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Metro Schools broke law, misled school board about contracts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Nashville Public Schools steered $1.8 million in no-bid contracts to a company with whom Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph had done business in the past, violating s ......

  • United States
  • Administration & Marketing
  • 07 Feb 2019
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Description NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Nashville Public Schools steered $1.8 million in no-bid contracts to a company with whom Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph had done business in the past, violating state purchasing laws, a NewsChannel 5 investigation has discovered. Our exclusive investigation also uncovered evidence that, in doing so, Joseph and his team repeatedly misled members of the Metro School Board about key aspects of the deals. "That just raises red flags for me," said school board member Amy Frogge, who has emerged as a frequent critic of how Josephs administration has handled the districts business. “Those are alarm bells.” FULL STORY: Watch NewsChannel 5 at 6 pm In a written statement, Metro Schools insisted that mistakes were made “in good faith.” The contracts in question involve Performance Matters, a Utah-based firm that markets student assessment software to help educators track student progress and professional development software to monitor training that teachers are required to complete. Joseph, who took control over the Nashville school system in July 2016, had appeared in a slickly produced video that touted how Performance Matters student assessment software had been utilized in his previous job in Prince Georges County, Maryland. A complimentary quote from Joseph was included in the companys promotions. He had even been the keynote speaker at a Performance Matters conference in 2014. Metro Schools insisted Joseph’s relationship with Performance Matters was “professional, ethical and aboveboard.” But, just six weeks after starting as the director of Metro Schools, Josephs calendar shows he was hosting Performance Matters salesman Roderick “Rocky” Sams in the district offices. A month later, chief academic officer Dr. Monique Felder directed MNPS staff to get to work on a contract with the company for its Unify student assessment platform, according to emails obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates under the Tennessee Public Records Act. "Dr. Joseph wants to pilot Performance Matters in the Priority Schools," Felder said in an email, referring to the districts lowest performing schools. "Multiple employees were coming to me with serious concerns about Performance Matters," Frogge said. "They said that both the salesman and the project manager for Performance Matters told them, You are going to get these products." We asked, "Whether you want them or not?" "Right," Frogge replied. "And there were conversations along the lines, you know, weve got Dr. Joseph on speed dial. If you dont do this, well call your boss -- that kind of thing." A separate Metro Schools source confirmed similar conversations. Emails show employees questioned need Internal emails show that veteran employees were not sure what Performance Matters Unify platform could do that the school systems own “data warehouse” did not already do. The data warehouse is an in-house product that was developed specifically to meet the district’s needs in tracking student progress. Metro Schools argues “there was confusion among staff” who simply did not understand the intentions of their new leadership. In fact, the emails reveal frustrations that Joseph and his team had seemingly not taken the time to learn what MNPS existing system could do before they turned to Performance Matters. "No one here really knows what the intent [is] for this," wrote Dr. Tina Stenson, the districts director of research and evaluation. Toni Russell, then the executive director of technology and information resources, was trying to figure out "what problem are we trying to solve?" "My first impression of what I saw with Performance Matters was it was simply a way of presenting data in the DW [data warehouse] pretty," Russell continued. Dr. David Williams, then the interim executive director of curriculum and instruction, admitted, "Honestly, I dont know the answer to hardly any of your questions." "I dont know the rationale for moving in this direction," Williams added, "other than our new leadership has experience with it and likes the product." We showed the emails to Frogge. "Those are exactly the kinds of concerns I was hearing," the school board member said. Metro Schools says the intention was to replace another assessment platform that the district was using, although no other companies were invited to demonstrate their products. In fact, the emails also show that a potential competitor got wind that Performance Matters was in the building and wanted to know whether her company would have a chance to vie for the districts business. Paul Changas, MNPS’ executive director for research, assessment and evaluation, assured the competitor that the district would eventually release a formal Requests for Proposals (RFP) to all interested bidders. "I expect an RFP process and an opportunity for vendors to have the same opportunity," Changas emailed. But that never happened. "What I have seen time and again with this administration is that our employees are trying to do the right thing, but the