Thursday, July 26, 2007

California Charter School Maverick

This was an interesting and provocative article in the NY Times this week. It's about Steve Barr, a charter school organizer in California who concentrates on high schools (which is the opposite of most charter school organizers).

From the article:

"In just seven years, Mr. Barr’s Green Dot Public Schools organization has founded 10 charter high schools and has won approval to open 10 more. Now, in his most aggressive challenge to the public school system, he is fighting to seize control of Locke Senior High, a gang-ridden school in Watts known as one of the city’s worst. A 15-year-old girl was killed by gunfire there in 2005.

In the process, Mr. Barr has fomented a teachers revolt against the Los Angeles Unified School District. He has driven a wedge through the city’s teachers union by welcoming organized labor — in contrast to other charter operators — and signing a contract with an upstart union. And he has mobilized thousands of black and Hispanic parents to demand better schools."

Later in the article:

"Green Dot organized a parents union, and its members, buttonholing neighbors in supermarkets and churches, collected 10,000 signatures endorsing Jefferson’s division into several smaller charter schools.

Mr. Barr marched from Jefferson High with nearly 1,000 parents to deliver the petition to district headquarters. The authorities refused to relinquish Jefferson, but the school board approved five new charters, which Green Dot inaugurated last fall, all near Jefferson and drawing students from it."

He organized a parents union? Now there's an idea. Not some nice little organization that comes pleading and hoping and wishing for a place at the table - no, he created a union. More to the point, he got people who traditionally don't get involved to be involved.

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