A la Bloomberg, entrepreneur Jack Hidary exploring mayoral bid

A screenshot from Jack Hidary’s blog shows him with then-Chancellor Joel Klein at East Side Community High School in 2010 during the kickoff of National Lab Day, a science program he launched. Hidary is exploring the possibility of running for mayor as an independent.

A wealthy tech entrepreneur with a passion for education and a background that resembles Mayor Bloomberg’s is positioning himself to enter New York City’s mayor’s race.

Jack Hidary filed papers this week with the city’s Campaign Finance Board signaling an intention to receive city matching funds in a political campaign. He has also formed a political action committee, Hidary for NYC Inc, and someone registered the URL HidaryforNYC.com just days ago.

Hidary intends to run for mayor as an independent, according to three sources with knowledge of the bid. His entry would shake up a political race in which Bloomberg’s staunchest supporters have found few inspiring candidates.

Stu Loeser, who resigned as Bloomberg’s press secretary last year and now works as an independent consultant, has advised Hidary about his bid, according to a source.

Loeser distanced himself from Hidary today. “I’ve offered my ideas to several candidates running for mayor and several have taken me up on them,” he said. “Jack is a great person, but I am not working for him.”

Still, Hidary’s passions for business development, education reform, and the technology sector would make him an attractive candidate for people who believe Bloomberg has been a strong leader for New York City.

“Jack represents new ideas and new technology — these are the frontiers of the economy and what NYC needs to excel in to create jobs, improve education, and manage the city in a complex world,” said Nova Spivack, a former business partner who has known Hidary for nearly two decades. “Jack also cares deeply about education, the environment and job growth. I think he has the right combination of innovation and concern for the little guy that NYC needs. Where other candidates represent big money, Jack is an independent who believes in the best ideas, regardless of whose ideas they are.”

Hidary, who comes from Brooklyn’s wealthy Sephardic Jewish community, has a biography that bears several similarities to Bloomberg’s. A serial entrepreneur, his first major venture was the technology company EarthWeb/Dice, which offers job postings for the information technology industry.

He currently heads a sustainable energy technology company, Samba Energy. He has made hybrid taxis a pet issue, founding a nonprofit called Smart Transportation to lobby the City Council to allow them.

He is also a philanthropist. According to the website of his foundation, called the Jack D. Hidary Foundation, begun in 2001, his philanthropy aims “to catalyze scalable, self-sustaining programs in clean energy and economic development.”

And like the mayor, he has ideas about how education should be delivered. One of his foundation’s investments is in the National Lab Network, a project that aims to connect scientists and teachers.

“The interactions I’ve had around education ideas with him have been very thoughtful,” said Mark Federman, principal of East Side Community High School, where Hidary kicked off the network in 2010 with then-Chancellor Joel Klein. “He was reflective and interested in what’s happening and listening to what schools are doing. I thought he was very respectful in wanting to hear from educators and trying to find out what’s working and what’s not and why.”

Hidary’s internet profile is rudimentary at this point, including a lightly designed and irregularly updated blog and a website for his foundation. One entry on his Typepad blog dated July 10, 2012, is titled “Disrupting the Education System.

“Hi Typepad,” it begins. “How are you? I hope your summer is off to a good start.” Then the post links to an article he published on the Huffington Post about new online platforms that could change education. The entries all focus on education technology companies, including Khan Academy and Coursera.

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.