administration has shown that they have been willing to skirt the rules, to violate the policy in some instances," Frogge said. "And they are hiding information about spending." No-bid contract awarded to Performance Matters Instead, Josephs team convinced the school board to give Performance Matters what turned out to be a million-dollar, no-bid contract -- without waiting for the results of a pilot program and without giving any other company a chance to compete. Under the terms of the 2016 contract, Metro Schools agreed to pay up to $72,000 for the last six months of the 2016-17 school year for the pilot project, then $387,000 per year for 2017-18 and 2018-19 for all 86,000 Nashville students. (View Performance Matters contracts here .) Joseph and his team defended the no-bid contract, saying they engaged in a practice called "piggybacking" -- in this case, duplicating a Performance Matters contract with Orange County Public Schools in Florida, which had been put out for bids. Advocates argue piggybacking can help governments save money. But former Baltimore County Schools superintendent Dallas Dance, who served on Josephs transition team when he came to Nashville, was sentenced to six months in jail last year for failing to disclose money he took from a vendor. Court records show Dance steered no-bid contracts to that vendor using the piggyback method after the vendor indicated “his least favorite letters are RFP.” At a recent board meeting, Joseph responded to those concerns, saying: "We have had people across the country do bad things. We have not." Still, in Tennessee, state law only allows local governments to piggyback on contracts that have been put out for bids by other governmental units "of this state." "The way I read the code it does not speak to piggybacking on contracts outside the state," said retired state auditor Dennis Dycus, who headed up the division in the state Comptrollers Offices that watchdogs municipal governments. Metro Schools agreed that the contract did violate state law. In its written statement, the district said staff simply misinterpreted the law, insisting they “were acting in good faith and with the full intention of being good steward of taxpayers’ dollars." A district spokesperson also noted that the contract was signed by an attorney with the Metro Department of Law. Metro Law Director Jon Cooper said the attorney’s signature was designed to show approval of how the contract was drafted, not for the procurement process. “There is nothing legally objectionable about the terms of the contract itself,” Cooper said in an email to NewsChannel 5 Investigates. Still, “in hindsight,” Cooper said, “the attorney who signed the contract should probably have recognized that the underlying contract was procured by an out-of-state government entity and raised a question about it.” State law also says piggyback contracts “shall be made on the same terms … as regular purchases of the purchasing entity.” But, in this case, the Florida contract had one set of compensation terms; Metro Schools negotiated completely different terms. "It has to be the same contract, there cannot be any changes in that contract," Dycus said. Generally speaking, those kinds of scenarios, the retired auditor said, raise all sorts of red flags. "Being the mindset I have as an auditor, I have to ask the question: why did they change?" he added. "And, as a rule, they change it to benefit somebody -- and I would want to know why." Second no-bid contract awarded to Performance Matters But that wasnt the only contract that Dr. Josephs team steered to Performance Matters. In 2016, MNPS signed a second contract for $845,651 -- again with no bids -- for the companys TrueNorthLogic platform. That platform is designed to track professional development training for teachers. At the time, internal emails show Metro Schools was paying another company $6,250 a month for its SchoolNet service. Performance Matters offered its product for what turned out to be a $118,000 set-up fee, plus $12,862 a month – more than double the previous monthly cost. MNPS claimed that higher offer was piggybacked on a Shelby County contract with Performance Matters, although the district again changed the terms of the deal. In the end, Josephs team decided to go with the higher price. We showed the numbers to Amy Frogge. "Thats just an absurd jump," Frogge said. "I dont know why we would be paying that much more for the same product." In June 2018, MNPS director of purchasing Jeff Gossage told the school board that, while he did not work for the district when those contracts were signed, he had been told that Metro Schools was facing a time crunch that forced them to go with Performance Matters without conducting its own bidding process. MNPS officials blame time crunch (June 2018) "My understanding is we were at a point where we didnt have time to conduct a normal RFP process," Gossage said. Joseph did not attempt to correct Gossage during that board meeting, nor did any member of his team. In fact, the district had initially been told that SchoolNet planned to stop offering that professional development service in April 2017. But emails obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates show that then-director of purchasing Gary Appenfelder learned in mid-November 2016 that SchoolNet would keep offering its program at least through June 2018 at the same price of $6,250 a month. The company had “further agreed to discuss service support continuance beyond that point, if desired,” Appenfelder said in a later email . In other