Thursday, December 11, 2014

December 15, 2010

Position Paper on Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act

New legislation is dismantling century old trusts and endowments that were supposed to
continue in perpetuity. This is the raiding and plundering of historic endowments to
compensate for property mortgages, pet projects, failed investments and expanded
personal compensation packages, which are not for the benefit of the Public and
certainly not the donors' intent. Unfortunately, new legislation is dismantling century old
trusts and endowments that were supposed to continue in perpetuity.

In 2006, The Uniform Law Commission (ULC) released Bush era guidelines
deregulating a substantial portion of nonprofit funds. More than 40 States have adopted
versions of these guidelines with very little debate and even less publicity. On June 10,
2009, NJ Governor Jon Corzine signed into law the Uniform Prudent Management of
Institutional Funds Act. This law creates troubling changes in the way that charitable
trusts and endowments are managed and regulated.

The use of the term "prudent" in dealing with "small funds" has resulted in an expansion
of the affected funds from the ULC suggested amount of $25,000 to a high of $250,000
in New Jersey and in a number of other States. These funds become "old" after the
suggested 20 years in NJ, and at least one State has shortened the time to 10 years.
Language on retroactivity is strategically vague and neglects public notification and

Liquidating the principal in countless smaller endowments that support charitable work
in good times and bad will do irreparable harm to the public good that will eventually
achieve infamy as a crime against the living as well as the dead.

Most significant is the transfer of oversight from the jurisdiction of the States' Courts to a
political appointee - the State Attorney General - making nonprofits more vulnerable to
pay-to-play and unregulated asset transfers. Ethical assumptions about prudence,
motives, and human nature have subsequently been changed with lessons learned by
the banking crisis, predatory lending practices, bonuses amidst bailouts and the failure
of the SEC to regulate the exploitation of foundations and nonprofts by Madoff.

The dismantling of New Jersey hospitals, specifically Muhlenberg Regional Medical
Center, Plainfield, NJ, was facilitated of and by a corporate, nonprofit parent company
with related for-profit holdings and overlapping interests. The transfer of over a century's
accumulation of assets: endowments, gifts, real estate, facilities, and equipment was
done under the approval of the NJ State Government, and the NJ Attorney General's
Office. The cy pres doctrine was essentially ignored.

Citizens have raised the endowment issue at State hearings, in letters to the editor, and
various other venues, but all of this has fallen on deaf ears. The citizens are paying in
tax dollars the same State government employees who are not protecting their interests.

Unless the Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center private citizen's can muster enough
money to initiate a court action, all of the historic endowments will be lost forever, over a
century of charity and sacrifice will been squandered and lost to future generations. In
this case, the NJ UPMIFA of 2009 had not been passed, yet the raiding and plundering
of endowments happened anyway.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Grade inflation equals consumer fraud

WEDNESDAY, 31 MARCH 2010 20:38

LETTER TO THE EDITOR                                                                       NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

Education reform can begin with a policy that prohibits the granting of honor roll grades to students who are not doing work that is on grade level. Grades are deceptive and few parents know what children are expected to know at various stages of their development. Accepted practices of grade inflation need to be banned as a destructive form of consumer fraud.

Honor rolls can create a deceptive sense of satisfaction for everyone involved. It would produce a higher level of advocacy and effort from parents and students if they were aware that they were achieving excellence in work below the core content standards for their grade.

In every school system, there are students who will do whatever it takes to master all of the work required of them. It is not fair for them to never be presented the full scope of academic instruction that is given to other students that they will have to compete with in college. Valedictorians from one school district are placed at a disadvantage next to "C" students from another.

Many college freshmen are surprised and discouraged to learn that they have to take loans and acquire debt for non-credit courses. This often includes the additional cost of room and board for instruction they should have obtained while living at home attending public schools where they excelled. Without proper support, many of these gifted students are lost to higher education, forever.

All positive change does not require money. A public policy that requires "truth in grading" can go a long way towards preventing schools from languishing, unchallenged in entrenched failure.



Comments (10)

10 Thursday, 08 April 2010 08:04

Renata Hernandez

What a compelling piece and the commentary equally so! As a product of PPS and an honor roll student since the 6th grade I lived the angst of going to college only to be faced with remediated NON-DEGREE contributing mandatory coursework in English and MATH! It was depressing but by grace I pressed forward and continued on until I achieved my MBA. TODAY I continue to advocate for the PARENTS and Children of this district. As the former President of Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) and now as a BOE Candidate -- It is my DUTY as a citizen and as a human being to change the course of our current educational system!

