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Supporting Public Schools of Choice “Flies the Coop” - or is that "Leaves the Nest"?

Posted By Carol Beck, Tuesday, January 17, 2012
By Carol Beck, Director

Supporting Public Schools of Choice "flies the coop”, or is that "leaves the nest”?

With great thanks for terrific support over the last two years, Supporting Public Schools of Choice (SPSOC) will enter a fiscal management agreement with the Fund for Educational Excellence. 

This transition is an example of "ABAG at its best”.

Supporting Public Schools of Choice is a funder driven initiative to provide advocacy support and technical assistance to Baltimore’s growing "choice schools sector”. This means working with the school leaders of charter and transformation schools and schools created under previous pipelines.

When SPSOC was launched by seven local funders in 2006, there were 26 schools in this group, including 16 charters, 5 innovation high schools and 5 with other contracts. Almost all of the schools were able to start because of local foundation investment. For example, the innovation high schools were a partnership between the Gates Foundation, City Schools and several ABAG members. In the first years, charter schools could not operate without the help of local funders.

The founders of SPSOC wanted an agile and knowledgeable support for the schools’ leaders. What help do they need to navigate their relationship with City Schools? What kinds of technical assistance will support school quality? 

ABAG stepped in to provide direction, space, fiscal management and more, so that SPSOC could be established without the added expense of creating a new non-profit. Oversight at ABAG also meant that the project was free to assess needs and adjust strategies independently. Betsy Nelson and a subset of project funders (Abell, Casey, BCF, Straus, Goldseker) provided direction and ran projects when there wasn’t a full time director.

Today, SPSOC works with 54 schools. Two coalitions - charter schools and transformation schools – receive staff support and advocate together for their schools. SPSOC is providing board development, training in use of formative assessments and fundraising training. As director of SPSOC, I help to represent the schools’ voice at City Schools by participating in policy groups such as the Charter Advisory Board.

SPSOC is doing more, both with schools and at the policy level at City Schools. At the same time, it remains lean, with a director and targeted use of consultants. There is new leadership at the Fund for Educational Excellence and a growing emphasis at City Schools on its "portfolio” of schools. 

After lots of consideration, the funders, ABAG, the Fund and SPSOC decided to move the project to the Fund. This moves brings a high level of activity to the Fund’s existing work with City Schools, and makes it easier for SPSOC to coordinate work with other reform initiatives in City Schools.

SPSOC is an example of funders being able to nimbly create a new resource. ABAG made it possible and will continue to help advise the project. The move the Fund is an example of ABAG’s success in strengthening the project and then linking it to an appropriate home in the non-profit community.

With great thanks, and with the highest regard for ABAG and its members, I look forward to keeping you updated on the work of SPSOC with City Schools.

Tags:  Eye on Philanthropy  January 2012 Members' Memo 

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Recent Reports from the Field

Posted By Elisabeth Hyleck, Tuesday, January 17, 2012
January 2012

2011 Donor-Advised Fund Report (National Philanthropic Trust)




The Giving Commitment: Knowing Your Motivation (Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors)


Notorious to Notable: The Crucial Role of the Philanthropic Community in Transforming the Juvenile Justice System in Washington, D.C. (Moriah Fund, Carter and Melissa Cafritz Charitable Trust, Meyer Foundation, and Public Welfare Foundation)

World Giving Index 2011: A global view of giving trends (Charities Aid Foundation)



Tags:  January 2012 Members' Memo  Recent Reports from The Field 

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January 2012: Member News

Posted By Kim Snipes, Friday, January 13, 2012
Terry Rubenstein has officially retired from the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds. Elizabeth "Buffy" Minkin has rejoined the Foundation's staff as the Director of Baltimore and Domestic Initiatives.

Tags:  ABAG Member News  January 2012 Members' Memo 

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See You Around the ABAG Table Soon!

Posted By Cathy Brill, Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 2012

By Cathy Brill, The Stulman Foundation

A number of years ago, I attended an ABAG program on the mental health needs of immigrant populations, something I didn't know much about. Like a lot of ABAG programs, it featured experts and practitioners, so that funders could get as thorough an introduction to an issue as possible in 90 minutes.

One of the presenters was from a health care organization that was working to address these needs, and I followed up with him to learn more. After numerous conversations over the next year, we ended up constructing a multi-year initiative to meet the mental health needs of Latino immigrants. As it became obvious that one barrier was a shortage of bilingual mental health clinicians, we created a scholarship program (through a second nonprofit) for bilingual individuals to pursue master's degrees in mental health fields. To provide extra help, we funded a support program for Latino families dealing with mental illness.

The strands of this initiative have continued to develop – and it all started with an ABAG program.

In the health care field, being a "frequent user” is not a good thing – it means you're ill enough to need a lot of expensive medical care. But in the ABAG world, being a frequent user is a positive – at least I hope so – because I think I am one.

I attend a fair number of ABAG programs in health, mental health, and aging, which are the areas of interest to the Stulman Foundation. It's always good to learn new things, and to connect with colleagues. But the main reason I attend programs is that sometimes they lead to great grantmaking opportunities.

I'm not the only frequent user out there.

In 2011, the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers produced 98 learning programs attended by 288 unique individual members. Thirty members attended 10 or more programs and six attended more than 20, bringing attendance to 1122.

See you around the ABAG table soon!

Tags:  And Now A Word from Our Members  January 2012 Members' Memo 

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