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Former E.D. Official, Xerox Chief Kearns To Head NASDC

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The New American Schools Development Corporation has elected David T. Kearns, the former Deputy Secretary of Education under President Bush, to be its president and chairman of the board.

Observers predicted that Mr. Kearns, the widely respected former chairman and chief executive officer of the Xerox Corporation, would help put NASDC's floundering fund-raising effort back on its feet.

A private, nonprofit corporation, NASDC was launched by business leaders in 1991, at the request of the Bush Administration, to help spur the creation of a new generation of American schools. But, to date, it has raised only about $50 million of its $200 million goal.

During their June 1 board meeting, NASDC officials also voted to continue funding nine of the 11 design teams that have spent the past year developing blueprints for "break the mold'' schools. (See Education Week, June 9, 1993.)

In an interview last week, Mr. Kearns acknowledged that NASDC does "not quite'' have in hand all the money needed to fund the nine teams during the coming year. Also, he substantially lowered NASDC's original fundraising goal from $200 million to just under $100 million.

Mr. Kearns said the lowered estimate was based primarily on the design team's detailed blueprints for what they need to carry out their ideas in real schools and communities during 1993-95, the second phase of the project.

He added that the board has not yet decided how to progress with phase three of the operation, when successful designs are supposed to be replicated in schools nationwide.

"Maybe NASDC by phase three doesn't have a role,'' he said, "and what we should really do is aid the teams in getting funding directly'' from other sources.

The corporation is currently negotiating one-year contracts with the nine design teams for phase two of the project, based on the understanding that it will sign additional, one-year contracts once more money is raised.

"We've been very open with the design teams that we haven't raised the funds on the schedule that we had hoped for,'' Mr. Kearns said. But he declined to say how much money the design teams have been promised for either this year or next.

More Funding Commitments

In the last few weeks, NASDC has received additional funding commitments of about $4 million, raising its total revenues to $54 million. Mr. Kearns said he hoped to get commitments this year for the remainder of the money.

The chief executive described the board's new fund-raising strategy as "what I call a restart.''

Under the plan, individual board members have agreed to take responsibility for raising money from three or four major companies, individuals, or foundations.

In addition, Mr. Kearns said, the corporation has had discussions with some foundations and corporations about their ability to fund specific design teams, or otherwise track the use of their monies.

"What I think we have to do is be very flexible as an organization,'' Mr. Kearns said, "and say that we have only one interest. It's not prolonging a long life for NASDC; it's providing a product in the next three or four years that becomes available to communities that want to improve their education.''

Only two of the 11 design teams were not selected for phase two: the Odyssey Project in Gaston County, N.C., and the Bensenville Community Design in Bensenville, Ill.

Teams were selected based on three criteria: their performance to date; their readiness to implement a design on schedule; and the promise of widespread replication.

Criticism of the Odyssey project by conservative Christian activists did not affect the board's decision, Mr. Kearns said.

The high school district participating in the Bensenville project, Fenton High School District 100, voted to withdraw from that design team earlier this year. According to its superintendent, John Meredith, one problem was that the Wood Dale community, whose elementary schools also feed into the high school, was not involved in the design effort.

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