January 16, 2018
When it comes to declining student enrollment for the Minneapolis Public Schools, it looks like the fox may be guarding the hen house.
Bryan Fleming, who has served as Director of Enrollment Management for the Minneapolis schools since 2016, runs a side consulting business that offers “School-placement Advising for families and family law practitioners.” Fleming’s side gig bears his name–Fleming Education Group–but no mention of his role as a current employee of the Minneapolis Public Schools. His bio simply states that he is a “former educator and school administrator.”
Fleming may be collecting an undoubtedly generous, taxpayer-funded salary from the Minneapolis schools, but that doesn’t appear to have made him a champion of public schools. Instead, the consulting company that bears his name offers this note for prospective clients:
Fleming Education Group helps clients manage their fears and anxiety about educational options, and strive for child-centered solutions in every instance. We know how to broaden a family’s school-choice lens in a productive, efficient way to achieve the outcomes that will maximize their child’s promise.
“Broadening a family’s school-choice lens” is an interesting position to take for someone employed by a pubic school district–particularly one that is struggling to stay afloat amid the endless proliferation of school choice schemes. But the Fleming Education Group is clearly targeted to families with choices, the kind that can easily walk away from a school they deem unworthy or unfit for their children.
Need proof? Just read through the blog post currently up on the Fleming Education Group website. Called “Debunking ‘Private–Why a Private School?’,” the post is a declaration of love for exclusive private schools. The blog post, part of a series called “Thoughts by Bryan,” offers Fleming’s thoughts on the value of a private education–and the freedom these schools enjoy by “admitting only those students appropriate to the mission.”
Here are the first four paragraphs of the Fleming Education Group’s blog:
Those of us with children in private schools have chosen our school for many important reasons, one of which may be that it is an independent, or “private,” school. Yet when family, friends and neighbors ask, “Why do you send your student to a private school?” many of us find it difficult to articulate the answer.
Our difficulty may stem, in part, from the fact that we chose our private school for many intangible reasons that are hard to put into words. And sometimes we might be concerned that our answer will trigger a debate about the merits of public versus private school.
At Fleming Education Group, our client families pose this question more often than not. I want to help make answering “why a private school?” in general, and “why Breck, SPA, Blake, Minnehaha Academy, International School or Providence Academy?” in particular easier for anyone exploring school-placement options.
Especially here in the Twin Cities where there are so many excellent, non-private school options (Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Orono, Wayzata and many more), it’s important to focus on understanding the value of independence, as this is truly one of the things that can make private-independent schools worth the investment.
This is jaw-dropping. The Minneapolis Public Schools’ own Director of Enrollment Management runs (according to his LinkedIn page) a side business built around steering families into private schools. The “many excellent, non-private school options” Fleming’s post mentions does not even include the Minneapolis Public Schools.
Fleming is a full-time employee of the Minneapolis schools. As I understand it, full-time employees of the district are not allowed to operate side consulting gigs that directly conflict their paid employment with the district. At the very least, the district has a “conflict of interest” policy.
This came to a head in 2016 when Associate Superintendent, Lucilla Davila, was placed on leave for her involvement in a business that provides after-school programming. Davila was reinstated in January, 2017 although she is now listed as being part of another side consulting business, Global Immersion Network Consultants (GINC), with a very similar-sounding, educational mission to that of the Minneapolis Public Schools’ Multilingual Department.
Fleming was the Director of Admissions for the prestigious Blake School from 2000-2014. He then took a short turn as an employee of the Bush Foundation, a key, local philanthropic group that has been very supportive of market-based education reform efforts. In 2014, the Bush Foundation gave a $200,000 grant to the Education Transformation Initiative. This is very important to keep in mind here.
The Education Transformation Initiative became Minnesota Comeback, according to a 2016 press release from Minnesota Comeback:
Incubated by The Minneapolis Foundation as the Education Transformation Initiative, MN Comeback is an independent nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis.
Minnesota Comeback is a local group with ties to a national, billionaire-funded reform outfit called Education Cities. Education Cities’ mission, carried forward locally by Minnesota Comeback, is to spread school choice and facilitate the growth of charter schools, under the guise of a “sector neutral” preference for “High Quality Seats.” They want seats as opposed to schools because “seats” open the door to investors (in education technology, for example) that traditional, union-staffed public schools might not.
The charter schools being given funding, PR and “growth opportunities” by Minnesota Comeback and their supporters need students from the Minneapolis Public Schools in order to survive and further weaken the district. (A district, weakened by design through chaos, reduced funding and poor management, for example, is a boon to charter school operators.)
Enter Bryan Fleming. As Director of Enrollment Management for the Minneapolis schools, he has key insight into what families want from the Minneapolis schools and what their reasons are for leaving the district. He appears to have a side business that promotes school choice and indicates a clear preference for the greener grass at fancy private schools while the Minneapolis Public Schools struggles with shrinking enrollment and the accompanying loss of funding.
If this isn’t a conflict of interest, then what is?
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