Monday, March 6, 2017

Who Rules Brookline's Park Corporation Day School?

At a March 19, 1998 meeting of the Brookline School Committee, Brookline’s Dexter Southfield private school—which was then called Dexter School—received approval for its proposal to expand its ninth-grade program at that time. A 1982 state law had required that local school committees in Massachusetts vote to approve the kind of program expansion that this private school was proposing.

But at this same March 19, 1998 meeting, then-Brookline School Committee member Helen Charlupski said, according to an April 2, 1998 Brookline Tab article by Jeremy Pawloski, that the Newton Street private school officials “have wonderful facilities, but they don’t share them with the town” and “there’s a frustration with non-profits who do not see any responsibility to towns in which they live.” The then-School Committee chairperson, Terry Kwan, also observed that “this institution has been very recalcitrant about payment in lieu of taxes to the town of Brookline.”

The same 1998 article noted that in 1997 then-Brookline Selectwoman Donna Kalikow and other town officials had met with Dexter private school officials “in a fruitless effort to secure community benefits for the town;” and that “an example of Dexter’s lack of community involvement” was “the school’s failure to allow the town to use its” then-new “indoor ice-skating rink at reduced prices.”

Yet Dexter Southfield may not be the only tax-exempt private school in Brookline that has not, historically, provided either enough “payment in lieu of taxes to the Town of Brookline” (to, for example, help fund Brookline’s underfunded public school system) or enough “community benefits for the town.”

According to the Town of Brookline 1969 Tax Lists, a daughter of Lammot Du Pont, Mary Du Pont Faulkner, apparently was assessed $15,043 in taxes on the property she still owned in the 1960’s at 235 and 255 Goddard Avenue. But in 2016 the “non-profit” Park School Corporation paid zero dollars in taxes on its private grade school campus property at 171 Goddard Avenue, according to the data from an Exempt Property Record Card that’s posted on the Town of Brookline Assessor’s website. Yet between 2007 and 2016 the assessed valuation of the Park School Corporation’s day school campus property increased from $25,906,000 to $49,764,900.

As Jeremy Pawloski noted in an April 19, 1998 Tab article, “though they use town amenities, including police, fire and other municipal services, for free,” Massachusetts’ constitution exempts private schools from paying property taxes. Yet Pawloski also reported in the same 1998 article that “in Brookline…the town has encouraged many local tax-exempt properties to make `payments in lieu of taxes’,” but, according to then-Deputy Town Administrator Brian Sullivan, “unfortunately for the town,” in 1998 “efforts to receive cash donations for services” had “all but fallen flat.”

First located in Brookline on Walnut Street when it was established (under a different name) in 1888 and following the Park School Corporation’s formation in 1923, the Park School was located in the 1960’s on 3.6 acres of land at Kennard and Hedges Road (where the Brookline public school system’s Lincoln grade school is now located).

But the Park School’s board of trustees, which then included a grandson of Lammot Du Pont and a son of Mary Du Pont Faulkner—Kim Faulkner—as one of its trustees, in the late 1960’s “concluded that” its private school’s Kennard Road “site and facilities were simply inadequate and that a new site should be acquired as soon as possible,” according to the Park School Corporation 2007 Spring Bulletin.

So, coincidentally, Park School Trustee Faulkner’s mother (who was born into an extended family that was described by Louis Rukeyser’s Business Almanac as “the wealthiest and most powerful dynasty in the United States” in 1991, “with a family fortune of over $8.6 billion” at that time) then “gave Park the incredibly generous gift of 14 acres of woods and fields on Goddard Avenue;” and “ground was broken in December 1969 to build the `new’ Park School,” according to the same 2007 Spring Bulletin. The donor of “the incredibly generous gift” received by the Park School, had previously inherited $250 million from her late father, Lammot Du Pont (who died in 1952), according to Gerard Colby’s Du Pont Dynasty book.

In September 1971, the Park School then opened on 14 acres of its current 34-acre campus, just across the street from Larz Anderson Park  (but on a different side of the park than Dexter Southfield’s campus); and the additional 20 acres of its Brookline campus were acquired when Mary Du Pont Faulkner donated 10 more acres of her Goddard Avenue property to the tax-exempt private school in 1980, and her son and daughter-in-law gave the Park School a first option to eventually buy the last 10 acres of the day school’s campus.

In recent years, around 540 grade school students have been enrolled in Brookline’s Park School private school and nearly 5,500 grade school students have been enrolled Brookline’s public schools. But although it paid less than $101 for the initial 14 acres of its Brookline campus that it received as a gift, the Park School has apparently not been eager to establish an open admissions and free tuition policy for all grade school age children of Brookline residents, whose parents might wish to enroll them at the Park School (where the average class size has been 14 students in recent years).
Instead, the “non-profit” Park School is requiring most of the parents whose children are enrolled there to pay $32,490 for a first and second-grade classroom seat, $33,890 for a third, fourth and fifth-grade classroom seat and $38,750 for a sixth, seventh and eighth-grade classroom seat during the 2016-2017 academic year.

