sapientis and the launch of cece
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From: Antonella Demartini To: Puerto Rican Department of Education RE: Sapientis and the Launch of the Coalition for Equity and Education Equality (CECE) Date: February 20, 2013 Background Given Puerto Rico’s high unemployment, lack of economic growth, and ongoing controversy regarding the island’s political status, governance of the island’s public education system faces unique challenges. A commonwealth of the United States, Puerto Rico “has its own executive, legislative, and judicial system[s] to govern local issues, such as education policy” (Lastra-Anandon, 2011, 1). The island has the third largest school district in the United States. Although education costs form the largest expense of the total budget, “its education spending per pupil is lower than almost any U.S. state and so are its literacy rates” (Lastra-Anandon, 2011, 2). In response to these challenges, in 2002 Kristin Ehrgood and Vadim Nikitine co-founded Sapientis, a non-profit organization based on the belief that ordinary people might collaborate with the government to address the challenges within Puerto Rico’s public education system. Sapientis was successful in networking change leaders both locally and nationally, and created a coalition to lead change following the November 2008 elections when the dominance of political parties shifted. In the Luis Torres community, Sapientis developed the Schools on the Move Program, which involved communities with their local school boards to increase community participation in local schools, and the Youth in Action Program, which developed student leadership skills and encouraged students to initiate community improvement activities. At the national level, Sapientis created Frontline Educators, training programs for principals, teachers, and staff to “develop school improvement initiatives” (Lastra-Anandon, 2011, 4), and the Get Involved Program, public workshops to heighten community awareness of education challenges. In early 2009, Sapientis “launched the Coalition for Equity and Education Equality (CECE) to mobilize leaders and citizens for reform” (Lastra-Anandon, 2011, 4) under the leadership of Executive Director Jose Martinez, a native-born Puerto Rican and doctoral degree holder in Education. Issues Social Equity - “Public administration decisions will be equitable if the process used to reach them is fair. The process is fair if all affected citizens are given a real voice in the development of the decision” (Frederickson, 2010, 68). CECE was thoroughly aware of the problems facing Puerto Rico’s education system. They included: lack of libraries, school staff, and supplies; low national assessment test scores and literacy rates; and high drop-out rates. Following the U.S. government’s request for evidence of progress regarding educational outcomes in connection with the No Child Left Behind Act, and the announcement by the Secretary of Education regarding his intent to dismiss all of the 74 school district superintendents, CECE saw a window of opportunity for change. In September 2009, CECE members voiced their intent to launch a series of reform initiatives, requesting the Governor’s support for a “cross-party, cross-sector consensus to improve education” that would articulate necessary reforms and create implementation plans (Lastra-Anandon, 2011, 5). In December 2009 under Martinez’ leadership, CECE members submitted an 18 month proposal to the Governor for reforms at the school level through partnerships with the Department of Education. The CECE members were “representatives from the main parties, parents, teachers, and businessmen as well as government representatives” (Lastra-Anandon, 2011, 5). An organization that came into being due to its framers’ concern with the necessity for equity and equality in Puerto Rico’s public education system, CECE made sure to incorporate multiple professional and political perspectives within their reform recommendations. Although the Governor publicly announced his support for the proposal, he “accepted the proposal [only in] ‘in principle,’” (Lastra-Anandon, 2011, 6) which meant the reform initiatives could not move forward. Recommendation: The CECE members should consider engaging in a dialogue with the Governor and Department of Public Education (DOE) regarding the 18 month reform proposal in a public forum. A town hall meeting, or series of meetings, might be appropriate to address the Governor’s concerns about policy
responsibilities; the proposal’s language; funding avenues; and to discuss the DOE’s concerns about where decision making authority lie. Organizational Life Cycle of Non-profits: “Stage V: Review and Renew - The organization revisits its mission and programs and undertakes change“(Simon, 2001, in Worth, 2009, 154). Sapientis was established: it had been in existence for over seven years and had become a grounded organization, operating programs and services consistently. However, Executive Director Laura Lopez, who held a Ph.D. in Education, recognized that Sapientis’ path forward was uncertain. Delay of the implementation of the reform proposal would threaten the momentum and commitment of Sapientis members and “risk years of development of the Sapientis activist network” (Lastra-Anandon, 2011, 7). Sapientis could not lobby the government because its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status did not permit lobbying. CECE would have to become an independent organization in order to lobby, but doing so could also strain the relationship between Sapientis and the government which could compromise future