Published Online: September 24, 1997

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Alternative Public Schools Inc. has a new name: Beacon Education Management LLC.

The Nashville, Tenn.-based company is best known for its five-year management contract to run an elementary school in the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg, Pa. The company has been at the center of contention in the 1,900-student district because it replaced the teachers at Turner Elementary School with its own workforce.

A state judge has ruled that the district has no authority to turn over the management of one of its schools to a private company. The current arrangement appears likely to end after this school year. ("Judge's Ruling Could End School-Privatization Venture," Sept. 3, 1997.)

Michael B. Ronan, the chief operating officer of Beacon Management, said the company was not changing its name to disassociate itself from the nationally watched dispute.

"It has nothing to do with Wilkinsburg," Mr. Ronan said. "We found that, given the focus of the company, which is broad based, the name Alternative Public Schools was very confusing in the marketplace."

Besides Turner Elementary, the company manages public charter schools in Chelmsford, Mass., and Wilson, N.C. It also provides consulting services in a handful of other districts and has four other potential charter contracts pending, Mr. Ronan said.

"In terms of the charter market, we expect to contract with a fairly sizable number of schools within the next six months," he added.

Beacon is one of a handful of private companies leading the charge into the nascent field of private management of charter schools and traditional public schools.

One of the best-known companies in that field, Minneapolis-based Education Alternatives Inc., has merged with a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based operator of preschool centers.

Sunrise Educational Services Inc. will become a wholly owned subsidiary of EAI. Sunrise operates 35 preschools, mostly in Arizona, and recently expanded into private schools and charter schools in the state. EAI this year was awarded a contract to run 12 charter schools in Arizona.

The two companies said EAI expects to issue stock shares and cash totaling approximately $13.5 million to shareholders of Sunrise.

"We are eager to share our knowledge and resources with Sunrise to assist them through the transition from a child-care provider to a company offering quality educational services," EAI Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John T. Golle said in a prepared statement this month.

--MARK WALSH mwalsh@epe.org

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