Newsmakers for June 2010

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Nonprofits

Alex Busansky started this month as president of the Oakland, Calif.-based National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD). When the organization announced in March that it had hired Busansky, it said he was taking over for Executive Vice President Chris Baird, “who has served as president on an interim basis since December.”

Actually, NCCD had announced over the winter that Baird would be the successor to former president Barry Krisberg, and that Baird would run the organization out of the Madison, Wis., office with frequent trips to the Bay Area headquarters.

At that time, the board had struggled to find a long-term replacement for Krisberg. “They had hit a place where there was no decision on what to do,” Baird said. The plan was that Baird, who said he is “almost as old as Barry,” would oversee NCCD for about two years.

Not long after Baird took over, Busansky put his hat in the ring. “It became apparent that we had a great candidate, and it was advantageous to move on,” Baird said.

Baird is now back full-time in Madison in his previous position, overseeing the Children’s Research Center.

Busansky joined NCCD from the Vera Institute of Justice; he ran the organization’s Washington, D.C., office. Earlier, from 1987 to 1998, he was a prosecutor for the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Contact: (510) 208-0500, http://www.nccd-crc.org.

Public opinion research organization Public Agenda announced last month that Ruth Wooden, its president for nearly seven years, will retire at the end of the year. Wooden headed the group during the establishment of an education reform project known as Education Insights and the forming of its Center for Advances in Public Engagement unit. Before joining Public Agenda, Wooden served as the board chairwoman at Civic Ventures and has been a director of Independent Sector, Demos, and the Family Violence Prevention Fund. Wooden is assisting Public Agenda’s board in the search for her successor, which it expects to name this fall. Contact: (212) 686-6610, http://www.publicagenda.org.

Senior Policy Analyst Richard Hooks Wayman is leaving the D.C.-based National Alliance to End Homelessness to return to his native Minnesota. He will become executive director of a Minneapolis-based nonprofit called Hearth Connection, which is devoted to expanding the supply of housing available for the homeless.

Richard Hooks
Wayman

Hooks Wayman returns to a state where he helped write the Minnesota Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and the Minnesota Youth Advancement Act during his tenure as public policy campaign director for the Minnesota Youth Service Association.

The alliance intends to hire a new analyst with expertise in youth policy to work with its current youth program and policy analyst, LaKesha Pope. Contact: (202) 638-1526, http://www.endhomelessness.org.

The Education Writers of America (EWA) has plucked Caroline Hendrie from its member ranks to become the new executive director of this trade organization for education reporters. Hendrie, former managing editor at Education Week, where she has worked the past 14 years, began her new position June 1. At Education Week, Hendrie oversaw the publication’s electronic and social media components, organizing the collaboration of its print and online departments. She replaces Lisa Walker, who is retiring after 24 years at EWA. Contact: (202) 452-9830, http://www.ewa.org.

Homeboy Industries, the nation’s most famous jobs program for gang-involved youth, laid off 300 people, three-quarters of its staff, last month because of a deepening financial crisis. All that are left now at the Los Angeles program are 100 employees – and questions about whether Homeboy, which has survived several close calls with collapse in the past, can find financial saviors once again.

Homeboy’s founder and leader, Father Greg Boyle, kept on the staff involved in the businesses operated by the charity, which include a café, a bakery and a silk-screening business. Also remaining open is the organization’s charter high school.

Homeboy’s precarious state is particularly frustrating because its woes coincide with perhaps the peak of potential for the organization. It was one of the programs visited by former first lady Laura Bush during her Helping America’s Youth tour, and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) embraces the program as the type of endeavor that could be funded if his Youth PROMISE Act ever makes it to President Barack Obama’s desk. Fiscally, Homeboy Industries might be close to a mass-production deal for the salsa it makes at Homegirl Café.

“If you look at the trajectory of Homeboy, it’s unbelievable, and that’s the irony,” the 55-year-old Boyle told Los Angeles Times reporter Hector Becerra. “This place has never been healthier in terms of its vision. And we have no money.” Contact: (323) 526-1254, http://www.homeboy-industries.org.

In March, Newsmakers reported that City Limits, a well-known progressive policy magazine covering New York City, was saved from the brink of financial extinction. A child and family services provider – Community Service Society, headed by David Jones – bought the publication from another nonprofit called City Futures. Jones pledged to let the paper operate independently, without editorial interference from CSS.

But then we learned that Jones in May terminated Walter Fields, the man he tapped to be publisher and to run the operation, just months after the acquisition.

“We were alerted to the possibility [of termination] by Walter,” said Editor-in-Chief Jarrett Murphy. “Walter had a dispute with the owners.”

According to both sides, the firing was not motivated by anything related to editorial decision-making.

Fields was vice president of government relations and public affairs for CSS before becoming publisher last winter, when CSS purchased the publication from City Futures for $250,000 and committed $1 million to build the magazine’s subscriber base over the next three years.

A critical look at the White House’s plan to replicate the Harlem Children’s Zone in other U.S. communities was the first cover story for City Limits under Fields, which put to rest any anxiety that CSS would infringe on the staff’s desire to take on controversial subjects.

“We have been pleasantly surprised by the independence we’ve enjoyed,” said Murphy.

City Limits’ next issue will include feature stories about youth in New York City.

CSS Counsel Juan Cartagena told Newsmakers that Fields was fired for his “inability to take direction” on CSS matters and for his “insertion of ideas on things he was no longer in control of at CSS.” Fields has filed an employment claim against the organization, according to Cartagena.

Murphy said his discussions with Fields and CSS have satisfied him that the change had nothing to do with editorial decision-making.

“We’re always editorially independent from CSS. That was part of the deal,” said Murphy. “As far as the news product, it keeps on going.” Contact: CSS (212) 614-5538, http://www.cssny.org; City Limits (212) 614-5397, http://www.citylimits.org.

