration with teacher unions, who are painted by many governors as an obstacle. Mr. Gates has been touring the country recently, urging politicians and educators to eliminate teacher salary increases based on seniority and master’s degrees and instead reward teachers for boosting student achievement.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 21-27, 2011)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

ENVIRONMENT & CONSERVATION

Noyo River stand of old-growth redwoods saved.” By Peter Fimrite. San Francisco Chronicle. March 25, 2011. A San Francisco nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of ancient redwoods announced Thursday that it will exercise its option to buy a huge swath of the lush Noyo River canyon in Mendocino County, the largest old-growth forest still in private hands on the West Coast. The group, Save the Redwoods League, raised $7.5 million to buy the spectacular 426-acre plot of land along the historic Skunk Train route, beating the April 1 deadline set by the Willits Redwood Co., which was threatening to log the big trees if the money didn’t come through. The league’s board of directors voted Thursday to pull $4 million from a reserve fund and add it to the $3.5 million in donations raised over the past five months. The sale, which is expected to be completed April 29, allows the league to turn the land over to a conservation organization, which will protect the trees in perpetuity. The league raised more than the $7 million purchase price so that $500,000 could be spent managing the property and building infrastructure, including shoring up failed culverts along the river. Abundant wildlife. The ancient redwoods, many of them more than 1,500 years old, cover 123 acres of the property, which also contains huge stands of old-growth Douglas fir. They provide habitat for threatened and endangered species, including the northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, bald eagle and the Pacific fisher. Bats live in the charred hollows, and the thick, sprawling branches are home to red tree voles and a wide variety of birds.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 21-27, 2011)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

FUNDRAISING

Disrobing for Charity; Burlesque Dancers Strip for AIDS Walk.” By Lizzie Simon. Wall Street Journal. March 22, 2011. More than 25 burlesque performers disrobed for charity at the Wild Project in the East Village in a benefit for the AIDS Walk New York City. Audience members paid $50 to enter and were each given a take-home pair of handmade, multicolored pasties with tassels attached for twirling. “And pasties are hard to find,” said audience member Karen Eckhoff. “It’s one of those things, you look for them, and you can’t find them.” With 15 minutes to curtains up, two dressing rooms were crammed with artists in various states of undress applying eyelashes and negotiating their tech needs with performer/producer Rita MenWeep, the benefit’s chief organizer. Ms. MenWeep got the idea for the benefit four years ago when the company she worked for—she won’t say which—offered to match funds. When her co-workers came up with rather weak ideas for raising money, she thought, “Wait a minute, I’m a burlesque producer. I have something to offer.” A dazzling array of performers followed with names like Veruca Honeyscotch, Bambi Galore, Creamy Stevens and Go Go Harder. Each shook, shimmied and stripped. One even did a St. Patrick’s Day-inspired Irish step dance that involved pulling a potato and a tiny bottle of liqueur from beneath her traditional folk dress. The total earned: $2,008, which cosmetics company MAC matched.

At Met’s Temple of Dendur, Kings of Puck.” By Marshall Heyman. Wall Street Journal. March 23, 2011. Even though the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a really swanky place to throw a party, it was still a little square peg/round hole for the 2011 Face-Off for a Cure event there on Monday night. This particular evening was to benefit the charity Autism Speaks as well as the Gillen Brewer School in Manhattan. For the last several years, the charity has formed partnerships with major sports organizations, like the NBA and the NFL, to raise money. This year, it was the National Hockey League’s turn. “Ancient Egypt and hockey don’t really go together,” Peter Alexander, a host for NBC Sports who was the night’s emcee, told a crowd that included the NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Hall of Famers Rod Gilbert and Pat LaFontaine, the former New York Islander Bobby Nystrom and the former New Jersey Devil Ken Daneyko. “But in any case, we’re going to freeze the little pond behind me and put some legends on the ice.” Ice-hockey stars competing in the Temple of Dendur at the Met: now that is something that would attract a standing room only crowd. The silent auction was a hodgepodge of sports memorabilia. It wasn’t just hockey stuff, though there was a puck signed by Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets, another by Flyer Danny Briere and various signed jerseys. It was equal-opportunity athletic: There was a baseball cap signed by John Tavares of the Islanders, a Joe Namath handsigned (that’s what the lot said, folks) vintage New York Jets helmet, a Mark Sanchez piece of Meadowlands Turf collage with a game ticket, a photograph from the movie “Slapshot” signed by the Hanson Brothers, a baseball bat Shadowbox signed by Derek Jeter and a vintage brown leather soccer ball signed by Pele. With 40 sports lots in all, this was a collector’s dream.

