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Is Your School as Good as the 92nd Street Y?
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Last week, the Wall Street Journal revealed that former Salomon Smith Barney analyst Jack Grubman upgraded AT&T's stock rating in exchange for Citigroup Chairman Sandy Weill's promise to try to get Grubman's daughters into the nursery school at the 92nd Street Y. Is your school worth a $1 million?

Look What She Starr-ted!

Linda Starr, a former teacher and the mother of four children, has been an education writer for almost a decade. Starr is the curriculum and technology editor for Education World.
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Last week, the Wall Street Journal revealed the existence of a series of e-mails, in which former Salomon Smith Barney analyst Jack Grubman discussed his 1999 ratings upgrade of AT&T stock. According to the WSJ, the e-mails indicate that Grubman upgraded AT&T's stock rating from "hold" to ""strong buy" at the urging of Citigroup Chairman Sandy Weill. In return, Weill is said to have promised to use his influence to get Grubman's daughters' admitted into the nursery school at the 92nd Street Y. Investigators from the New York district attorney's office, who are looking into the matter, say Grubman's twin girls began attending the Y just weeks after Citigroup donated $1 million to the 92nd Street Ys highly regarded preschool. That school is one of a handful of New York City preschools with reputations for sending their alumni on to the most prestigious private elementary and high schools.

Officials at the Y, where yearly tuition ranges from $11,800 to $14,400, say the admissions procedure requires prospective families to call the school after 9 a.m. on the Monday after Labor Day to schedule a tour. Only the first 300 callers are allowed to book a tour, they say, and only 65 of the 300 children who tour the school are admitted -- following a "rigorous" admissions process. The officials deny that donations or corporate influence can affect which children are admitted to the school.

Grubman, according to the WSJ, now says he "invented" the story of upgrading AT&T's stock rating, and Weill calls "nonsense" the suggestion that Citigroup's donation to the Y had any connection to the twins' admission to the school.

And the investigation continues.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it? When was the last time corporate giants risked their careers or reputations to further their children's public school education? When was the last time a corporation donated $1 million to a neighborhood school?


I believe that the problem with our public schools is that they are just too darned ... public. Attendance, after all, is free and open to anyone who shows up. How can we expect corporate giants -- or even the general public -- to value that which comes so easily and so cheaply? How can we expect our students to value a public school education if their parents do not?

With just a few minor cosmetic changes, however, I believe educators can make public schools in the United States as desirable, as fashionable, as successful as the best private schools in the country -- and at the same time solve many of the problems plaguing public schools today.

So, if you'd like your school to be replete with corporate donations, supportive parents, motivated students, respected teachers, and sought-after administrators, I suggest the following simple changes in the way your school is run:

  • Begin to refer to the local school board as the "School Board of Directors." Hint that the prominent and influential Board members are willing to do favors for any community member who supports the school.
  • Quietly spread the rumor that large donations of time or money can ensure a child's admission into the school.
  • Begin to refer to the security guard as the Admissions Director.
  • Establish stringent admission requirements. Require all families seeking admission to attend spring open house. Announce that only 24 children -- selected exclusively from among the families attending the open house -- will be admitted to each classroom in the fall. Explain that admission will be based on a rigorous screening process, which will evaluate such factors as the child's overall behavior and attitude toward school and the parents' interest and involvement in their children's education.
  • Set an outrageous tuition and establish need-blind "scholarships" to cover that tuition. Require students to demonstrate good behavior and to maintain at least a "B" average to keep their "scholarships" active. Require parents to maintain a high degree of involvement to keep their children's scholarships active.
  • Administer the assessment tests required by the No Child Left Behind Act in September and refer to them as "entrance exams."
  • Begin to refer to the school guidance counselor as the "Higher Education Liaison."
  • Spread the word that students at your school who work hard and whose families demonstrate a high regard for education are virtually guaranteed placement in an accredited institution of higher learning.
  • Make it clear that students who fail to demonstrate good moral character, a strong work ethic, and a high regard for education will be sent to an alternative educational facility until they are deemed worthy of returning to their neighborhood school.

Maybe, if our corporations and corporate leaders gave our public schools the time, money, and respect they currently lavish on a very few private schools, they would find that a quality education is available to every child -- no strings attached.