PHILADELPHIA: This Friday, Edison Schools, the nation's largest for-profit manager of public schools, will learn whether it has been selected to lead the complete overhaul of Philadelphia's education system. And on April 17, it will hear back on its bid to assume control of up to 100 of the district's most troubled facilities.But as far as its PR efforts go, the New York-based company has already settled in.
"The whole country is looking at what is going on in Philadelphia,
said VP of communications Adam Tucker, who a few weeks ago established an outpost in the city. "It has been helpful for us to be here, to be able to respond as rapidly as possible, and to emphasize that this is not all about Edison - it's about school reform."
Edison has also been working on a deal that would move its New York headquarters from Midtown to Harlem. A year ago, parents in that borough were among those who nixed Edison's efforts to take over the operation of five city schools. "We've been going door to door, talking to members of the community,
said Tucker. "We had a rough time last winter, but this time, it's been a much more organic process."
Both real estate transactions could better position publicly traded Edison with its primary stakeholders. Of the 75,000 students attending the 136 schools Edison currently operates, 84% are minorities. Seven in 10 are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
"There are people who feel very passionately about the private management of schools,
explained Tim Reeves, president of Neiman Communications, a Harrisburg, PA agency that has been advising the company on its Philadelphia strategy. "It's been said that the company doesn't have competitors - it has enemies. If those opponents can attack Edison, they can attack the entire movement."