Shot at Tribeca Glory.” By Michelle Kung. Wall Street Journal. March 25, 2011. As the Executive VP of Acquisitions & Production for Sony Pictures Classics, Dylan Leiner has spent his career traveling to Cannes, Milan and other international film festivals looking for material to acquire. For roughly 15 years, he’s also been a member of an informal floating soccer game, first put together by “The Departed” producer and GK Films’ Graham King, Icon UK’s Stewart Till and producer Peter Wetherell, that’s popped up among other industry players between screenings and deal-making sessions abroad. Inspired by his adventures on the pitch, Mr. Leiner and filmmaker friend and CinemaCapital founder Jeffrey Saunders decided to take the idea of soccer-mad film professionals and celebrities playing a game and add a charity element. The result is NYFEST, a Tribeca Film Festival-aligned day of soccer events including a youth showcase, a five-on-five industry match—including teams from the Creative Artists Agency, “The Daily Show” and Focus Features—as well as a celebrity game, with the likes of Ethan Hawke and Gael Garcia Bernal. Soccer legend Pele, who responded to a personal request to participate from Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro, will call the coin toss. In addition to letting film professionals show off their footwork, the event “allows our industry to serve as a conduit for good works,” said Mr. Leiner. “The charity aspect opened a lot of doors for us because at the end of the day, the event is to highlight and support the underserved youth of New York City.” The first NYFEST will be April 23 at Hudson River Park’s Pier 40 in Tribeca, with all proceeds going to the Claudio Reyna Foundation and other select charities.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 21-27, 2011)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

GIVING & FINANCE

Charitable giving lags economic growth.” By Mary Beth Marklein. USA Today. March 22, 2011. But a larger percentage of organizations reported bringing in about the same amount of revenue both years, says the report by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, a coalition of six organizations that focus on philanthropy. Just over half (52%) said they met fundraising goals, about the same (53%) as in a similar 2009 survey conducted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a member of the collaborative. “While many organizations stopped the bleeding, giving simply didn’t rebound like we thought it might, especially given the economic growth we saw in the last quarter of the year,” says Paulette Maehara, CEO of the fundraising association. Findings are based on responses from 1,616 charities to an online survey conducted in February. The report notes that online giving is still a relatively small source of revenue; a survey released last month by collaborative member Blackbaud Inc. found that at most, online giving accounts for less than 10% of total contributions received. “It does take some time for organizations to make the investment in online fundraising and to learn how best to integrate that” into their fundraising strategy, says Una Osili, director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, a collaborative member. Some charitable groups are turning to even more electronic ways to make contributions. The American Red Cross, for example, raised $32 million in donations via text messages after a magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck Haiti last year. What’s the appeal? “It takes less time to click,” Red Cross spokesman Roger Lowe says. “You feel like you’ve made a difference immediately.”