9 Tuesday, 06 April 2010 22:20

N. Webb

Having a child that came out of a public school and is now struggling to get a passing grade in math in a private school this hits home. Deborah is on point. If my daughter could not do the required work a poor grade would have alerted us sooner. It’s much easier to get the extra help the children need in the lower grades than later when it may be too late.

8 Tuesday, 06 April 2010 14:29

Rev. Alphonso and Carol Washington

Some years ago, my brother retired from teaching in the MD school system because they had begun the process of 'dumbing down' the Math department of which he was head. It truly upset him because the students would be the ones to suffer in the end. You see, ironically, grade inflation is ultimately a disservice to students. In the real world, where people have to work hard, pay taxes and learn that life has a habit of throwing nasty surprises at you, an ability to think critically is worth a lot more than a piece of paper showing you got lots of As and Bs in the Leaving Cert. Without the capacity for independent thought, today’s students will flounder in the future and this will only be exacerbated by the false sense of entitlement they have from being handed a raft of ill-deserved high grades.

It will be sorely disappointing for them to discover that, as adults, things won’t always be handed to them on a plate. They will fail sometimes. Life won’t always go their way and no one will ever ask them how they got on in the Leaving Cert.

Quoting from an article I read a couple years ago..."Grade inflation has wider implications too. Without high standards in education, how will the bottle-fed brats of the Bebo generation develop intellectually to the point where they might contribute to technological advancement, make scientific breakthroughs or add to the canon of Irish literature?

More prosaically, can we trust those with diluted qualifications to do their jobs properly? If a patient dies because of a doctor’s misdiagnosis or a bridge falls down because an engineer made a basic mistake with a set-square, will we be able to trace those disasters back to the awarding of inflated grades when they were leaving school?

These are questions I was hoping to answer with the aid of a statistical model of my own devising, but the strange thing is, my mathematical abilities just don’t seem to be up to it. And I thought I was an A-grade student."

Deborah Dowe, you are spot on!

7 Tuesday, 06 April 2010 12:51

Norman Dowe

Most of the attention given to improving academic performance has focused on the schools. Teachers and administrators are increasingly being held accountable for student performance. However, they are only one third of the educational triumvirate that also includes the parents and students. Grade inflation disempowers the parents. This is especially true for those who are at the lower end of the educational ladder themselves.

Poorly educated parents, who do not know what their child should be learning, are disempowered as advocates for their children by grade inflation. They are lulled into a false belief that their children are doing well and on the route to a better future than they have had. After all their children are doing so well academically. They don't push their children to do better. They don't challenge the teachers to do better. They don't challenge the administration to do better. They believe that everything is OK when in truth it is not. Their interests and the interests of their children are not served at all. Only the interests of the under performing educators and school systems are served. These people don't have to weather the cacophony of complaints that face bad educators in districts where parents know what should be taught.

If you want to invest in a business the SEC makes public companies tell the truth in their form 10-k's and other filings. If you want to buy a franchise the Federal Trade Commission makes franchisers tell the truth in their franchise disclosure documents. Don't parents deserve the same kind of protection from the educational establishment? Should they not be required to tell the truth about how students are actually performing?

6 Tuesday, 06 April 2010 10:10

G Daniels

Deborah, I believe your comment is very accurate and necessary.

There are none more formidable to personal and societal destruction than those who care more for your comfort than your character and knowledge.

5 Tuesday, 06 April 2010 08:40

Hope T.

Finally...this is spot on. I believe there is not only grade inflation, but grade manipulation. And it only hurts the students. Imagine how they feel when they get to college and out in the real world and find that they are unable to compete. It's a vicious and criminal cycle destroying society's future!

4 Monday, 05 April 2010 21:58

Nini J.

Deborah has a very strong and valid point.. a vile dis-service to our "future".. Our children in "our" classrooms.. taking it a step futher can you imagine the devastaion that must cause to the students personally; once they realize they cannot compete properly in the next phase of their lives?
Wow.. Thanks for bringing this to our attention..

3 Monday, 05 April 2010 20:28

Michelle Cox

Agreed, there should be more truth in grading. School districts should understand that an ill prepared high school student might be more likely to be a college drop out. Spending money on remedial classes is damaging to the wallet and a students self esteem.