Jimmy Wayne has parlayed his country music career and his childhood as a foster youth into a gig as national celebrity spokesman for FosterClub, the national network for young people in foster care. Wayne, already an activist for ending youth homelessness, was chosen to help celebrate May as National Foster Care Awareness month. On Jan. 1, Wayne began a homeless youth awareness campaign, “Meet Me Halfway,” which entailed hiking 25 miles a day on the way from Nashville to Phoenix. Contact: (503) 717-1552, http://www.fosterclub.com.

Luz Benitez Delgado

Foundations

The Battle Creek, Mich.-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation has launched a five-year, $75 million initiative that will fund efforts to “improve life outcomes for vulnerable children and their families by promoting racial healing,” according to a statement released by the foundation on May 11.

Racial justice was already a funding category for the foundation. It was one of the issues that became a focal point in Battle Creek when Kellogg overhauled its funding strategy in 2008 (see “A Foundation Changes Course,” October 2008). This initiative, called “America Healing,” makes racism the No. 1 priority for the grant maker, which is led by CEO Sterling Speirn.

The first wave of funding, about $14.6 million, was released last month to 119 organizations around the country. The large number of grantees that applied for funding under the initiative – Kellogg received over 1,000 applications – led the foundation to take an unusual step. It published a list on its websites of all the applicants it decided not to fund, in the hope that the publicity might help them find another source of funding. By comparison, the federal government often rebuffs any attempts to find out the names of organizations that lose out on its grant solicitations.

Gail Christopher

America Healing will not solely fund youth work organizations, but a large number of the 119 grantees directly serve either youth or families.

“Because children of color are so disproportionately represented in low-income families and impoverished communities, realizing our mission requires addressing historic and current structural barriers to opportunity,” said Vice President of Programs Gail Christopher in the foundation’s statement.

Christopher is the executive in charge of the initiative, and answering to her is Luz Benitez Delgado, the foundation’s deputy director in Food, Health and Well-Being and Racial Equity. Kellogg has assigned three program officers to handle America Healing grantees: Jocelyn Sargent, Alice Warner, and William Buster.

For a list of selected youth-related grants made last month by Kellogg, see the Grants Awarded section of Youth Today. Contact: (269) 968-1611, http://www.wkkf.org.

Government

The directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service elected Mark Gearan, president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y., to be the new CNCS chairman. Gearan succeeded interim Chairman Stephen Goldsmith.

The election follows the traditional bipartisan leadership roles of the corporation, with the chairman being from the president’s political party and the vice chairman from the opposition.

Goldsmith assumed the post of temporary chairman of the board last fall, after Alan D. Solomont resigned in anticipation of becoming the U.S. ambassador to Spain, a post he assumed in January. Goldsmith was named New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s chief deputy for operations last month.

Gearan was first appointed to the board by President Bill Clinton, was reappointed by President George W. Bush in 2004 and began his current five-year term in 2007. Gearan was director of the Peace Corps under Clinton, for whom he also served as an assistant and as White House deputy chief of staff.

The board sets overall policy and direction for CNCS and its programs, which include AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America.

Gearan presides over a rather incomplete board at the moment. Eight of the 15 board positions are vacant. CNCS officials said there is no indication when President Barack Obama will nominate new members to the board. The board can have no more than 50 percent of its members (plus one person) from any one political party, and members must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The shortage of board members at CNCS comes as the corporation is charged with a rapid expansion over the next several years, up to a volunteer strength of 250,000. Obama’s 2011 budget request includes funding that would raise the number of AmeriCorps members to 105,000, compared with 75,000 when Obama took office.

Eric J. Tanenblatt of Atlanta, senior managing director of the international law firm McKenna, Long and Aldridge, was elected vice chairman. Tanenblatt served at the Peace Corps under President George H.W. Bush, and at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More recently, he served as chief of staff to Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) and as a longtime adviser to former Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.) Contact: (202) 606-5000, http://www.cns.gov.

The widely expected news that Robert Shireman would be stepping down as deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Education Department became official last month. Fourteen months after moving to Washington to oversee student loan reform legislation – which Congress passed – Shireman will leave the job in July and move back to California.

At the Education Department, Shireman oversaw the strategy that led to the federal takeover of the student loan process from banks, new formulas that led to more money for Pell Grants for low-income students and simplification of loan application forms. He also developed a program that allows former students to repay loans according to their post-graduation incomes.

Shireman began lobbying for a switch to 100 percent direct government lending while working as a congressional aide in 1990 and then later as an adviser to President Bill Clinton’s administration. He laid the blueprints for his federal actions while in California, where he founded and served as president of the Institute for College Access and Success. The institute advocates making higher education more affordable. (800) 872-5327, http://www.ed.gov.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) made an interesting switch this month. He named Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Albert Murray to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and then recommended a former chairman of that board, the Rev. Garland Hunt, to replace Murray.

Hunt officially became the new commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Juvenile Justice on May 19.

Hunt has some big shoes to fill, because Murray – with a tenure of six years – was the longest-serving director of juvenile justice in the state’s history. He led the state out of federal oversight, which it had been under for 11 years because of poor conditions in some of its juvenile facilities.

One juvenile justice source in the state was concerned about the lack of direct experience Hunt has in the field. Hunt once served as a staff attorney for the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. He is also the vice president of Wellington Boone Ministries and is co-pastor of The Father’s House Church in Norcross, Ga.

“He may have ability to rally the faith community around juveniles,” the source said. That would be a valuable connection to make, considering the fact that the Department of Juvenile Justice’s budget has been cut by about a third over two years and a slew of employees have had to deal with furloughs. Contact: (404) 508-6500, http://www.djj.state.ga.us.

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