Landmark School Reforms in the State of Connecticut
Leeds Global Partners served as senior policy advisor to Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and Governor Dannel Malloy on all aspects of the state’s most comprehensive school reform effort in the past 25 years. In this engagement Leeds researched, developed and drafted key sections of the governor’s $100 million education reform law and led extensive consultations and legislative negotiations with the state’s two teachers unions. Adopted statutes and policies include a performance-based teacher and administrator evaluation system; streamlined tenure; a state-wide turnaround network for low-performing schools with enhanced labor flexibilities; and increased support for early childhood education and charter schools. Implementation of these and other reforms is currently underway.
Launching Future Is Now Schools
Leeds is facilitating the national launch of Future Is Now Schools (FIN), the education reform organization led by Steve Barr (who also founded Green Dot Schools and Rock the Vote). FIN's mission is to empower teachers to lead improvement efforts in their schools and unions. Leeds led strategic planning retreats for FIN's senior management to identify FIN's core values, operating strengths and desired impacts. Based on these findings, Leeds prepared FIN's five-year enterprise plan. This detailed plan articulates how FIN, currently based in Los Angeles, will expand its operations nationally. Implementation activities are underway.
New York Immigration Coalition & Internationals Network for Public Schools
Leeds developed a comprehensive policy agenda and advocacy brief for the New York Immigration Coalition and Internationals Network for Public Schools. Prepared in response to Governor Cuomo’s New NY Education Reform Commission, the agenda provides a dynamic vision—with concrete policy proposals—for the education of English language learners, immigrants, and all of the state’s public school students. The brief address all seven areas investigated by the Governor’s commission including strategies to improve teacher quality, student achievement and family engagement.
Teacher Union-Led Education Reforms
Prior to his work with Leeds, the firm’s senior vice president served as a senior advisor to the president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City and led numerous, high-provide school reform initiatives on behalf of the union. Projects included the founding of two charter schools operated in partnership with the union and the negotiation of school-based, or “thin” contracts.
“Children First” in New York City
From 2002 to 2004, the New York City Department of Education launched Children First, a multi-year strategic planning and implementation effort to dramatically improve New York City’s public schools. Leeds’ senior vice president, then with the Department, managed research and design efforts to bring greater choice to families across New York City and implemented the Mayor’s charter school initiative. This charter initiative expanded the number, quality, and accountability of charter schools across the city. Through this effort, $41 million was raised to create the New York City Charter Schools Center, the leading advocate of the city and state’s charter school movement.
Green Dot New York Charter School
Leeds’ co-founders were instrumental in the launch of the Green Dot New York Charter School. Located in the South Bronx, this school was the first national expansion project of Green Dot Public Schools, Inc., the Los Angeles-based charter management organization. Leeds senior vice president led teacher contract negotiations resulting in an innovative agreement that has inspired contract reforms in Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere.
City University of New York
Leeds’ Chairman, in his capacity as Chairman of the CUNY Board of Trustees, has been the primary force in the University’s strategic restructuring. With 260,000 regular degree students from community colleges to Ph.D. programs and an additional 250,000 students in various adult education programs, CUNY is the third largest public university system in the United States. Prior to Dr. Schmidt becoming Chairman of CUNY’s Board, the university was in a spiral of decline: student enrollment was decreasing, the faculty was shrinking and aging, graduation rates were low and 75% of its four-year college students required remediation in math and reading and writing. Under Dr. Schmidt’s leadership, CUNY underwent sweeping change and improvement: remediation at the four-year colleges was ended; academic standards for entering students were raised sharply; resources were focused on hiring new faculty; external objective academic assessments were introduced to evaluate CUNY students at all levels; an honors college was created for gifted students; and many other strategic reforms were initiated. The results are widely perceived to constitute the greatest success in public higher education in the United States over the past decade. Student enrollment has increased each year, amounting to more than a 30% increase over the decade; academic quality of entering students has risen sharply; graduation rates have improved. The full-time faculty has increased by 2,000 new professors, a 30% increase, in a time of budget cuts and no tuition increases. Voluntary giving has increased by 800% over the decade, the highest increase of any university in the United States.
A Coalition for School Change in Kansas City
In 2005, Dr. Schmidt, was asked by the leading foundations and civic organizations in Kansas City to chair a task force to create an education strategy for the greater Kansas City region. Kansas City is unusually complex because it is the only major American city divided equally between two states, Kansas and Missouri. The Schmidt Task Force Report called for sweeping changes in K-12 and higher education. For the first time, the Report caused the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri to endorse a common education strategy. Both Governors formally endorsed the Report and caused more than $100 million to be appropriated to support the Report’s recommendations. All of Kansas City’s foundations and civic organizations endorsed the Report and generated philanthropic support for the Report of more than $100 million. Schmidt’s Kansas City strategy is widely perceived as an outstanding example of bi-state cooperation in higher education in the United States.