2 Monday, 05 April 2010 17:42

Roger Stryeski

I'm always amazed at the Honor Rolls that newspapers put out. They have the leading student from each, usually public schools. Then, I find the disparity between the GPA and their SAT score. I have seen 4.0's with under 1000 for the SAT.

1 Sunday, 04 April 2010 11:55

A. Robert "Bob" Johnson

Deborah is "right on the money". Having taught at Hubbard JHS with her dad and retired from teaching math at Kean U. in 2002, I have seen "it all". It's not just the Plainfields that submit to grade inflation and subject their graduates to retaking essential courses, at their own expense. I Found many students from the "priviliged" districts had failed their placement tests in college algebra. For several years I taught what turned out to be a remedial course for area college students from Princeton, Brown, Wagner, Rutgers, etc., who had great grades from Westfield,Cranford, etc. Why? Grade inflation and teaching for the test are the likely answers.
The nation must do better for our children and grandchildren.
Thank you Debbie!
Bob Johnson

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Muhlenberg Insider Newsletter
A publication of the Citizens' Research Group on Muhlenberg Hospital
August, 2009 edition

The Best Kept Secret in Plainfield

The citizens of the Plainfield area, who have for over a year opposed the closure of their beloved Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center (Muhlenberg Hospital) based on humanitarian reasons, now must send another clarion call to the public about the possible loss of the historic core hospital architecture at the Muhlenberg site.

All along many thought the battle of Muhlenberg was about the development rites of the Muhlenberg properties. Whether that is the question or not - this question now has surfaced - are the Plainfield area residents ready, willing and able to stand up to fight for the historic buildings that currently exist on the property? The same buildings that have stood on the Park Avenue/Randolph Road grounds since the opening in 1903, located in the center of the property and passed by daily without a thought to their historic significance to Plainfield, to New Jersey, and to the Nation.

In 1877, Muhlenberg Hospital was incorporated. In 1879, Muhlenberg had its physical beginnings in the West End of Plainfield, when the first hospital in Union County was built at Muhlenberg Place. Within twenty years it became evident that a larger facility and more land was needed. Since the location near the railroad tracks made it impossible for further expansion, the Board of Governors began to look for a more suitable location.

After many twists and turns and coaxing, the farmers at the southeastern part of Plainfield agreed to sell their farm land. Public money built Muhlenberg Hospital. All private donations totaled in excess of $83,500. $11,000 was for the land; $70,000 for the buildings, grading, driveways, and sewer plant; and $2,500 for furniture and furnishings. An additional $10,000 was donated by a gift of J. Howard Wright for an operating pavilion in memory of his two grandsons, Howard Wright Corlies and Parker Wright Mason. Ernest R. Ackerman (N.J. State Senate, 1905-1911; President of N.J. Senate, 1911; U.S. Congressman 1919-1931) donated a gift of a ward in memory of his father, J. Hervey Ackerman.

The 1903 building essentially looked like one large structure, but really consisted of five parts: the columned entrance facing Randolph Road which comprised the main reception building including the superintendent's quarters, general offices, and staff dining room; the operating pavilion; the two wards for men and women; the large kitchen and the eye and ear and clinic department. Although surrounded by fencing and other structures, it appears that a portion of those 1903 buildings are still in existence. Some alterations are evident. The 1903 main building with pediment removed is behind the 1936 columned building; however, the 1903 operating pavilion retains many of its original elements including inscription. An architectural historian would have to determine whether or not the historic significance of the remaining 1903 core Muhlenberg structures outweigh the alterations.

What historic significance are these forgotten 1903 treasures? Other than being the oldest hospital in Union County and one of the oldest in New Jersey, Muhlenberg Hospital was designed and built by the architectural firm of Tracy and Swartwout of New York City. Many of the Tracy and Swartwout firm's buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, including: Cathedral of St. John in the Wilderness, Denver, (1905-1911); the US Post Office and Courthouse now known as Byron R. White U.S. Courthouse (opened in 1916), in Denver, The Missouri State Capital building (1912-1916) in Jefferson City, Missouri. Other buildings include: Former Yale Club, now the Penn Club, New York City, (1900); Skull and Bones, cloister-garden at Yale University, New Haven, (1906); Connecticut Savings Bank, New Haven, (1906); the Department of Commerce Building, Washington, D.C., (1912); George Washington Memorial Hall, Washington, D.C., (1915), and Ridgewood High School, Ridgewood, New Jersey, (1919). Muhlenberg Hospital's 1903 buildings were some of the earliest Tracy and Swartwout buildings.

