In an effort to garner more support for the New York City schools, Chancellor Joel I. Klein last week tapped Caroline Kennedy to lead the district’s fund-raising and partnership efforts.
As chief executive of the new office of strategic partnerships, Ms. Kennedy, a best-selling author, public-service advocate, and the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, will oversee efforts to get the private sector more actively involved in the public school system.
“There are so many dedicated, talented, and creative teachers, principals, and superintendents working their hearts out to educate young New Yorkers,” Ms. Kennedy said in a statement. “I welcome the chance to support their efforts and to help give them the additional resources they need.”
The office of strategic partnerships will pull together functions now being handled by other departments—including the office of corporate partnerships, the chancellor’s special adviser for the arts, and the office of community partnerships—to provide organizations such as philanthropies, corporations, nonprofit groups, and arts organizations with a central entry point to the school system, according to the city’s department of education.
Partnerships could be as small as a program in which a corporation would work with a single school to provide services such as financial assistance, mentoring, or internships, or as large as initiatives that provide professional development for staff members systemwide, school officials said.
“The entire city of New York must rally behind the reform of the public school system,” Mr. Klein said in announcing the appointment. “The department of education cannot act in isolation.”
Ms. Kennedy, who is also the president of the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, and founded an after-school program for underserved children who live near the library, will work part time through the end of the year for a nominal salary of $1; her salary after that time is to be negotiated.
Because the Kennedy name carries so much weight, the announcement is being met with a great deal of excitement, said Noreen Connell, the executive director of the Education Priorities Panel, a coalition of 27 civic organizations that acts as a budget watchdog in New York City.
In the past, wealthy New Yorkers were reluctant to work with the public schools because their children attended private schools, she said. But Ms. Kennedy, whose three children also attend private schools, may help change that trend, she added.
“With the Kennedys lending their name, it sort of gives permission again for the socially prominent, socially conscious people in the city to not be embarrassed to work to improve the public school system,” Ms. Connell said.
Coordinating partnerships and philanthropic efforts for the 1.1 million-student district will not come without its share of challenges.
“Telling all foundations that the money should go in one direction or the other is like herding cats,” Ms. Connell said.
Donors can be very individualistic in their decisions about giving, she cautioned. Some donors like to buck trends and give to programs that others have ignored, while others set their grantmaking priorities based on their own research or agendas.
One thing Ms. Kennedy has in her favor is that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his appointed chancellor, Mr. Klein, are working together to improve the schools, Ms. Connell added.
“We want the most prominent citizens and figures to lend a hand,” Ms. Connell said. “Now you have the mayor’s blessing on all of this.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 09, 2002 edition of Education Week as Caroline Kennedy Named To Oversee Partnerships For New York City Schools