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Education Alternatives Inc., a corporate moniker synonymous with controversy as one of the pioneers in private management of public schools, has changed its name. As of Jan. 1, the Minneapolis-based company became the Tesseract Group Inc.

Education Alternatives was best known for its contracts to manage the Hartford, Conn., district and to run 12 public schools in Baltimore. Both contracts were terminated by the local school boards about two years ago amid squabbles over money and the company's performance.

The name change comes as the company has sought to reinvent itself as an operator of private schools and public charter schools. EAI won a charter from the state of Arizona last year to run as many as 12 charter schools to be built in new residential developments around Phoenix. ("EAI Seeks To Team With Developers To Build Charter Schools in Arizona," April 16, 1997.)

The company also recently completed a merger with Phoenix-based Sunrise Educational Services Inc., an operator of 33 preschool centers, and is in the process of acquiring the Academy of Business College, a for-profit postsecondary career school in Phoenix.

Philip E. Geiger, the president of the Tesseract Group, said in an interview last week that the company was not seeking to hide its past troubles.

"You don't run away from a name, and we're certainly not trying to do that," he said.

But the old name no longer fit the scope of the company's interests, he added.

"If you say Education Alternatives and you have preschools and a technical college under you, the name doesn't convey the proper message anymore," Mr. Geiger said.

The company wanted to create a cohesive "brand" with the name Tesseract, he added. EAI used the name--which comes from the classic children's book A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle--for many years on some of its private schools and as the name for its educational methodology.

Mr. Geiger spoke optimistically about future prospects for the Tesseract Group. In addition to its Arizona charter, it is seeking public school charters in Texas, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, and it is developing new private schools in Minnesota and New Jersey. With its four existing private schools and its acquisition of Sunrise Educational Centers, it now operates 37 facilities in seven states, serving 5,000 children.

This marks the second time in several months that a company involved in private, for-profit management of education has changed its name. Last summer, Alternative Public Schools Inc. became Beacon Education Management LLC.

--MARK WALSH [email protected]

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