words, contrary to what the board was told, there actually had been time to put the contract out for bids. "The only reason that the PM (TrueNorthLogic) PD Management product has been considered and pursued is because … it is immediately available without going through a formal solicitation," Appenfelder wrote in an email to MNPS leadership. "But the immediacy of that need has been removed." Still, Joseph’s team presented that Performance Matters contract to the board for approval on November 29, 2016, and executed the final contract about a month later. Frogge said the emails confirm her suspicions. "The administration is not being truthful with us, they are just not being truthful," the school board member said. We noted, "It sounds like they didnt want to bid this out." "No," Frogge agreed. "I think thats the consistent theme on this particular contract. They didnt want to bid it. They wanted to rush it through." MNPS goes beyond school boards contract approvals As NewsChannel 5 Investigates previously revealed , the school board approved a two-year, $594,000 contract for the Performance Matters student assessment platform, but Josephs team signed a three-year, $1 million contract. The board approved a two-year, $530,000 professional development contract; then the district signed a three-year, $845,000 contract. Altogether, contracts that should have been drawn up for $1.1 million were increased to $1.8 million. At the June 2018 meeting, Joseph told the school board that the former purchasing director, Gary Appenfelder, went off on his own and negotiated new terms -- to get a better price --without even telling his boss, chief operating officer Chris Henson. Joseph blames ex-purchasing director (June 2018) "He was able to re-negotiate a cheaper rate than what the board originally approved. It did extend the contract, but because it was a cheaper contract, he went ahead and did it. He did it without consulting with me,” Joseph said. Turning to Henson, the director of schools continued: “Im not sure if he spoke with you. I believe he had not consulted with you on the issue, but he was looking for the best interest of the district to get a cheaper rate and went ahead and did that." In reviewing hundreds of pages of emails involving the Performance Matters contract, NewsChannel 5 Investigates never saw any indication that Appenfelder engaged in any such negotiations that resulted in a lower price in exchange for a longer term nor that he informed his bosses that they were signing contracts that differed from what the board had approved. Metro Schools was unable to provide any documentation to back up Joseph’s claims. However, the emails do reveal that Performance Matters was eager to enhance the numbers on its books before the end of 2017. "Dec 31 is the end of the PM fiscal year," Appenfelder emailed. "Their primary objective is to have executed contracts in hand before the end of the FY. This is doable." A few weeks later, it was announced the Performance Matters had been sold to PeopleAdmin for an undisclosed price. District leaders promise contracts to be put out for bid Then, in June 2018, Josephs team brought forward a last-minute request for the school board to approve the third year of those two Performance Matters contracts, warning of dire consequences for teacher training if the deals were not approved. Still, they promised the professional development contract would soon be put out for bids -- to let other companies compete -- if the school board approved the yearlong extension. MNPS officials promise RFP process (June 2018) "It is for 12 months," Gossage told the board. "The plan is -- internally, weve had a discussion about that -- is doing an RFP during that time." The head of research, Paul Changas, told the board, "We would probably have to have that RFP out sometime this fall." "Maybe sooner," Gossage quickly added. Now, seven months later, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has learned that Josephs team never followed through on that promise either -- and the district has no plan to give any other company a chance to compete for the contract to track professional development for teachers. In its statement, the district said “MNPS is still working toward that goal.” Frogge is frustrated. "Again, the board is not being told the truth on a lot of issues -- and this seems to be some sort of coverup," she explained. Despite the urgency three years to piggyback off a Florida contract for the student assessment software, now Joseph and his team have no plans to continue that million-dollar contract with Performance Matters either, a district spokesperson acknowledged. Metro Schools released the following statement: “In 2016, a transition team made up of local, state and national experts shared that Nashville needed to focus on student achievement -- with a sense of urgency. MNPS did not have a user-friendly platform for student assessment and professional development. Performance Matters was the right product at the right time. “On Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, Metro Legal advised that while acting in good faith, MNPS purchasing staff made an error in interpreting state law that governs the use of out-of-state jurisdictions’ contracts to secure competitive rates on products. Their use of in-state competitive contracts for this product was appropriate. Metro Legal will meet with procurement to ensure that their practices are in line with state law. MNPS is following-up with the individual who made the error.”
Industry Administration & Marketing