collaboration. Sapientis could partner with the government on implementing less controversial aspects of the proposal, although doing so would compromise the systemic reform Sapientis and the CECE members envisioned when they drafted the reform proposal. Another option would be to re-focus Sapientis’ mission statement away from influencing government policy. “This had to be a time for Sapientis to think strategically about the role of programs, which had grown over the years,” (Lastra-Anandon, 2011, 8). Sapientis would need to determine which programs served the re-focused mission, and which produced mission creep, “a gradual evolution away from the organization’s purposes into ancillary activities” (Worth, 2009, 173). If Sapientis chose to re-visit its mission statement, major changes could bring it to earlier stages of development where a non-profit frames its programs, while minor changes could bring it to later stages of development where a non-profit produces programs and creates systems to sustain them (Worth, 2009). Recommendation: The legal entity responsible for ensuring the non-profit serves its mission and maintains fiscal health, the Sapientis governing Board should schedule a series of meetings with stakeholders to hear perspectives for Sapientis’ future. The meetings should be held in different locations and times to encourage attendance. Then the Board should meet privately on more than one occasion to discuss action plan options and vote regarding the way forward. Shared Leadership: “Shared leadership is a dynamic, interactive influence process among individuals in groups in which the objective is to lead one another to the achievement of group or organizational goals or both” (Pearce & Conger, 2003, 1). There was a deficit of shared leadership between Puerto Rican government entities and Sapientis because their commitment to the reform of the public education system varied. For example, Jose Martinez, the executive director of Sapientis from February 2006 until March 2010 prior to Laura Lopez, “opened discussions with the government about how Sapientis could support educational reforms and launched a review of its operations and strategy for the future” (Lastra-Anandon, 2011, 3). However, where Sapientis was one entity, the Puerto Rican government was composed of several entities from different levels of government including local authorities, the Governor, the Secretary of Education, Department of Education, and Department of the Treasury, to which the federal government gave oversight authority. As Goldsmith and Eggers argue that accountability is more diffuse when governance happens through networks (Goldsmith & Eggers, 2004), leadership change efforts are prone to failure when there is no shared definition of or commitment to a goal, and accountability for achieving it. Recommendation: Sapientis should consider inviting representatives from government agencies whose job responsibilities overlap with public education to form a task force with Sapientis leaders. The joint task force would address perspectives of, concerns for, and suggestions regarding ways to reform the island’s public education system. Such dialogue that comes of joint participation has the potential to create buy-in among stakeholders which encourages mutual pursuit of a course of action.
Frederickson, H. George. 2010. Social Equity and Public Administration: Origins, Developments, and Applications. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe. Goldsmith, Stephen & Eggers, William D. 2004. Governing By Network: the New Shape of the Public Sector. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. Lastra-Anadon, Carlos. 2011. Sapientis and the Launch of CECE. Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Pearce, C.L. and Conger, J. A. 2003. All Those Years Ago: The Historical Underpinnings of Shared Leadership. In C.L. Pearce & J.A. Conger Eds., Shared Leadership: Reframing the Hows and Whys of Leadership. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Simon, J.S. 2001. The 5 Stages of Nonprofit Organizations. St. Paul, Minnesota: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. Worth, Michael J. 2009. Nonprofit Management: Principles And Practice. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
Timeline: 2002- Sapientis founded by Kristin Ehrgood and Vadim Nikitine 02/2006 – Jose Martinez – took over as Sapientis ED; established Luis Llorens Torres community programs 2008 – Torrens community networks included over 600 people 11/2008 – PPD (status quo party) lost control of PR government to PNP (statehood party) during elections Early 2009 – CECE launched Summer 2009 - Secretary of Education Dr. Chardon proposed to fire 74 superintendents in Puerto Rico District (they were given jobs as school principals) September 2009 – CECE calls for reform in organized public activities December 2009 – submits proposal for planning and implementing reform to Governor for the following 18 months by a broad coalition of leaders from many levels and sides of the political spectrum December 2009 – Chardon resigns as Secretary of Education and Odette Pinheiro Caballero was appointed successor December 2009 – Governor appoints committee to oversee education decisions; includes governmental agencies like Dept. of the Treasury Early 2010 – Governor creates consultative committee within dept. of education with members sympathetic to his party only 03/2010 – Laura Lopez – appointed ED of Sapientis 05/2010 – Secretary Pinheiro steps down and is replaced by an interim sub-secretary 06/2010 – Laura Lopez – ED of Sapientis – How to move forward? Governor did not formally accept reform proposal