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Various Authors 6:38 p.m., Sept. 24
Two La Jolla-based nonprofit corporations at the heart of San Diego’s great debate over public versus charter schools have been paying a pair of prominent academic and political players for their board service.
The Girard Foundation, a non-profit corporation set up by charter school political advocate Ralph B. "Buzz" Woolley, has paid UCSD vice chancellor Mary Walshok $5,000 a year to sit on its board, according to a financial filing made with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and confirmed by Walshok yesterday.
Also getting $5,000 for her tenure on the Girard Foundation board, according to the filings, has been former Democratic state Senator Dede Alpert.
Both Walshok and Alpert also serve on the board of the Girard Education Foundation, a related Woolley-run non-profit.
As previously reported, Woolley, a wealthy La Jolla investor, has spent a great deal of his own money on state and local political efforts in a well-financed effort to promote charter schools and combat the state’s teachers unions:
The labor-union foe and hotel investor was one of the first financial backers of Proposition 32, the ultimately defeated measure to ban withholding of union political dues, giving $10,000 in March.
Then Woolley gave $950 to the bid of Republican Ray Ellis to defeat Democratic city councilwoman Sherri Lightner; she won easily.
The philanthropist also kicked in $15,000 for a political action committee backing Bill Ponder for San Diego school board. Ponder lost to teachers’ union candidate Marne Foster.
And Woolley spent $10,000 in a futile attempt to defeat Proposition Z, the measure to raise property taxes and float a $2.8 billion San Diego school-bond issue.
Sources of funds to non-profit foundations such as Woolley's do not have to be disclosed to the public. He did not respond to a request left at his foundation offices for further information regarding his operations.
Another Woolley-backed non-profit venture, the Voice of San Diego online news operation, has been nominated for a Golden Watchdog award for critical "Stories on School District Use of Capital Appreciation Bonds and Campaign Contributions to School Bond Elections," according to an item posted yesterday on its website.
The Golden Watchdog honors are handed out by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, the downtown business lobbying and privatization advocacy group closely linked to Atlas Hotels GOP mogul C. Terry Brown.
The association had a key role in the ultimately failed effort to force Democratic mayor Bob Filner to sign a city funding contract negotiated by Republican ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, a major beneficiary of campaign donations from the hotel lobby.
Walshok, who was paid a $169,700 salary by the University of California in 2011, according to data posted online by the university, has like Woolley been a critic of the state of local education, telling UT San Diego earlier this month that "from kindergarten through college, San Diego schools are not equipped to nurture tomorrow's innovators." The story did not mention Walshok’s association with the Woolley foundations.
In addition to Walshok and Alpert, Woolley’s son Scott is on the board of the Girard Education Foundation, where he serves as treasurer and CFO and received $5625 during the most recent reporting period. Woolley’s daughter, Michele Hansen, the non-profit’s president and CEO, received $24,225. The non-profits IRS filing says that Hansen spent 4.5 hours each week working for the foundation; Scott Woolley devoted 1.3 hours a week.
According to the foundation reports, Walshok and Alpert each spent just .25 hours per week on average at their Girard Foundation board jobs and .30 hours a week for the Girard Education Foundation.
Reached by phone yesterday, Walshok disputed those numbers, estimating that she and Alpert actually spend between one and two hours a month on work for the Girard Education Foundation, and between eight and ten hours a month for the larger Girard Foundation.
The Girard Education Foundation - formerly known as the Girard Charter Schools Foundation before changing its name in the wake of an abortive bid to establish a middle school charter in La Jolla - is dedicated to the development of "online curriculum management tools for charter schools to more effectively utilize blended learning programs in the high school environment," according to the mission statement provided to the IRS.
The foundation has engaged consultants who are leaders in this field to develop these tools. Once developed, the tools will be piloted at existing, high performing charter schools to test them and provide feedback. Development and testing is expected to be completed by July 2013, when it will be made available to any school or district at no cost.
During the reporting period, the foundation paid $455,000 to "technology consultant" Illuminate Education, Inc. of Irvine, as well as $126,000 to "education consultant" Cinda Doughty of Descanso. According to her LinkedIn profile, Doughty is director of the Girard Blended Learning Lab at Gompers Preparatory Academy, which has been backed by Woolley, as well as director of the Heritage Digital Academy.
According to Heritage's website, material developed for Woolley's failed La Jolla middle school proposal was used in drawing up a February 2013 petition to the Escondido school district for charter status.
The Heritage Digital Academy Middle School approach came out of long term projects supported by the Girard Foundation, a La Jolla based private foundation with a focus on education, that involved faculty from Heritage K-8 Charter School, Escondido Charter High School, the development team for Girard Middle School, and Pollinate Ventures, a social venture fund that receives money from the Gates Foundation.
Originally, a charter for Girard Middle School was approved by the San Diego Unified School District but was never opened due to facility complications. This petition was developed by using elements of that petition, with permission of the Girard Foundation, under the leadership of Cinda Doughty who was the chief developer of the Girard petition and is now Director of Heritage Digital Academy.
According to Heritage’s Escondido petition for taxpayer funding:
In contrast to traditional schools, Heritage Digital Academy will employ a blended model that combines computer-based instruction in a lab setting with face-to-face instruction by highly qualified teachers.
In the Digital Academy model, traditional teaching will drive initial exposure to concepts and content knowledge through a variety of proven teaching modalities. Students will then move to “Personalized Lab Time” to practice skills, complete assignments based on content knowledge learned in class, and work on projects in both small groups and individually. Staff will supervise progress in the lab, create student goals and provide assistance as needed, supporting students in the learning process.