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Rethinking Think Together


Randy Barth, the Think Together CEO, pictured on the right

The Santa Ana Unified School District’s best public schools are those that operate as “fundamental schools.”  The parents of kids at these schools promise to be involved with their kids and to make sure they study and do their homework.  The kids have a strict dress code and they typically perform better than kids at other SAUSD schools – most of which are not doing well and in fact have not done well for some time.  Only 13 out of 56 SAUSD schools have met the state’s API minimum in the past year.

There are a few negatives with regard to fundamental schools.  They don’t bus kids in or out.  And they don’t offer much in the way of after school care.  That is a problem since these typically are not neighborhood schools so kids cannot really be expected to walk home after school.

There is a non-profit called Think Together that operates after school programs at several SAUSD schools.  The YMCA used to offer similar programs but I don’t think they are active at many if any Santa Ana schools now.  My wife says they were very expensive.

My ten-year old son is a GATE student at John Muir Fundamental Elementary School, where Think Together is the only after school option. According to the Think Together director at Muir, there are some 50-75 families on their waiting list.  This is a real failure by the Muir administration.

John Muir Fundamental Elementary School

Think about it.  The kids get out of school at 2:30 pm. If their parents both work who is supposed to pick them up?  If your kid cannot get into the Think Together program you are in hot water.

The Think Together director at Muir decided to alleviate their overcrowding, which she blames on budget cuts, by insisting that families whose students participate in after school sports programs may not pick their kids up early for sports practices.  This decision was made without consulting the parents.

Think Together Parent Meeting

A parent meeting was held after the fact, last Thursday. but it quickly became apparent that there are no other options.  If you value your kids’ participation in after school sports you have to pull them out of Think Together, period.

In a city beset by child obesity that is an odd decision by Think Together.  And I am not sure they understand this issue as their Muir director admitted at the meeting this week that their snacks include Oreo Cookies and Goldfish crackers – processed food that is not good for our kids.

One thing I learned at the parent meeting is that Think Together does not take into consideration the income or financial situation of the families involved in their programs.  If they are indeed overcrowded they should be giving priority to single mothers and those who are under the poverty level.

I also learned that Think Together does not utilize a lottery system and of course they should be doing so if fairness is their objective.

I had to laugh when one mom at the meeting said that Think Together is not babysitting.  Of course it is!  It is silly to pretend otherwise.  Sure they let the kids work on their homework and provide some tutoring but most parents put their kids in their program because they have no other after school options.  And the Think Together workers who care for the kids are not teachers.

prop 30

I don’t understand the allegation that Think Together is dealing with budget cuts when a ballot measure (Prop. 30) was passed last year that will funnel millions of dollars to our public schools and Governor Jerry Brown has also realigned state education spending to target troubled districts in poor areas, like the SAUSD.  The feds also recently gave a No Child Left Behind exemption to the SAUSD.

Randy Barth, Think Together CEO

While they are claiming to be dealing with budget cuts, Think Together is paying their CEO, Randy Barth, $337,500 a year, according to their 2012 IRS Form 990, available on Guidestar.  That is quite an increase from what they paid Barth in 2009, when he made $298,000 according to the Foundation Center.

They are also paying their CFO, Mike Frobenius, $188.077, and their COO, Katherine Sue Cornell, $165,577.  Other top salaries include:

  • Cyndee Zandes, Chief Program Officer: $186,067
  • Tia Dwyer, General Manager, Orange: $139,075
  • Fernando Reyes, General Manager, Foothill: $142,193
  • Lisa Somerville-Bennett, General Manager, Los Angeles: $136,206
  • Adriana Kingston, General Manager, Riverside: $138,425
  • Rebecca Dawson, Chief People Officer: $148,000

That is a lot of moolah for what amounts to after school babysitting! Their financial report indicates that they took in $47,895,144 and spent $47,636.706, resulting in a surplus of $258,438.  

They have a Board of Directors with 24 members that includes only five members with Hispanic surnames and only one director with an Asian surname.

If Think Together cannot meet the needs of SAUSD families, while richly paying their executives, then the SAUSD administrators need to look for alternatives.  Right now Think Together has a virtual monopoly in Santa Ana and I don’t think that is right either.

My wife and I ended up paying a friend who works part-time at the school to take our son to her home after school, where he can work on his homework.  We will be able to pick him up early as needed for his flag football and Little League baseball practices and games.

