Bringing Business to the Table

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
"The extent of business involvement around reform is greater now than it has been."

Rosemarie B. Greco, President, CoreStates Bank

On the 35th floor of a gleaming Market Street office tower, the close alliance between Philadelphia's largest businesses and the efforts to reform its schools becomes unmistakable.

The well-appointed offices of Greater Philadelphia First--a group made up of representatives of 35 of the area's largest businesses--also house the Children Achieving Challenge, which is providing technical and financial support to carry out the district's reform plans.

The business organization acts as the fiscal agent for the challenge, which is raising money to match the $50 million contributed by the Annenberg Foundation in 1995. So far, $95 million of the $100 million in matching funds required by the grant has been pledged by leading philanthropies and corporations.

The Children Achieving Challenge is designed to be a five-year project to build the capacity of the school district to dramatically improve education. It takes its name from the broad reform agenda known as Children Achieving that was designed by Superintendent David W. Hornbeck and approved by the school board two years ago.

The Children Achieving Challenge has brought people from the school district and outside organizations together to draft a set of work plans for carrying out the reform agenda. The board of education approves the plans, which are then funded from the Annenberg grant money.

One work team, for example, focuses on school-to-career opportunities for students. Businesses are being asked to offer students apprenticeships or similar hands-on work experience. So far, about 2,500 slots have been pledged, with a goal of 6,000.

Last month, a business task force reported that it had saved the district $12 million in the past year.

Rosemarie B. Greco, a former Philadelphia school board member who is now the president and chief executive officer of CoreStates Bank, says business leaders understand the critical link between a well-educated workforce and the economic viability of the city.

"This is not about simply saying we should take care of our kids," she says. "We are not talking simply about a moral obligation. We are talking about framing it in a context of a business factor, a critical success factor."

The district's reform efforts have galvanized many business leaders, she says, partly because of the emphasis on involving as many partners as possible.

"The extent of business involvement around reform is greater now than it has been, in my recollection or experience," Greco says.

Leading Philadelphia businesses also have worked closely with district administrators to help them improve management and productivity in the $1.4 billion-a-year business.

Last month, a business task force that has been examining transportation, facilities, human resources, food services, and information technology reported that it had saved the district $12 million in the past year. The goal of the task force is to net between $30 million and $45 million in annual savings in the next three years.

Richard L. Smoot, the president and chief executive officer of PNC Bank and the chairman of Greater Philadelphia First, praised the district's emphasis on accountability.

"Mayor [Edward G.] Rendell said his support of your reform efforts--especially your Children Achieving agenda--was 'unequivocal,'" Smoot told Hornbeck at a press conference to announce the savings. "That's about as straightforward a term as exists, and that is exactly what our support will be as well--unequivocal."

Supporters of the district hope that efforts to make its business functions more streamlined and cost-effective also will garner support among legislators for more funding. Smoot called for money for new technology to allow the district to manage itself more efficiently.

Still, not everyone in the business community is convinced that the city's public schools can pull out of their downward spiral.

Business leaders, through the Chamber of Commerce, didn't argue against Gov. Tom Ridge's two unsuccessful attempts to pass voucher legislation for Pennsylvania.

"The business community is saying, 'Look, we've got to try everything,'" Greco explains. "I do not subscribe to [vouchers] as a panacea, but I'm willing to experiment with that, too."

Vol. 16, Issue 21, Page 30

Published in Print: February 19, 1997, as Bringing Business to the Table
Related Stories

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

To Address Chronic Absenteeism, Dig into the Data

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Keep Your Schools Safe and Responsive to Real Challenges

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

3 Unique Learner Profiles for Emerging Bilinguals

Effective Questioning Practices to Spur Thinking

Empower Reading Teachers with Proven Literacy PD

Student Engagement Lessons from 3 Successful Districts

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >