About that Bahrain trip
Updated with DCPS comment
The brief reference in this morning's Kaya Henderson piece to the international education conference in Bahrain raised some eyebrows. Here's a bit more.
Henderson was joined by three DCPS principals, Willie Jackson (Eliot-Hine Middle School), Dwan Jordon (Sousa Middle School) and Liz Whisnant (Mann Elementary), and McKinley Technology High School engineering teacher Anthony Priest, for the three-day "Education Project," a government-sponsored gathering of education heavy hitters from the public and private sector. The District confirms that DCPS staff had their trips paid for by the Kingdom of Bahrain, specifically the country's Economic Development Board, which is chaired by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. No specific cost was available, but it was doubtless a pretty good chunk of change. The event, which took place in the Isa Cultural Centre in Manama, Bahrain's capital, was run by the same event management firm that puts on the Davos Forum.
According to the conference Web site, the second annual event was intended to "showcase seedling models of innovation and success in education, and encourage commitments from the private and public sector to adapt these models for wider roll-out."
The speaker list included former Boston schools superintendent Thomas Payzant, KIPP charter schools founder Mike Feinberg, Ari Pokka, president of the Finnish Association of Principals, Dan Lea, 2009 teacher of the Year in the U.K., James Willcox, chief executive of Aspire charter school network, Bill Fowler, director of global education for Cisco Systems, and Charlotte Francis Cole, senior vice president of global education for Sesame Workshop.
According the draft program, Henderson and Priest were on a panel titled "New Teacher Attitudes and Skills Required: A Commitment to Change, and an Expanded Role as Mentor and Facilitator." Henderson was also listed for a panel addressing the question, "Can a Private Sector Approach to Education Deliver Better Outcomes than the Traditional Public School Approach?"
All of this has sparked some chatter on the listservs about global conspiracies to privatize public education. The real question is whether this was the best use of anybody's time in a school system with so many issues, especially Henderson, principal deputy to a chancellor who had one foot -- and possibly both feet -- out the door while she was thousands of miles away.
Through spokeswoman Marrianne McMullen, Henderson said she agreed to participate in the forum months ago, and that DCPS reforms and successes have received national and international attention.
"When we are asked to share those experiences in a situation in which thousands of other children can benefit, we do our best to do so," McMullen said. "Likewise, there are innovations and best practices from around the globe that DCPS staff can learn from and apply for our children's benefit."
Finally, McMullen said that while this is a "time of transition" it is not a "time of crisis."
"The chancellor and the deputy chancellor were in daily contact throughout the deputy chancellor's trip," she said.
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| October 15, 2010; 12:21 PM ET
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