Economic Recession Continues To Hit Nonprofits Hard.” By Gabrielle Canon. Huffington Post. March 22, 2011. Nonprofit agencies provide a safety net for America’s most needy individuals and families. The nonprofit sector, however, is facing a crisis and has no safety net of its own. Many organizations continue to experience the effects of the recession, which has resulted in the reduction of badly needed resources. In a new study released by the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), an organization that surveyed nearly 2,000 nonprofit organizations, 87 percent report the decline in the U.S. economy continues to impact their operations. This figure is largely attributed to the increase in demand for nonprofit services, as an upswing in unemployment, poverty, and government budget cuts, resulting from the recession, have put added pressure on nonprofits. A separate study, released in November 2010 by Guidestar and a coalition of other agencies analyzing nonprofit financial trends, also cites concerns over increased demand. For the eighth consecutive year, a majority of nonprofits surveyed report increases in demand for their services. This could result in more needy people being turned away as the effects of the recession continue. According to the Guidestar report, nonprofits facing limited resources to meet looming increases in demand have had to find new strategies, like partnership, to increase efficiency. Strapped nonprofits have seen increased civic engagement, as volunteers have helped fill the gaps when budgets are tight. They have also employed online strategies to open new revenue models and resources. The 2010 Blackbaud online giving report, an annual analysis of the nonprofit industry, indicates that the importance of online fundraising continues to grow. Led by the influx in online contributions for natural disasters, like the Haiti earthquake that occurred last year and the current disaster affecting Japan, online giving has increased by 77 percent over the past year. The study showed that peer-to-peer fundraising and social media shaped this growth, in addition to increases in online response for disaster relief. There is hope, however. Another new study, this one from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, shows that nonprofits aren’t letting the slower trickle of donations get them down, and 63 percent of organizations surveyed anticipate contributions to them will increase in 2011.
Related story:
Recession lingering for nonprofits; The vast majority of organizations surveyed by Nonprofit Finance Fund said they will find it hard to meet increased demand for their services this year.” Crain’s New York Business. March 22, 2011.

United Way falls short of ambitious $41M goal; Central Indiana chapter likely to trim funding for agencies as charitable giving lags economic recovery.” By Will Higgins. Indianapolis Star. March 23, 2011. United Way of Central Indiana raised $38.2 million in its 2010 campaign — well short of its goal of $41 million and about $600,000 less than it raised the previous year. That shortfall will come with consequences: United Way officials said it is likely that for the second time in three years the agency will need to cut funding to the various agencies that rely on it for support — agencies that already are experiencing increased demand for services. The group announced the fundraising total during an annual meeting Tuesday. Philanthropy experts say the outcome is not surprising because charitable giving is generally slow to recover from hard economic times. “Look back to the Great Depression, and it was more like four years before giving returned to pre-Depression levels,” said Timothy L. Seiler, director of Public Service and The Fund Raising School at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. The comeback gap was three years after the 1970s recession. “A consistent factor in charitable giving is how secure a person feels financially,” Seiler said. “That includes the general population, as well as the high-net-worth population.” With some recovery of the stock market, United Way is looking longer and harder at wealthy individuals, expanding its major gifts staff from one person to three. A new Meridian Society, for donors giving $25,000 or more, drew 30 members. The agencies that receive United Way funding likely will see a reduction, said Ellen Annala, the local group’s chief executive, “but we don’t know how much. We’re just now starting our budgeting.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 21-27, 2011)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

HEALTH CARE

Bidder Circles St. Vincent’s.” By Eric Morath. Wall Street Journal. March 25, 2011. A group including former New York City Council member Alan J. Gerson is attempting to block the sale of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital campus to a developer, and says it has a deal in the works to establish a full-service hospital at the site. The group, which also includes attorney Dudley Gaffin and Dr. Robert Adelman, is protesting the proposed $260 million sale of the hospital’s main Manhattan campus because the deal wouldn’t bring a designated trauma center back to the area. St. Vincent’s closed and filed for bankruptcy protection last year. Earlier this month, developer William Rudin and St. Vincent’s Chief Restructuring Officer Mark Toney announced a deal for Rudin’s RSV LLC to buy the site and turn much of it into a housing development. The objecting contingent, which calls itself the alternative purchaser group, said it will offer a rival bid for the hospital campus unless the would-be buyers commit to opening a hospital at or near the St. Vincent’s site. “The residents and workers of the west side of Manhattan are desperately in need of a full-service hospital,” the protesting group said in papers filed Wednesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. The alternative group said in court papers that a large New York City developer and a local hospital operator and medical school are preparing a deal that would match the Rudin offer and would guarantee to build a hospital. The group didn’t give specifics of its deal. It only said that it is “presently raising financing” and will submit a written proposal to the bankruptcy court prior to an April 7 hearing to consider approving the Rudin deal. As part of the proposed sale, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Care System has agreed to take over the former hospital’s O’Toole Building and invest $110 million to create a health-care center with a freestanding emergency department.