The partners of the Tracy and Swartwout firm were Evarts Tracy (1868-1922) and Egerton Swartwout (1870-1943). Both men were Yale graduates: Tracy in 1890 and Swartwout in 1891. They met at the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, and in 1900, formed a partnership called Tracy and Swartwout located in New York City.

Evarts Tracy was a most interesting man. He was born in New York on May 23, 1868, and moved with his family at the age of six to Plainfield, New Jersey. His parents' house is located on West Eighth Street in the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District, Plainfield, New Jersey. As stated earlier he graduated from Yale in 1890, and he was a Bonesman, Yale's secret society. Tracy was the great-great grandson of Roger Sherman, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the only one to sign three other historic documents: The Association of 1774, The Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution of the United States.

Tracy married Caroline Streuli on June 23, 1894. In 1900, Evarts Tracy built his own house in Plainfield, New Jersey and occupied it in 1901. Tracy's residence was built perpendicular to the road, and one could surmise that he watched the construction of Muhlenberg from his residence on Hillside Avenue. Tracy's residence is now part of the Hillside Avenue Historic District, Plainfield, New Jersey.

In 1896, Tracy designed a Nurses' Home for the "old" Muhlenberg in the West End of Plainfield, and it was completed in 1897. In 1901, The Board of Governors of Muhlenberg selected nine architects to submit plans for the "new" Muhlenberg, Tracy and Swartout won the competition, and the plans were adopted in 1902. On December 28, 1903, the patients were transferred to the "new" Muhlenberg Hospital.

Tracy was not just an architect by trade. He was also a creative and curious soul and into the latest inventions of his time. He purchased a locomobile, "Best Built Car in America," and it was expensive and elegant. He thought so much of his locomobile that the archtitectural plans of his Hillside Avenue residence shows that he designed a large locomobile opening and door so that he could drive his locomobile right into the basement of his house. This no longer exists at the residence, but what a concept for 1900. The story goes that he also gave people rides around the city.

References are made that Tracy retired from the architectural firm in 1915, but in actuality he offered his services to the country in the Great World War (WWI). He entered the United States Army and commanded Co. 15 at the Pittsburgh Camp. He had an idea about camouflage, and he was appointed captain in charge, and later commissioned Major of Engineers, commanding the 40th Camouflage Regiment organized in France. His ideas of camouflage were used on ships and over two million soldiers were transported to Europe without a loss of life by German submarines. He became known to the French government, and Lieut. Colonel Tracy was selected to work on the reconstruction of France. He was in Paris for two months in 1922, when he developed heart disease and died in the American Hospital on January 31, 1922. He was survived by his wife Caroline and five sisters and one brother. (He was one of nine children of Jeremiah and Martha Sherman Evarts Tracy, and two of his brothers pre-deceased him.)
His military service during WWI was memorialized in the Plainfeld City Hall bronze memorial tablet.

Just who was Lieut. Evarts Tracy, perhaps his tombstone reveals the man:

"Sacred to the memory
Lieut. Col. Evarts Tracy
Born New York May 23, 1868
Died Paris January 31, 1922

An architect who in the service of beauty
erected noble buildings
A soldier who in the service of his country
won achievements expressing a valiant soul
As Major of Engineers
pioneer camouflage officer
in the United States Army
he performed important labors
was twice cited for bravery in action
and was
awarded the distinquished service medal

As a man and a friend he was loved."

[Hillside Cemetery, on a hill overlooking Muhlenberg Hopsital]

Much more needs to be learned about Lieut. Colonel Evarts Tracy including information about his design of the old Plainfield Police Headquarters, his locomobile history, complete listing of all his architecural designs and buildings, his camouflage military experience, his Plainfield educational experience, and a further look at the historic significance of the 1903 core Muhlenberg buildings. If anyone would like to assist, please call Nancy at (908) 757-0095.

Stay tuned!

Sources: Plainfield Courier-News, December 18, 1903, and February 1, 1922.
Muhlenberg Hospital, Plainfield, New Jersey, Report for 1903-1904, June, 1904.
History of Union County, New Jersey, 1864-1923, by A. Van Doren Honeyman, 1923.
Various internet websites.

[update No. 4, 11/4/09]
by Nancy A. Piwowar

Sunday, August 10, 2014