By Diana Lambert, Sacramento Bee | http://bit.ly/HUnbUk
Sunday, Apr. 15, 2012 :: Dan Katzir was at the table in a closed-door session in February when Sacramento City Unified School Superintendent Jonathan Raymond was evaluated by the school board.
The consultant had been paid $43,000, in part to develop a superintendent evaluation instrument and to facilitate the evaluation, according to a contract obtained from the district. He also has been paid $72,500 for various other consulting services.
When Katzir is not acting as an independent consultant, he is the senior adviser for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. In documents as recent as 2011, Katzir has been listed as the managing director of the foundation.
Sacramento City Unified's Raymond is a 2006 graduate of the foundation's Superintendent's Academy.
smf: Los Angeles Unified's Deasy is a 2006 graduate of the foundation's Superintendent's Academy.
The academy clearly wants its graduates to succeed. The reform-minded nonprofit helps them find jobs as school district superintendents. They often help them pick their cabinet members and send teams to audit their new district's lowest performing schools - all for free.
After Raymond was hired in 2009 the foundation did pro bono work for Sacramento City Unified, confirmed Diana Rodriguez, the current school board president.
By January 2011 Katzir had his first contract with the district.
Christina Bellon, director of the Center for Practical and Professional Ethics at Sacramento State, said Katzir's involvement in the evaluation process is a conflict of interest.
"His impartiality is in question," she said. "He is directly involved in the process of the evaluation of a former student of the academy of which he has a professional or monetary investment."
She said the conflict would have existed even if Katzir hadn't been paid for the work by the district because there is the perception that "he could structure the process so the results were likely to be a favorable review."
Bellon said the foundation's pro bono work at the district makes the paid contracts even more questionable. "Even if they could be impartial, it would raise questions," she said. "It looks like quid pro quo."
So why did the school board approve the contracts, especially for the evaluation?
"I raised the question (about potential conflict)," board member Gustavo Arroyo said, but a majority of the board decided it was OK to go ahead with it."
Bellon said this situation should raise concerns about how decisions are being made at the school district. Decisions like this, she said, could damage the reputation of both the school district and the foundation.
Katzir should have known better, she said. "It's hard to say no to a $80,000 contract."
Katzir could not be reached for comment.