Newsmakers for May 2005

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The debate at Omaha, Neb.-based Girls and Boys Town over hiring a new executive director two years ago was so heated that it prompted the resignation of Board Chairman (and Archbishop of Omaha) Elden Curtiss.

In the end, the executive hiring firm paid to search for an executive director – “both nationally and locally,” in the words of Girls and Boys Town – yielded another Catholic priest from the Omaha diocese. Father Steven Boes, director of the St. Augustine Indian Mission in Winnebago, Neb., will become the fifth executive director in the well-chronicled history of Girls and Boys Town, started in 1917 by Father Edward Flanagan.

Boes takes over the 88-year-old nonprofit from the retiring Father Val Peter, who leaves after nearly 20 years. Since Peter took over in 1985, the organization has grown from two sites and a hospital near Omaha to 19 sites in 14 states and Washington, D.C., with about $222 million in assets. Contact: (402) 498-1300,

Phillip Lovell was hired by Alexandria, Va.-based America’s Promise to head its public policy department. Lovell is a widely respected voice on youth policy, having served as director of public policy for the Kansas City, Mo.-based Camp Fire USA. Camp Fire has not announced Lovell’s replacement. Contact: America’s Promise (703) 684-4500,; Camp Fire (816) 756-1950,

Mark Carter is out as executive director of the National Afterschool Association (NAA) after three years. The organization focuses on accrediting after-school organizations, but ran into financial woes because it was subsidizing the fees of clients at a rate that far exceeded its fiscal abilities. Carter oversaw the restructuring of the program and, by all accounts, leaves it in a far more efficient state. While Carter pursues “other professional opportunities,” according to an NAA website statement, former Chief Operating Officer Peter Howe will run NAA. Contact: (617) 298-5012,

Jill Ward has left her post as federal director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) to head public policy at the Girl Scouts of America (GSA), an area that has been slow to develop for the scouts over the past 10 years.

Ward’s primary mission will be to serve as the intermediary between the 4-year-old Girl Scout Research Institute and Congress, which has given her new employer more than $12 million in earmarks over the past four years. Ward will convey the findings and conclusions of the institute’s various studies, many of which are surveys of current and former scouts.

Ward’s former duties at CSGV will be rolled into the job of spokesman Casey Anderson.

On the programming side, GSA last month announced a partnership with two other organizations, bankrolled by Internet titans Yahoo! and Harmony. GSA, the National Parent-Teacher Association and Boys & Girls Clubs of America will partner with the two companies on a three-year project to help families “live comfortably with new technology,” according to GSA spokeswoman Ellen Christie. The project will broach such family topics as Internet safety and the ethics involved in taking content from the Web (read: music piracy and plagiarism). Contact: CSGV (202) 408-0061,; GSA (212) 852-8000,

The Girl Scouts aren’t the only ones getting big corporate bucks for web-based projects. The Best Buy Children’s Foundation has shelled out $1.3 million to Colorado Springs-based Junior Achievement (JA) to continue JA Titan, an online game where youth are CEOs in the year 2030. Contact: (719) 540-8000,  

A gap in funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) forced National Network for Youth CEO Vicky Wagner to cut loose Deputy Director (and long-time employee) Gretchen Noll. Compounding the loss, the network bids farewell to one of the elite youth policy advocates in Washington – Mishaela Duran. As former Youth Law Center (YLC) attorney Mark Schindler did last month, Duran will join Vincent Schiraldi’s team at the city’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, where she will serve as assistant to the director. (See “A Critic Joins the System.”)

Duran is replaced at the Washington-based network by Brandon Bruce, a career education program liaison with the Santa Barbara (Calif.) County Education Office, which provides career training, academic mentoring and paid work experience opportunities for at-risk youth. Bruce is also founder and executive director of, a California nonprofit that develops domestic and international youth networking initiatives and promotes community development. Contact: (202) 783-7949,

Glenda Partee will depart the D.C.-based American Youth Policy Forum this month, after 10 years there, to become director of policy and research for the city’s state education office. The office is separate from the city’s public schools office and oversees the city’s official student head count and per-pupil spending formula, among other things. Partee has planned the move over the past year, stepping back to associate director this year in order to usher in new Director Betsy Brand, a former legislative associate for the House Committee on Education and Labor and a former staffer for former Sen. Dan Quayle (R-Ind.). Contact: AYPF (202) 775-9731,

The Milwaukee-based Alliance for Children and Families, which provides services to nonprofit child- and family-serving organizations, hired Justina Szymanski as director of marketing. Szymanski comes to the alliance from Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions in New York, where she served as a program manager.
The alliance also hired Maggie Skarich to be the national coordinator for the American Association of Children’s Residential Centers (AACRC), which began contracting its administrative oversight to the alliance in January. Contact: (414) 359-1040,

Joseph Mouzon, formerly the director of marketing for the YMCA of San Francisco, has been named executive director of, a San Francisco-based Internet-based consulting group that works with nonprofit organizations. Housed by the Thoreau Center for Sustainability, the 5-year-old Groundspring counts about 240 youth-serving organizations among its 1,200 current and former clients. Its success comes in large part from the financial support of some heavy hitters, including the Ford, W.K. Kellogg, Skoll and Surdna foundations and the Carnegie Corp. Contact: (415) 561-7807,

The Washington-based Forum for Youth Investment (FYI) hired Elizabeth Gaines to be a program manager. Gaines was a volunteer coordinator at Americans Coming Together in St. Louis, and before that served as youth policy analyst for Citizens for Missouri’s Children, one of two Missouri groups affiliated with the Washington-based national advocacy coalition, Voices for Children. Contact: (202) 207-3333,

The controversial founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), Glenn Levant, has stepped down after 21 years at the helm.

