I was raised by a special education teacher and a juvenile probation officer/Unitarian Minister who took in more than 24 foster kids before I went to college. Childcare in our family was licking stamps for McGovern. I learned organizing and protest by the time I was six. After serving as a US Senate Page for SI Hayakawa, I received a letter of recommendation for college from Democrat William Proxmire, a man I greatly respected. After I graduated from college and completed my Coro Fellowship (during which I did not work for Riordan because he hadn’t yet been elected Mayor), I was the Director of a community non-profit program serving high risk kids. A Coro mentor convinced me to come work in transportation instead of going to law school (I had been accepted to the Carter Center at Emory). Making lots of money has never been my primary motivation. I have moved consistently into positions where I could make the biggest positive difference for the community. If I had wanted to make a ton of money, I would have stayed at the MTA, where by now I would be making $150,000+ and have more than 20 years into a pension system that would pay me my full salary and health benefits from the time I reached 55 on. Then, I could have a whole extra career with no financial worries. If I were to save enough money to have an equivalent pension, I would need more than $5 million in the bank… Clearly the life of a serial do-gooder hasn’t gotten me anywhere close.
I did get paid well. By then I had a master’s degree, experience raising millions of dollars for good causes and a solid managerial track record. If someone else had been willing to take the job, I could have happily gone back to IBM, but I wanted to serve. And I worked hard. I worked 80-90 hour weeks and traveled up and down the state constantly seeking out educators and parents who wanted to create great schools. I am proud to have been able to develop resources for them and to be their political shield while they served the kids.
My board was carefully balanced to include school leaders, community leaders and funders. The give and take was fierce and very valuable. The give and take led to kid-centric strategies. We made tough calls to hold our own charter schools accountable for their ability or inability to educate kids. And, we advocated for all charter schools to be fully funded and fairly treated.
I am really glad that Democrats for Education Reform (on whose founding board I served) was lucky enough to attract Gloria Romero. She is a fighter for the rights of inner city and rural families, especially immigrant kids, and a constant fighter for their right to a high quality public education. She has proven that improving public education is not just a concern of Republicans. That's a Kids first agenda.
You expressed concern that I have de-professionalized the teaching industry. I believe I have done just the opposite. Teachers choose to teach in charters because they have a real say in the management of the school and the instructional strategies, and are willing to take responsibility for educating their kids. The charter leadership teams that have failed to keep that promise to teachers have found it increasingly difficult to recruit teachers and have sometimes seen their schools close. Charters are not just schools of choice for families, but also teachers. I am working right now with AJ Duffy to extend that collaboration to union represented teachers. That’s a volunteer thing for me and I am happy to support him and the teachers creating the Apple Academy schools.
Our teachers are anything but “desperate, compliant, cheap labor that can teach those hard-to-place subjects of Math and Science.” They are seasoned professionals who know how hard it is to find engineers, mathematicians, scientists and techies with creativity and strong technical skills to invent the products and solutions our word needs. They have left often high paying positions to start over as newbie teachers to learn a new craft and help train the next generation.
You say,”There are thousands of fully-credentialed MATH/SCIENCE teachers without a job right now in California.” Well, there are plenty of schools looking for them so send them my way and I’ll see what I can do. I can’t get them a job, but I can put them in touch with schools that are hiring. Lots of schools are looking for special education teachers too.
At our Boot Camp training, we focus of helping the future teachers to learn classroom management skills, to set high expectations, to hold students’ interest and to help students to succeed. We help teachers to lead their classrooms of students to academic success. When we use the metaphor of training teacher to be the "CEO's of their classroom,” we mean that they are in charge and responsible for student learning. Is that a bad thing? As a parent, I want my kids to be taught by expert teachers with real life science experience. That means that the more we can get teachers supported by science industries and get scientists to become teachers, the better. It’s a chocolate and peanut butter thing. We also work with math and science teachers with no industry experience to help them get access to science and math professionals as guest teachers, as well as to industries and labs to enrich their teaching.
And, our program lasts two full years, although some can do it in 18 months. They have to do the same university courses and internships as any other teacher AND another 20 weeks of specialized pre-service.
As for Dr. Diane Ravitch, I was really bummed that she called in to speak at your event and then wasn’t allowed to speak. I’ve heard so much about her since I now sit in her former seat on the Fordham board. I was looking forward to hearing her.