My son is actually happy to be moving on from Think Together.  He says the workers are mean and that they punish the entire class if one or two kids are misbehaving, by not letting them play outside.  And he won’t miss all the goofy dancing either…


 
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15 Comments  comments 

15 Responses

  1. PS Resident

    Think Together is babysitting, anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly mistaken. They destroy classrooms and undermine the regular programs in the schools through lack of consistency with the regular school rules and procedures. The idea that a child cannot participate if they are actually involved in extra sports outside of school is absurd. Our schools provide little in the way of actual exercise and sports and to have your child stuck in school from 8:00-5:30 without any opportunity for competitive sports is just sad.

    • Great points! The truth is out now…

    • Anonymous

      Your experience with 1 Site does not mean all sites are run the same way. There are several Site Coordinators and Program Leaders…we do not call them “Teachers” (because they are not teachers and we never say that they are), lots of SCs and PLs really give 110% of their love and dedication to helping students that have no support at home. Yes we wish the pay was higher but I would love to see more parents, school community members really take a moment to see all the great work done by THINK staff. Sadly, humans, in general like to see the negative in others more than the positive. Just my thoughts…

      • What do you think about the ridiculous salaries the Think Together executives are pulling down?

        • Anonymous

          In general people that work in education are underpaid. Hopefully some day in the future the “front-line” staff will get a raise but until then they will focus on the self-gratification they get from knowing that they do make a difference even if just seen by one student. One of THINK Together’s values is “Service Above Self,” I would say most SCs and PLs I know really live by this.

  2. Carpetbagger

    THINK has come (and gone) a long way from what it started out as. I was a tutor in one of those original apartments. I watched Thom and Connie Linnert break up a generation of gangs in Southwest Santa Ana. This was the work of Angels. HARD NOSED, HARD WORKING ANGELS.

    Along the way things changed, when they relocated to 17th street, I had arranged a truckload of goods: Six pallets of paper (2.4 MILLION sheets or 5,000 REAMS). Mary Barth told me “NO THANK YOU”, we sent that and six BRAND NEW COPIERS, 10,000 pencils and nearly 500 binders to Tijuana.

    That week Randy and Mary Barth stood with Samuli and a Dsney Prez and touted the need for donations.

    I was done.

    What started out like Rosie’s Garage became Kim Kardashians make-up room.

    PS. EVERY YEAR I return to Colonio Francisco Villa for some fine food (bring an empty bowl w/ a lid for leftovers) and the most gracious people on earth.

  3. dime

    Is the larger point here that you want salaries cut for TT executives and/or the TT program eliminated at SAUSD?

    • 1. Think Together is throwing kids out of their program if they’re involved in after school sports.

      2. They are claiming this is due to budget cuts.

      3. But they pay their CEO over $330K a year, a $30K increase from his 2009 pay.

  4. carpetbagger

    Hey whatever happened with Michele’s “state Of The City Speech”

  5. jzur84

    Think Together is a joke. Their hiring process made me feel like I was being hired as a credentialed teacher with 2 rounds of speed interviews, but for $11.00 an hour regardless if you have an AA or MA.

    They only give 15 minutes of planning time to prepare for activities so that the kids have something to do after they are done with homework. Most of my co-workers were 19 year old kids that had no idea what to do in front of a class. The site coordinators make like $30,000 a year while working 8am to 7pm even during the summer. This program is a joke and in my opinion has grown too big even for itself. I can’t believe this is the best that SAUSD can do for its children.

  6. Anon 12

    Not sure if it is accurate or not but some Think Togethers only accept students if they qualify for free lunch. Not sure what SAUSD’s status is on that front.
    I have seen classrooms destroyed and teaching materials taken by the Think Together program. Elmos, projectors, books, literally destroyed. Hopefully with new folks it will get better.
    I realized kids need after school care, just not sure TT is the best program. Eleven dollars an hour really doesn’t motivate many folks. And they are mean and use derogatory tones with the kids.They border on being slightly aggressive.

  7. PS Resident

    I have also heard of abusive behavior on the part of the TT $11.00 an hour “teachers”. Some are in it for the benefit of the kids as they pursue their degrees or teaching credentials but most end up feeling used and abused by the program and consequently, I believe, take it out on the kids. It is probably much better to stick with the Boys and Girls Club as Santiago Elementary does, far less corruption and hopefully far less destruction to the schools.

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