Development of 10 railways in Beni Suef

Beni Suef - Hamdi Suleiman: Hani Bani Jaber, the governor of Beni Suef, announced on Sunday the start of the development of 10 railway gliders, namely Sades, Al-Shahrana, Al-Fashn, Al-Shaqr, Al-Fant, ......

  • Egypt
  • Railways
  • 22 Oct 2018
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Description Beni Suef - Hamdi Suleiman: Hani Bani Jaber, the governor of Beni Suef, announced on Sunday the start of the development of 10 railway gliders, namely Sades, Al-Shahrana, Al-Fashn, Al-Shaqr, Al-Fant, Tizmant, Tansa, Bani Madi, Taha Al-Bisha and Baba. This came after the meeting held at the Diwan of the province in the presence of officials of the Railways, Awqaf and Irrigation Authority to discuss the executive position of the project of the development of slums. He pointed out that the development works include the installation of automatic gates, lights and bells within the project of electrification of signals Beni Suef - Assiut, to increase the efficiency of operation on the network and increase the safety on the rail, which ensures safety in the conduct of trains and passers-by crossings of vehicles and pedestrians. The Ministry of Irrigation reported that the coordination was coordinated with the Central Administration of Water Resources and Irrigation on this subject. The assays will be updated within 48 hours and will immediately be sent to the railway to take the necessary measures. . With regard to some concerns that impede the development of the slums, local unit officials have reported that railways are being dismantled in the vicinity of the 10 glaziers, and that the places are ready to carry out the work. The governor also directed the local unit officials to be present permanently with the project developers to overcome all obstacles that may arise, within the limits of the possibilities and competencies, while lifting the concerns that require intervention by the governor in coordination with the ministries and concerned parties.
Industry Railways

Microsoft's all-in-one Surface PCs could debut next month

A few months back I reported on rumors of new Surface-branded all-in-one PCs from Microsoft that could target both other all-in-ones as well as Apple's languishing iMac line. Now new information says ......

  • United States
  • Information Technology
  • 15 Oct 2016
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Description A few months back I reported on rumors of new Surface-branded all-in-one PCs from Microsoft that could target both other all-in-ones as well as Apple's languishing iMac line. Now new information says they are coming soon.

Citing her usual deep bench of sources, Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet says there will be a hardware launch event in late October, one year after a New York City event at which Microsoft unveiled the Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, Lumia 950 and 950 XL.

Among the new gear being announced is the all-in-ones, developed under the codename "Cardinal." Instead of generic PCs, the Cardinal design is reported to be more along the lines of a consumer-focused version of Microsoft's Surface Hub, its 55" and 84" touchscreen PC designed for workplace collaboration.

Foley's sources tell her that Cardinal "can turn your desk into 'a studio'." What kind of studio is not elaborated upon, so I'm not sure what to make of that claim.

The Surface Hub is meant to be mounted on a wall or laid flat on a table, given its large size. It has no keyboard and mouse since everything is touch-driven. AIOs are, by design, PCs with a keyboard and mouse. So the big question is how is this intended to be used?

Foley did confirm the screen sizes – 21", 24" and 27" – but not the reported resolutions. Rumor put the 21-inch device at full HD (1920x1080) resolution and the 24- and 27-inch models with 4K (3860x2140) resolution.

In addition to the Cardinal news, Foley said there would be refreshes of existing Surface devices, like faster processors and a few other bells and whistles. The current rumor is that Surface Book 2 and Surface Pro 5 will be introduced in spring 2017 when the Windows 10 Redstone 2 is expected to be released.

Foley reported in July that the Surface phone may not arrive until later in 2017, and she didn't change her schedule on that.
Industry Information Technology

Big IT beats a retreat after TCS warning

TOP 5 COs LOSE Rs 34,000 CR M-CAP TCS says growth slowing and clients are becoming cautious about spending; stock tanks 5% Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) sparked a rout in information technology ......

  • India
  • Information Technology
  • 15 Oct 2016
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Description TOP 5 COs LOSE Rs 34,000 CR M-CAP TCS says growth slowing and clients are becoming cautious about spending; stock tanks 5%

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) sparked a rout in information technology stocks after saying growth was slowing and clients, especially those in banking and financial services, were becoming cautious about spending.

Shares of India's largest IT services company declined 5.1%, while Infosys dropped 1.6% and Wipro fell 1.8% at the close of trade on the BSE on Thursday . The top five IT shares listed on the BSE lost almost `34,000 crore in market capitalisation.

Indian IT companies have been sounding alarm bells on growth since the UK voted to leave the European Union in June, a factor that was not included when the National Association of Software & Services Companies set the industry growth target of 10-12% in February .

