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School News

February 8, 2008

Social Enterprise Reception Highlights Power of Cross-Sector Collaboration

Joel Klein, David Saltzman and Russell Carson ’67 discuss how business skills can transform urban public education.


The eighth Annual Social Enterprise Reception drew a crowd of students, faculty, alumni and professionals the evening of February 5 in Low Library to celebrate the social gains that can be made through cross-sector collaboration.

“It’s an old saw, but it’s true that partnerships make the whole greater than the sum of the parts,” said Professor Ray Horton, director of the Social Enterprise Program, in his introduction to a panel discussion featuring Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education and David Saltzman, Executive Director of the Robin Hood Foundation. The panel was moderated by Russell Carson ’67, a member of the School’s Board of Overseers and general partner of the private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe.

The discussants focused on the challenges facing public education in New York City and the nation, emphasizing that the most meaningful transformations occur when the business, nonprofit and government sectors leverage and combine their respective resources.

“At its core, education is a service delivery challenge,” said Klein. “The core leaders that I have… are not people who came from the ed schools, they’re people who came from the business schools, people who came from the business sector. That causes me a lot of political heat, but that’s just fine, because if you don’t inject entrepreneurialism, accountability, innovation, differentiation… we’ll continue to get the same pitiful results that we have in the last 50 years in American education.”

The discussion largely revolved around the achievement gap that Klein said is directly correlated to wealth disparities, race and recent immigration status, but pointed out the success of Excellence Academy, a charter school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, as an indicator of hope.

In a neighborhood where the average a third-grade class only has 48 percent of students at or above grade level in reading, and 72 percent at or above grade level in math, Excellence Academy (the result of collaboration between Klein and Saltzman) has 92 percent of students at or above grade level in reading, and 100 percent at or above grade level in math.

“The moral of this story,” said Saltzman at the end of a presentation on the school, “is that when great philanthropists like Russ Carson and great public officials like Joel Klein come together, they make a winning team.”

Klein concluded the question-and-answer session following the discussion with a call to action. “We will let our kids set the expectations for which we as adults have been deficient,” he said.

“There’s a billion things we can do, but it’s much easier to cure poverty when you start in infancy than when you start in adulthood, and we should get serious about it.”

Earlier in the reception, The Lambert Family Teaching Award for Excellence in the Social Enterprise Classroom was presented to Professor Melissa Berman, chairman and CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and philanthropy professor at Columbia Business School.

The event marked 25th reception since what is now the Social Enterprise Program was originally established under a different name and agenda as the Public and Non Profit Management Program.