Like Brookline’s Dexter Southfield private school, the Park School also claims to be a “non-profit” educational operation. Yet according to the Park School Corporation’s Form 990 financial filing for 2014, between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, the Park School’s total revenues of $33,704,139 exceeded its total expenses of $25,014,673 by $8,689,466; and its net assets increased from $63.5 million to $65.7 million during the same period. In addition, the value of the tax-exempt Park School’s endowment increased from $43.8 million to $48.4 million between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015.

The same Form 990 financial filing also indicated that between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, the Park School paid both an annual base salary/total annual compensation of $145,335 to former Head of School Jerry Katz and an annual base salary of $248,895/total annual compensation of $411,840 to its then-Head of School Michael Robinson. In addition, tax-exempt bonds of $9,435,000 on February 21, 2007 and $14,025,500 on April 1, 2012 were issued by the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency to apparently finance and refinance private school building construction costs, according to the same 2014 Form 990 financial filing.

The Park School’s board of trustees may still not be too interested in paying more property taxes or payment in lieu of taxes to help the Town of Brookline fund its public school system (which requires around $108 million each year to operate); or in providing more community benefits (such as, for example, open admissions and free tuition for all children of Brookline residents). One reason might be because some of the wealthy folks on its board of trustees have perhaps been more interested in apparently using hedge fund money to speculate and attempt to profit from for-profit U.S. health industry firm stock ownership, searching for lucrative real estate development deals, sitting on U.S. federal court judicial benches or filling high Massachusetts state government agency posts?

Park School Trustee Conan Laughlin, for example, manages North Tide Capital (a $2.9 billion hedge fund firm whose offices are located at 500 Boylston Street in Boston), which apparently makes 88 percent of its speculative investments in for-profit health care industry corporations like the following: Select Medical Holding Corporation (in which it owned $163 million worth of stock in September 2016); the Tivity Health Inc./Healthways fitness centers industry firm (on whose corporate board Laughlin also sits); and the Community Health Systems chain of 158 for-profit hospitals in 22 states (in which North Tide Capital owned $34.1 million worth of stock in September 2016).

Coincidentally, a 2015 study revealed that 7 of the 10 hospitals in the United States which charged their uninsured patients the highest medical costs above what Medicare allowed in 2012 were for-profit hospitals owned, operate or leased by Community Health Systems [CHS]’s hospital chain affiliates. And according to a May 18, 2016 National Nurses United [NNU] labor union press release, “CHS has engaged in rampant and serious unfair labor practices at their hospitals, including terminating Registered Nurses [RN] leaders in a wide scale attempt to weaken support for the union and forestall reaching initial collective bargaining agreements.”

Another Park School trustee, Seth Brennan, is a co-founder and Managing Partner of Lincoln Peak Capital: a speculation/investment firm (with offices at 177 Huntington Avenue in Boston) that is “focused exclusively on investing in asset management firms” and which “currently has minority equity investments in five asset management firms which collectively manage over $55 billion in assets,” according to Lincoln Peak Capital’s website. In addition, Brennan also sits on Artisan Partners Asset Management’s corporate board and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s board of overseers.

The founder of the Corbelis residential land development/dealmaking firm and the Henley USA Head, Garrett Solomon, is also a Park School trustee. According to the London-based Henley private equity real estate investment/dealmaking firm’s website, in 2015 Henley “launched its first USA business” which “was underpinned with the announcement of Henley USA headed by Garrett Solomon and his team from Corbelis in Boston;” and it “has an active pipeline of deals” and “is aiming to have a business the same size as its European operation within short order,” where “total equity invested per deal currently range from $5 million to $150 million.”

Other members of the Park School’s board of trustees in recent years have included: the for-profit New Century Health CEO Atul Dhir; U.S. Federal Court Judge Denise Jefferson-Casper; and the current Undersecretary and Chief Operating Officer of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Stephanie Neal-Johnson. In addition, Boston Public Library Trustee Laura De Bonis, a former Director of Library Partnerships for Google Book Service, has also sat on the Park School’s board of trustees in recent years.

Perhaps the time has come, however, for more local community-elected Brookline School Committee members and local Town officials to now be included on the board of trustees of “non-profit” Brookline private schools like the Park School (instead of top executives and officials of external for-profit corporations or state and federal external organizations)--in order to increase likelihood that Brookline’s private schools begin serving the local community’s public interest more in Brookline on their privately-controlled campus sites?

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