"Based on data at the end of August 2016, the company has characterised customer outlook as one marked by abundant caution, with some holding back of discretionary spending -particularly in the BFSI vertical in the US -resulting in some sequential loss of momentum," TCS said in a letter to the BSE.

The company said revenue in the first quarter increased 3.7% sequentially, while BFSI had grown 1.7%, almost half the rate posted in the same period a year earlier. BFSI contributes 40% of TCS's revenue and a further slowdown, in what should be a seasonally strong quarter, will drag down full-year growth.

Analysts at JP Morgan had already projected that TCS would not beat the growth guidance set by Nasscom, without factoring in the slowdown due to Brexit.

"We forecast lower constant-cur rency revenue growth in FY17 (about 10%), not counting in Brexitinduced impact. TCS's relatively high UK exposure (15% of revenue), GBP billing and banking exposure place it at greater risk to any Brexitinduced slowdown," Viju George, an analyst with JPMorgan, said in a note after TCS announced Q1 results on July 14.

Also spooking the markets was the fact that TCS has, so far, been the most optimistic among IT compa nies and that issues around Brexit could take years to resolve as the UK has not formally started the process to leave the EU. Other IT companies have already started to break out the impact of the geo-political upheaval.

Last week, mid-sized IT company Mindtree said second-quarter reve nue growth would lag that of the first quarter and its margins would contract.

"BFSI as a space will vertically hurt everyone and US services growth has gone back to 2010 levels, which should ring alarm bells...a large part of the IT outsourcing on BFSI is done from the US," Sanjiv Bhasin, Executive VP - market and corporate affairs at IIFL, told ET.

Infosys has already cut its full-year growth outlook once and may do so again, according to analysts.

Banking and financial services contribute 32% of Infosys' revenue and the company has already announced that a large deal with Royal Bank of Scotland has been cancelled. Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka warned that the company was seeing the early impact of Brexit.

"We are seeing the early signs.Clients are cautious and the RBS issue was part of that. There is caution in pockets," Sikka told analysts in August. He added that Infosys would clarify its guidance in October.

The start of the third quarter will also be crunch time for industry body Nasscom, which could review the 10-12% growth target after the second-quarter results.
Industry Information Technology

TCS becomes latest IT company to issue growth warning

Tata Consultancy Services was the latest Indian IT outsourcer to warn that growth was slowing and clients, particularly in the banking and financial services sector, were becoming cautious in their sp ......

  • India
  • Information Technology
  • 15 Oct 2016
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Description Tata Consultancy Services was the latest Indian IT outsourcer to warn that growth was slowing and clients, particularly in the banking and financial services sector, were becoming cautious in their spending.

Indian IT companies have been sounding the alarm bells on growth since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, a factor that was not included when the industry growth target of 10-12% growth was issued in February.

"Based on data at the end of August 2016, the company has characterized customer outlook as one marked by abundant caution, with some holding back of discretionary spending - particularly in the BFSI vertical in the United States - resulting in some sequential loss of momentum," the company said in a letter to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Last week, mid-sized IT company Mindtree had issued a similar warning, while Infosys has already cut its full-year growth outlook once, and may have to do so again, according to analysts.
Industry Information Technology

Fujitsu's billion-dollar ARM supercomputer delayed by up to 2 years

Japan's exascale Flagship 2020 looking more like Flagship 2022 after CPU design headaches Fujitsu's monster ARM-powered supercomputer, the Post-K, will miss its 2020 deadline. The $910m project ......

  • Japan
  • Information Technology
  • 15 Oct 2016
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Description Japan's exascale Flagship 2020 looking more like Flagship 2022 after CPU design headaches

Fujitsu's monster ARM-powered supercomputer, the Post-K, will miss its 2020 deadline.

The $910m project has stalled because its engineers need more time to design, test and perfect the machine's processors, we can confirm.

Fujitsu was hired by Japan's boffinry nerve-center RIKEN to produce a roughly 1,000 peta-FLOPS supercomputer to supersede the nation's K Computer, which today is the fifth fastest known supercomputer.

When the Post-K emerges, and if it lives up to its near-exascale performance promise, it will be eight times faster than today's most powerful known supercomputer in the world, China's Sunway TaihuLight. The Post-K system will be used to model climate change, predict disasters, develop drugs and fuels, and run other scientific simulations.