Levant created DARE as a result of his work as a Los Angeles police officer, and was instrumental in its growth from a local initiative into what was once the most popular youth anti-drug program in the country.

The program is now delivered in 12,000 communities to more than 26 million children a year, according to its website. (The country’s 5- to 18-year-old population is about 53 million, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.)

But DARE has taken repeated hits in recent years, as several evaluations have found no scientific evidence that it reduces youth drug use. Levant displayed a pit bull persona to those who questioned his creation, lashing out at researchers for “misusing science” because “they don’t want our police officers to do the work. … They want it for themselves.” (See “A DAREing Rescue,” April 2001.)

Odd, then, that Levant oversaw what the organization bills on its website as the development of “science-based curricula,” to the tune of $14 million from the Princeton, N.J.-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJ). DARE has also received $8.4 million in federal earmarks since 2002, not including $740,000 in federal tax dollars that have gone toward paying DARE’s Alaska state coordinator, Rick Helms.

Although staff members describe the group as financially “solid,” DARE was hurting before RWJ committed itself to help retool the curriculum in 2001. Levant, who recently retired from the Los Angeles Police Department, earned $276,000 for his DARE work in 2002 but drew no salary in his final two years, according to DARE staff. He will be retroactively compensated for his service, DARE says, and he remains on the board of directors.

Taking over for Levant is Charlie Parsons, a DARE executive since 1996. Parsons spent three decades with the FBI, most recently as special agent in charge of the Los Angeles Regional Office. Contact: (800) 223-3273,


After 31 years, John Wilson retired from the U.S. Department of Justice in late March. Wilson, who most recently served as a senior counsel with the Office of Justice Programs, joined the Justice Department in 1974, the same year Congress created the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Since then, his adroit touch has been left on nearly every major program within OJJDP, from mentoring and youth courts to law-related education. He served as the agency’s deputy administrator from 1994 to 2000, a streak book-ended by stints as acting administrator.

Wilson now joins the Institute for Intergovernmental Research (IIR), a Tallahassee, Fla.-based nonprofit, where he will serve as a senior research associate, working on information privacy and anti-terrorism issues from his home in Maryland.

“He played a key role in keeping [OJJDP] on track with its original mission,” says Dan Macallair, executive director of the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. “It’s amazing that he was able to keep things going during administrations that were not always open to OJJDP’s original intent” – that is, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. “He’ll be missed.”

The old guard agrees. “John helped advance a more progressive agenda at a time when the climate could have been informed by fear and the thirst for punishment,” says Child Welfare League of America CEO Shay Bilchik, referring to the discourse spurred in the 1990s by the Columbine High School massacre and the “super-predator” scare. Bilchik would know Wilson’s importance as well as anyone: He served as Bilchik’s deputy when Bilchik was OJJDP administrator from 1994 to 2000.

Although his IIR job isn’t youth-focused, Wilson hasn’t ruled out a comeback. “I still feel a commitment to juvenile justice,” he says. “I hope I get to work on it in my spare time, and some day I might go back to teaching about it.” Contact: OJJDP (202) 307-5911,; IIR (850) 385-0600,

Nominated to replace Deborah Daniels as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs is Regina Schofield. Schofield would jump from one political appointment to another: She heads the intergovernmental affairs division for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Contact: (202) 514-2000,

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt continues to put together his staff. In as chief of staff is Rich McKeown, who held that same position for Leavitt when he was governor of Utah. McKeown’s deputy will be 21-year HHS veteran Kerry Weems, most recently acting assistant secretary for budget, technology and finance.

Leavitt named several key advisers to his staff in late March. William Raub, who heads the HHS office for planning and evaluation, will be Leavitt’s acting counselor on science policy. Raub served as an adviser at HHS during the Clinton administration. Richard Campanelli, who got his start heading an at-risk youth program in Vermont before going to law school, will serve as Leavitt’s counselor on human service policy. Like Raub, Campanelli will multitask: He retains his job as the head of the HHS office of civil rights. Contact: (202) 619-0257,

Also in HHS news: Federal auditors announced in late March that they will investigate the $21,500 contract from HHS given to conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher (via the Administration for Children and Families, led by Wade Horn), whose expertise revolves around family and marriage issues. Gallagher apologized to readers in January for accepting the money to work on President Bush’s marriage initiative while lauding the idea in her nationally syndicated columns. Contact: (202) 619-0257,


The Northern Virginia-D.C. Internet Crimes Against Children task force, a group of police trained at ferreting out online sexual predators, is yielding its twisted harvest. Nine men were arrested after police in the area logged on to chat rooms, posing as children, and agreed to meet the men for sexual encounters. Among those charged: Michael Barber, a 52-year old youth minister from Arlington, Va.

Douglas Smith Jr., former national director of programs for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), pleaded guilty last month to receiving and distributing child pornography over the Internet. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the northern district of Texas, investigators found 520 child porn images, many involving boys, on Smith’s home computers. The 39-year BSA veteran retired in March, after the BSA learned of the federal investigation.

Smith had chaired the BSA’s Youth Protection Task Force, charged with helping scout units prevent child abuse. The BSA said he did not work directly with youth, although he did accompany more than a dozen Scouts to Washington in 1999 when they received Congressional Award Gold Medals.

A BSA spokesman told the news media that “never in our recollection has an employee ever been charged with anything like this.” But over the past several decades, the BSA has banned several professional scout leaders for allegedly molesting children. They worked for local scout councils around the country.


Marla Ruzicka, 28, whose work as a teenager on peace and justice issues prompted the Langley, Wash.-based Giraffe Project to name her as one of its Giraffe Heroes in 1996. She was killed in a car bomb explosion last month near Baghdad, where she was helping Iraqis in her role as founder of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (