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Talks on Committing Rest of Annenberg Gift Continue

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What happens to the remaining $380 million of Walter H. Annenberg's $500 million gift to public education will likely remain a mystery until the late summer or early fall.

Late last month, Vartan Gregorian, the president of Brown University, met with Mr. Annenberg at his office near Philadelphia to present recommendations for how to distribute the funds.

Mr. Gregorian has been advising Mr. Annenberg since last December, when the philanthropist--a media magnate and former ambassador to Britain--pledged to donate half a billion dollars to the nation's schools through the Annenberg Foundation over the next five years. (See Education Week, Jan. 12, 1994.)

So far, $120 million has been committed to four projects.

Theodore R. Sizer, the director of the new Annenberg National Institute for School Reform at Brown, has been working closely with Mr. Gregorian to coordinate the effort. The foundation endowed the institute with $50 million, one of the four December grants.

For the past six months, the two men and Annenberg Institute staff members have met with educators around the country and at Brown, with much of the proceedings remaining confidential.

"There are a considerable amount of things to tell [Mr. Annenberg] because we've done a lot of listening,'' Mr. Sizer said late last month. "The Annenbergs are now reflecting on that, and they will make a decision on the basis of their study.''

During their talk, Mr. Gregorian presented Mr. Annenberg with proposals for how the funds could be used to support the "scaling up'' of school reform in the metropolitan areas surrounding three cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. The plans were drafted by coalitions of K-12 and university educators, foundation officers, business and community leaders, and elected officials in each city.

One of the five groups involved in preliminary discussions about the New York plan--the East Brooklyn Congregations, a grassroots citizens' coalition--has decided not to participate in the effort.

In addition to the three cities that have developed draft plans, talks are under way with groups of educators and others in Detroit and Philadelphia.

According to guidelines for drafting the metropolitan plans obtained by Education Week, Mr. Annenberg still plans to give early, though not exclusive, funding priority to schools in the nation's nine largest urban areas. (See Education Week, June 8, 1994.)

Philadelphia Talks Begin

While in Philadelphia to confer with Mr. Annenberg, Mr. Gregorian met with Mayor Edward Rendell and the city's incoming schools superintendent, David W. Hornbeck, as well as the acting superintendent, Theresa Lemme.

Discussions about Philadelphia's involvement in the "Annenberg Challenge'' had been on hold pending the selection of a new superintendent. Mr. Hornbeck is expected to assume his duties in mid-August.

Meanwhile, earlier in June, representatives of the Annenberg Institute met with Detroit officials to explore the reform climate in that city's schools.

After talking with General Superintendent David L. Snead, Mayor Dennis Archer, Gov. John Engler of Michigan, and others, the Annenberg contingent listened to a group of about 25 teachers, school administrators, and parents discuss their views on specific reform strategies.

In addition to the metropolitan focus, the foundation may support initiatives involving rural schools, public charter schools, and schools emphasizing the arts.

And a pool of resources may be available to support other projects that do not fit in these three areas and that are located outside the nine urban school districts Mr. Annenberg specified in announcing the gift. The other districts are Dallas, Houston, and Dade and Broward counties in Florida.

"The Ambassador and President Gregorian are being very careful,'' Mr. Sizer said, "and I think that's as it should it be: proceeding cautiously and listening carefully and trying to do the right thing.''

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