Fujitsu, which built the K Computer predecessor using heavily customized SPARC64 VIIIfx chips, switched to the ARMv8-A architecture for its Post-K beast. However, The Register understands that the new supercomputer will be one to two years late, thus arriving in 2021 or 2022, which is kinda awkward because the Post-K's official name is Flagship 2020.

The delay may also take some of the shine off Tokyo-based Softbank's just-completed acquisition of ARM, the UK chip designers that licensed their 64-bit technology to Fujitsu for things like the Post-K beast. ARM and Fujitsu worked together to add large vector instructions to ARMv8, bringing the architecture up to scratch for supercomputer applications.

"There has been a delay to development due to us applying a new CPU related semiconductor technology. As a result, the time required for making system prototypes and detailed designs has now been extended," Fujitsu spokesman Rishad Marquardt told El Reg on Tuesday.

"Currently it is expected the delay will push back the operation start time by between 12 and 24 months."

Engineers working away on the Post-K were expected to put the finishing touches to their blueprints by early 2018, and fire up the completed system in the first quarter of 2020. Now that looks likely to happen up to a year or two after. Fujitsu would not comment on exactly what the problem is: whether it's that moving from SPARC64 to ARMv8 is proving trickier than expected, or that shrinking designs down to 10nm is becoming a real headache, or both.

The Post-K's ARM processors are likely to be 10nm FinFET chips fabricated by TSMC, and will feature high-bandwidth memory and the Tofu 6D interconnect mesh [PDF] that's used in the K Computer. It could be that getting decent yields of processors including all these bells and whistles is going to be harder than expected.

"We expect more exascale projects and more delays as the engineering challenges mount," said The Next Platform's Tim Prickett Morgan, who was first to report the Flagship 2020 delays after hearing from sources at RIKEN. The science organization was really hoping to beat America to powering up the first publicly known exascale supercomputer: the US government doesn't expect to do so until 2023.

"We also think that compromises will be made in the power consumption and thermals to get workable systems that do truly fantastic things with modeling and simulation," Prickett Morgan added.

Meanwhile, Fujitsu announced today it will build a 2,380-core x86-based computer system for the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research at the University of Tokyo. ®
Industry Information Technology

India's top woman banker Arundhati Bhattacharya sees cracks in glass ceiling

The first female head at one of India's biggest banks says a ruling forcing firms to appoint women directors to boards has eased chronically lopsided gender ratios -- but warns too many firms are stil ......

  • India
  • Financial Services
  • 03 Sep 2016
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Description The first female head at one of India's biggest banks says a ruling forcing firms to appoint women directors to boards has eased chronically lopsided gender ratios -- but warns too many firms are still failing to embrace diversity.

State Bank of India chairwoman Arundhati Bhattacharya told AFP that the regulator's moves to get rid of the "old boys' network" and demand women were appointed to boards had led to posts being filled by family members. However, she said she was fine with that if they have the ability.

India changed its laws in 2013 to force publicly listed companies to have at least one woman among their board directors -- around 96 percent of whom were men at the time.

After the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) regulator issued a comply-or-be-fined deadline in March 2015, firms scrambled to act, drafting in wives, daughters or other relatives to fill the spots.

"A lot of women who are getting inducted after SEBI's rule are family members. And this isn't a problem as long as they understand the business."

"But we believe it is important to get an outsider's perspective," said Bhattacharya, who joined SBI in 1977 and rose through the ranks to the top of the country's largest and oldest commercial lender.

As hiring managers complain about a lack of talented women candidates for board-level jobs, her view is that they simply have not looked hard enough.

"Even today I find many people saying we don't find properly qualified women. What they're saying is they are not networked enough."

The problem is not only at the top -- across the country only 27 percent of women work, according to the International Labour Organization, which ranked India 120th among the 131 nations on female labour participation in 2013.

"Seventy-five percent of these appointments are non-independent and drawn from family members, thereby failing to bring any diversity to corporate boardrooms," Pranav Haldea, managing director of Prime Database, a firm that compiles capital markets data, told AFP.

Bhattacharya cites the challenge of changing attitudes in a society that still largely views women as primary caretakers and says having children leads many to fall off the corporate ladder.

To address the problem, in 2014 she brought in two-year sabbaticals to allow women to take career breaks without falling out of the workforce.

"We want to ensure that men also take up their portion of responsibilities during child care and women continue working from home, so they don't face drawbacks or fall behind," she said.

