If Newark schools superintendent Cami Anderson gets her way and pumps $1 million into Turnaround for Children (TFC), the private firm headed by her former strategy chief, Alison Avera, Avera won’t be the only old friend and associate Anderson helps. Anderson also will be helping Avera’s partner, the former “talent officer” of the Newark Public Schools, Tracy Breslin. Avera and Breslin are partners in the consulting firm, Advisera LLC, and they are life partners.
Together, in 2011 and 2012, Avera and Breslin were paid $742,000 to work in the Newark public schools. But, although they held job titles in Newark–a state-operated school district–they were paid by the Foundation for Newark’s Future (FNF). That’s the pass-through scheme set up by former Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and announced on national television by Oprah Winfrey and Gov. Chris Christie; it was supposed to improve education in Newark. It didn’t do that, but it sure made a lot of consultants happy..
The payments to Breslin and Avera are recorded in FNF’s tax returns. Avera and Breslin are listed both as grantees and independent contractors and they were paid to provide Anderson with help running the Newark school district. Avera was paid more than $378,000 and Breslin was paid more than $364,000.
The FNF’s documents show the home address for both Breslin and Avera at the time as 160 Prospect Park West Apt. 3 in Brooklyn’s upscale Park Slope neighborhood. The brownstone, according to real estate websites, is valued at $4.2 million, but their apartment is worth little more than $800,000 and was recently up for rent at more than $3,000 monthly.
Avera and Breslin also worked together in the consulting firm Cross and Joftus, which must be a particular favorite of the state education department in running takeover districts. Cross and Joftus also were hired in Jersey City and Camden.
While Avera was chief strategy officer for Anderson’s Newark Public Schools, Breslin was the interim Chief Talent Officer and, according to Breslin’s resume, we have this to thank Breslin for: “She facilitated district/union negotiations leading to a breakthrough teacher contract.” Where have we heard that before?
Breslin also developed Anderson’s strategy of “principal autonomy,” a key to the superintendent’s failed “Renew Schools” policy. Turnaround for Children was paid $700,000 this school year to help three of the renew schools–Chancellor Avenue, Cleveland, and 13th Avenue–and Anderson wants to give TFC another $1 million. The schools did not do well on statewide tests.
Breslin’s “principal autonomy” piece allows newly hired principals at “Renew Schools” to hire new staffs, thus consigning regular staff members, many of them experienced and tenured, either to temporary assignments, rubber rooms throughout Newark, or even to their homes, paid to do nothing. They’re not paid as much as Breslin and Avera, of course, but they are paid–and not with Mark Zuckerberg’s money, but with public money.
Like Avera, Breslin has a resume extraordinarily like Anderson’s. All three were trained at the Broad Academy, a billionaire-funded “school” that promotes privatization among school administrators. All three earned master’s degrees from Harvard. All three worked together in the New York City schools, headed for privatization under Chancellor Joel Klein until that process was slowed by the election of Mayor Bill DeBlasio. And, of course, all three earned top-of-the-line money while working for the cash-strapped Newark public schools.
Avera had a hole in her resume that Breslin fills for the pair. Like Anderson, Avera worked for Teach for America (TFA), which now supplies Newark with untrained, inexperienced and poorly paid temporary teachers to replace the tenured teachers Anderson is unsuccessfully trying to fire. Breslin didn’t work for TFA but she did work for New Leaders, another pro-privatization organization Anderson helped lead.