City school data guru, Ben Feldman, retires
Ben Feldman, a 34-year-veteran of Baltimore City schools, will no longer be the school system's official number cruncher.
The city announced Feldman's retirement as chief accountability officer late Tuesday -- a week after he did his final data compilation of the city scores for the 2010 Maryland School Assessments.
The city school board approved Feldman's retirement at Tuesday night's board meeting, where it was also announced that school performance consultant and strategic adviser Matthew D. Van Itallie will take Feldman's post on Aug. 2.
While there were dozens of principals who received shout-outs and ovations for their newly appointed positions at the school board hearing, Feldman did not attend and if Van Itallie did, the new chief blended in with the crowd.
Feldman, who is known throughout the system as the data and research guru, said in an interview Wednesday that he has cherished his time with the school system and praised his successor as a "rolling stone."
“It’s a good time for a change," Feldman said. "I’m looking forward to some new opportunities, and hope that I can still contribute to city schools.”
Feldman said he met Van Itallie when he was a contender for a deputy schools CEO job about 8 months ago, and thought he was "of authentic intelligence," he said.
“I think, for what Dr. Alonso wants to move the system forward, he’s recruited a very talented fellow," he said.
According to the release sent by city schools, Van Itallie comes from a background of politics, management and school reform. He obtained his bachelor of arts degree from Swarthmore College and a law degree from Harvard Law School.
Van Itallie's background includes years advising public schools and school districts in the realms of strategic planning, organizational redesign and performance management.
Alonso said of the new appointment, "we as a district must be nimble, constantly stepping back and assessing whether we are doing everything possible to support teaching and learning and to bolster our students’ success. That kind of operational scrutiny and accountability will move us closer to our goal of becoming an entire district of great schools, and Matt has the skills and experience in those areas to lead the way."
Most recently, Van Itallie worked with Cleveland’s public schools to execute the closing and relocation of 16 schools as part of the district’s academic transformation plan, and to assist with a reorganization of the district’s operations.
His other recent experience includes work with the New York-based KIPP Foundation, advising their offices on budgets and strategic plan development. Other highlighted experience included his work with the New Jersey Department of Education, where he helped manage that state’s Round 2 Race to the Top application for federal funds in spring 2010, and D.C. Public Schools, where he served as Deputy Chief of Staff in spring and fall 2008, overseeing the closure of 24 schools, grade reconfigurations at 67 schools and major personnel changes at more than 50 schools.
Feldman said he believed that Van Itallie will carry the torch well in leading a team of "geniuses," in the accountability and research office. He said his legacy will undoubtedly be marked by the staff, whom he called, “my jewels, my greatest pride, and my greatest joys."
Feldman, a graduate of the last class at the old Poly building at the 200 North Ave. address, began his career in city schools as a teacher for more than 14 years before transitioning to the Department of Research, Evaluation, Assessment and Accountability, where he stayed in numerous capacities from 1995 to this year -- only taking a short detour to help create the school system's Department of Third Party Billing.
Since 2004, Feldman has presided over city schools’ research and assessment efforts "at a time when the school system has moved aggressively to increase accountability throughout the agency, in part through the launch of data-driven initiatives, including Expanding Great Options and City Schools’ inclusion in the Nation’s Report Card’s Trial Urban District Assessment," according to a press release sent by the school system.
“Ben has been an integral part of our efforts in the last few years,” Alonso said in the release. “He has taught me a great deal about the school system and I greatly value his contributions to our reform efforts. I look forward to his continued contributions in other capacities moving forward.”