Accolades and Gratitude

Allow me a few moments of self-congratulation here on the pages of Eduflack. In recent weeks, I’ve learned that my book, Dadprovement, has been recognized by two major organizations as part of their 2015 book awards.

The book is a finalist for the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the parenting category, and will be recognized at a ceremony at the end of the month.

And I’ve just learned that Dadprovement is also a finalist in the 9th Annual Indie Excellence Awards in the personal growth category.

I honestly wrote the book as a form of therapy. I had been telling the first part of the story for years, the part about how our family came to be, and folks would regularly tell me that I should write it down before I forget it all. So I finally took them up on it. But as I was writing that story, a whole new story came out of me. Chapter after chapter, I was better understanding how my role as a father and husband was evolving. And it seems just as important a part of the story. Consider it how we came to be to what we can become.

When Turning Stone Press wanted to publish the book, I was beside myself. Now, when I hear that someone has read the book or that they learned X about themselves or when I am asked to write or speak on the topic of fathers and parental engagement, I am reminded just how lucky I am. Lucky to have the family that I have, and lucky that I’ve learned what I’ve learned before it is too late.

So to now have groups like these decide that Dadprovement was one of the best books of the year on topics like parenting or personal growth, I am just moved beyond words. And I am very, very grateful to all of those who have helped make it possible, both for me as an author and as a person.

Focusing On Family … And Winning

Most readers of the Eduflack blog know that I am both a proud father and an author of a book about the adoption of my children and the evolution of my view on what a good dad truly means. That book, Dadprovement, was the topic of my SXSWedu speech in Austin earlier this year, and it is a big part of my writing and my thinking each and every day.

Folks are noticing this call for more engaged fathers. Exhibit One? This month’s issue of WorldClass magazine.

Yours truly is actually on the cover of the issue (yes, I realize that means it is unlikely to sell many copies). But the content of the piece is one that is particularly touching. The full article can be found here, but let me give you a taste:

Riccards emphasizes that balance in our lives brings us greater happiness and health, as individuals, and it benefits our children, as well. For example, he points to a study that shows that “in those households where daughters saw their fathers washing dishes at home, those daughters were going to be more ambitious and were going to push and achieve more in their own lives.” That kind of yin and yang between the personal and the professional is important for everyone in the family, both genders.

“We have been hearing for years now . . . that if women want to truly be a professional success, then what we need is for them to behave more like men, and they need to focus on their careers and not so much worry about the personal or worry so much about the family. At the end of the day, we are selling everybody this horrible lie,” Patrick Riccards.

Riccards explains that, too often, men become overly intimidated by the fatherhood process, “We need to recognize, we are going to make far more mistakes than we are going to get things right. What is important is that we continue to push that, continue to try. Mistakes make better fathers, make better families.

I hope you will take a few moments and give the article a read. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Following the CT Charter Money

Up in Connecticut, they are slogging it out over the future of charter schools. As part of education reforms signed into law in 2012, the most significant school reforms legislated in the state’s history, lawmakers pledged to both increase the number of charter schools and available charter seats. At the same time, they put in place a plan to increase the per-pupil payment to said charter schools, bringing financial commitments closer to the per-pupil costs of the traditional public schools in those cities.

The financial realities set in. In 2014 and again this year, Connecticut has experienced lighter state coffers than anticipated. Reductions in revenue have meant cuts to budgets. And charter schools have been on the block for such cuts.

It is important to note, though, that when the ed reform law was originally passed, there were only 17 charter schools in 10 cities across the state. Those schools educated less than 2 percent of the total K-12 public school population.

Anyone who has followed the education reform battles knows that charter school advocates do not go quietly when their programs are slated for cuts or even freezes. And Connecticut is no different. In today’s Hartford Courant, ed reporter extraordinaire Kathleen Megan, along with Matthew Kauffman, has a great piece that looks at where the charter school funding comes from. In a small state like Connecticut, when millions of dollars is spent to advocate for less than 2 percent of the public school population, following the dollars becomes an important and necessary exercise.

Full disclosure, Eduflack served as CEO of one of the groups that Megan and the Courant write about. In fact, I led the ed reform org when we helped pass those major gains for reforms and overall school improvement. And I led both a 501c3 and a 501c4 in the process.

Those who know Eduflack know I’m never one to shy away from a question. So while it seems the CT ed reform community doesn’t want to talk about the “follow the money” storyline, I was happy to oblige.

Patrick Riccards, a former chief executive officer for ConnCAN, said that when he was there — from 2011 through 2012 — most of the funding came in equal parts from board members, the hedge fund community, and local foundations.

He said that in general many of the same names turn up as contributors to several education reform groups.

For many of those givers with an entrepreneurial leaning, Riccards said, it is far more appealing to fund new schools — charters — than to try to fix failing schools when there is so little agreement about how best to do that.

Riccards, who is now chief communications and strategy officer for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, said he is convinced that ConnCAN’s donors were “true believers” who were donating funds because they believed they were improving education for children. “They don’t make any money off the schools,” Riccards said. “It’s one of those great urban legends. There’s no grand conspiracy.”

A fair assessment? Read the piece. Check it out. Let me know.
UPDATE: For more on the topic, also check out this piece from the Connecticut Mirror.