As the only woman chief of a public sector bank, Bhattacharya cuts a lonely figure, although Chanda Kochhar and Shikha Sharma head the private ICICI and Axis banks.

Bhattacharya, named the world's fifth most powerful woman in finance by Forbes Magazine, has won praise from investors for bringing about a digital transformation at the 210-year-old former Imperial Bank of India.

However, she has faced criticism, too, notably over the problem of bad loans weighing down India's lenders, seen as a core threat to the stability of the fast-growing economy.

She has also led a public fight against disgraced businessman Vijay Mallya, who became a symbol of the bad loan problem after fleeing the country in March owing $1.34 billion.

The SBI branded the defunct Kingfisher Airlines founder a "willful defaulter" and called for his arrest before going to court to try to recover its dues.

Yet Raghuram Rajan, the outgoing governor of the central Reserve Bank of India, has continued to sound alarm bells over public banks' mountain of soured assets.

"The process of cleaning up bad loans from Indian banks is a welcome move," Bhattacharya said.

"However, we need sufficient means of resolving these. Resolving them and putting them on track is not an easy task."

Some say the plague of bad loans, which have dented SBI profits, led Bhattacharya to miss out on replacing Rajan as RBI chief, a post ultimately awarded to insider Urjit Patel.

The question on investors' minds now is whether Bhattacharya, who reached the retirement age of 60 this year, will stay on at SBI after her term ends in September.

Either way, she says, over the course of her career, the notion that women could not be trusted with an organisation's future has been firmly buried.

"That is a thing of the past. Things are changing now."
Industry Financial Services

New early education center adds a faith-based option for Cobb families

Preschool-aged children dragged their parents from room to room Sunday afternoon in search of new toys at Piedmont Academy’s Early Learning Center. The Early Learning Center, which caters to 3-mont ......

  • United States
  • Education & Training
  • 02 Sep 2016
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Description Preschool-aged children dragged their parents from room to room Sunday afternoon in search of new toys at Piedmont Academy’s Early Learning Center.

The Early Learning Center, which caters to 3-month-olds to kindergarteners, officially opened Sunday on the campus of Piedmont Church, which is about a half-mile from Canton Road.

The Early Learning Center welcomed its first 20 children this school year.

The center is part of Piedmont Academy — a half-day private, Christian school for infants to pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds also housed on the same campus.

Dolores Bailey, the academy’s director, said about 100 students are enrolled in the academy, and the two schools share a staff of 17 teachers.

She said Early Learning Center already has a waiting list for 2-year-olds.

In addition to teaching children numbers and the alphabet, Bailey said the students are taught about Christian values throughout the day.

“We want to build God’s kingdom,” she said.

Bailey has been working to open to the full-time, licensed early education center for the past five years. She said the east Cobb community needed a faith-based full-time preschool, and Piedmont’s will fill in the gap.

“We’re going to do it. We’re going to be here for you,” Bailey said.

Bailey said most of the families do not attend church services at Piedmont Church but are families who are looking for faith-based early education.

The Bartel family of east Cobb is an example.

Bradley Bartel is enrolled in the 2-year-old class and attended the church’s Mother’s Morning Out, a twice-a-week daycare program, last year.

His mother, Jessica Bartel, a fitness professional, said she and her husband, attorney Brett Bartel, decided to send Bradley to the Early Learning Center because they already knew the staff and shared the same beliefs as Piedmont Church, although they are not church parishioners.

“I like the values here,” she said. “It was great to find a place like that.”

Bartel said the center’s convenient location also played a major factor as the family lives just around the corner from the center.

Her other children also attend school either on the church’s campus or just up the road. Her older son, Riley, is a fourth grader at GRACEPOINT Academy — a private school for children with dyslexia. GRACEPOINT is located right behind Piedmont Church. Her daughter, Jada, is a third grader at Bells Ferry Elementary, which is about a half-mile from the church.

“We love it,” she said.

The academy’s location and full-time schedule is also convenient for other families.

Chelsea Haley of Marietta, a teacher at Palmer Middle School, said she enrolled her son, Jace Bourgeois, in the Early Learning Center for several reasons, such as affordability and flexibility.

The center’s tuition ranges from $100-$210 per week based on the child’s age and if they are enrolled for full-time or part-time instruction.

Haley said she attended Piedmont Academy, so the Early Learning Center was the first place she looked to enroll her younger son.

“You know they’re going to be cared for and loved here,” she said.
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