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Boston Business Leaders Take Over Public Schools, For A Day

BOSTON, October 28, 2003 - More than 55 corporate and civic leaders traded in their briefcases for book bags today and reported to the principal's office in public elementary, middle and high schools throughout the city to participate in Boston's first-ever Principal For A Dayä program. The executives shadowed principals and took part in classroom instruction, experiencing firsthand a day-in-the-life of students, teachers, staff and administrators in the nation's oldest public school system.

Assuming the role of principal were executives ranging from Liberty Mutual Group's Ted Kelly and Blue Cross Blue Shield's Bill Van Faasen to New England Patriots Safety Je'rod Cherry and FleetBoston Financial's Anne Finucane, each of whom got a glimpse of the challenges and opportunities Boston's urban school leaders face on a daily basis.

"Principal for a Day exceeded all our expectations and was a great start for ongoing collaboration between Boston's business community and public schools," said Chad Gifford, chairman and CEO of FleetBoston Financial and chairman of the board of the Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools. "Today's participants know that for the region's business community to be successful, our public schools must be successful. The men and women who filled the shoes of a principal today saw our urban district in a new light and renewed their commitment to addressing the challenges faced by our public school leaders and enhancing the learning environment in the city's schools."

Organized by the Boston Plan for Excellence and the Boston Public Schools and funded through a grant from the FleetBoston Financial Foundation, Principal For A Day is modeled on similar initiatives in New York and Chicago that have bolstered support for public education and built relationships among educators and business leaders in those cities.

"Education is the most important issue our city faces. Not only is a strong public school system vital in preparing a workforce for tomorrow, it will determine the viability of our city in the future," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "Public-private partnerships have been key to our success in genuinely transforming Boston's public schools over the past several years. I am pleased that so many of Boston's leaders took advantage of the opportunity today to get inside our schools, to see the progress that's being made and to be champions for work that still needs to get done."

After their school visits, executives met in a first-of-its-kind roundtable with Boston Mayor Menino, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Payzant, and Chad Gifford to share their experiences and observations and to offer insights and advice.

After his visit to Brighton High School, William Van Faasen, chairman, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts said, "Having the opportunity to spend time with Headmaster Skidmore and visit with the students and teachers, I was surprised and impressed by what I saw. But I also see that there is more we, as a community, can do. Today's students are the workforce of tomorrow and it's extremely important that my colleagues and I understand and respond to the challenges facing principals and teachers as they do their work in shaping the minds of these young people."

The executives participating in the first Principal For A Day program were a true reflection of the diversity of the Boston region. Professionals from health care, financial services, and communications sectors participated as well as leaders in higher education, government and the legal field. [Editor's note: A list of the participants and the school is attached.]

Boston is considered a pioneer in public education and a model of urban education reform. Over the past five years, under the direction of Superintendent Thomas Payzant, its public schools have undergone a dramatic transformation that has resulted in significantly higher standards for performance and improved accountability throughout the system. Working closely with the Boston Plan For Excellence, the district's ongoing comprehensive reform plan includes an intensive literacy effort at all levels, an innovative Collaborative Coaching and Learning approach aimed at improving and updating the skills of all its teachers and principals, and transformation of the district's high schools into smaller learning communities.

About the Boston Public Schools
The Boston Public Schools enroll 62,400 students each year among 139 elementary, middle and high schools. It is the nation's oldest public school system, formed in 1647 and includes the nation's oldest public school, Boston Latin School, and the oldest public elementary school, the Mather Elementary School in Dorchester.

About the Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools
The Boston Plan for Excellence is a not-for-profit organization established in 1984 with endowments from the Boston business community to support the city's public schools. The mission of the Boston Plan is to be a catalyst and support the Boston Public Schools in transforming instruction to improve the performance of every student. Principal For A Day is a registered trademark of PENCIL Inc.

About FleetBoston Financial Foundation
The FleetBoston Financial Foundation sustains a vital community-focused giving program in New England and across the Northeast. Through the FleetBoston Financial Foundation, the FleetBoston Financial Corporation demonstrates its strong civic leadership, community partnership and commitment to being a socially responsible corporate citizen by focusing its philanthropy to promote economic opportunity, youth development, public education and the arts and culture.

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