Y-NHH, St. Ray’s Sign Letter Of Intent.” By Paul Bass & Thomas MacMIllan. New Haven Independent. March 25, 2011. New Haven’s two hospitals, long seen as competitors, have signed a letter of intent to pursue a deal in which they’d become one 11,000-employee, 1,477-bed entity. Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Hospital of St. Raphael sent out a joint press release at 11 a.m. Friday announcing they’ve signed the letter. In coming months they will explore details of a deal under which “Yale-New Haven would purchase the assets of the Hospital of Saint Raphael, producing one integrated hospital with continued access to care at both campuses,” according to the release. Yale-New Haven promised that a “majority” of St. Raphael’s employees would keep their jobs and receive pay and benefits “consistent with those currently provided to YNHH employees in similar roles” if the joint hospital becomes a reality. St. Ray’s currently has some 3,000 employees; Yale-New Haven, 8,000. St. Ray’s has 511 beds; Yale-New Haven 966. While no longer a separate Catholic hospital sponsored by a Catholic organization (the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth), the St. Raphael campus of the combined new hospital would still offer care “consistent with Catholic teachings” if the plan comes to fruition, St. Raphael’s Vice-President Of Corporate Affairs Cindy Vonberen said in an interview Friday. She said the details of how that would work will be discussed in coming months. So will the official name of the St. Ray’s campus should Yale-New Haven acquire it as planned, she said. She said it could end up along the lines of “The Hospital of St. Raphael Campus of Yale-New Haven Hospital.”
Related story:
New Haven’s hospitals sign letter of intent to merge.” Yale Daily News. March 25, 2011.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 21-27, 2011)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

HUMAN SERVICES

Nursing homes in trouble; The University Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation declared bankruptcy in January, and the fate of its more than 100 residents is uncertain.” By McKenna Keyes. Yale Daily News. March 24, 2011. Over 100 New Haven residents could lose their home next month, and as a consequence, 150 more could lose their jobs. The University Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation declared bankruptcy Jan. 10, becoming the most recent addition to a growing list of financially unstable nursing facilities near New Haven. At a hearing in Connecticut Superior Court on Tuesday to determine whether this nursing home — in addition to three others also owned by Omega Healthcare Investors — will close, the State Department of Social Services moved for a continuance of the hearing to April. This delay will give an interested buyer, a nursing home operator based in Florida, time to decide if she will take over the facility. Despite her interest, the Department of Social Services said there was “slim hope that these homes can be saved” at the hearing on Tuesday. The closing of University nursing home would not bode well for the city’s employment prospects. Deborah Chernoff, communications director for New England Health Care Employees Union 1199, which represents 100 of the nursing facility’s workers, said that if University closes, 150 employees will be out of work. University nursing facility had net annual losses of $88,248, said court receiver Phyllis A. Belmonte, who is assessing the home’s post-bankruptcy plans. Still, out of the four Connecticut nursing homes under review, University saw the lowest loss, with another facility losing as much as $2,177,146 in one year. Belmonte said in her analysis that University cannot provide adequate care to residents under current financial constraints.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 21-27, 2011)

Monday, March 28th, 2011

IN MEMORIAM

Elizabeth Taylor was ‘serious about getting things done’.” By Lorena Blas. USA Today. March 24, 2011. Elizabeth Taylor exploited her fame — to do good. The star’s activism and charity work made her stand out in an industry where fame can be used to put the spotlight on causes. Taylor raised and donated millions to charities over the years. And while she won two Oscars for her performances, she also was recognized with a special Oscar at the 1993 Academy Awards, where she received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Taylor received more honors for her philanthropic efforts through the years, including a Presidential Citizens Medal from outgoing President Clinton in 2001. Most recently, she was awarded (in absentia) amfAR’s Award of Courage during the organization’s annual New York Gala in February. With that award, Taylor’s work came full circle. In 1985, she co-founded amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, with Mathilde Krim, a researcher at New York’s Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center. amfAR is one of the leading non-profits supporting AIDS research, HIV prevention and awareness. Taylor’s involvement in amfAR ranks her among the top Hollywood philanthropists, says Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. And it wasn’t just what she gave, but the cause she chose. “In those days, celebrities took on safe causes. To take on AIDS was a really courageous act for a celebrity, and it took her kind of star power to draw attention to the real needs that were going on,” Palmer says.