UPDATE, January 23, 2012: On Tuesday, January 17, the LAUSD board granted Apple Academy a charter.
Read below for details on this story, previously reported here:
UPDATE, September 7, 2011: In "Blowback," an opinion blog of the Los Angeles Times, Caprice Young, at right, now on the board of Apple Academy, an announced charter school founded by Young's former nemesis, the former president of the United Teachers Los Angeles union A.J. Duffy, at left, defends and explains her enthusiasm about their cooperative venture.
...Duffy and City Councilman David Cunningham Jr., who had once represented most of South Los Angeles, later reached out to me, saying they wanted to start charter schools. I reached back. Together we recruited a solid board, including charter and business leaders. A strong core of talented teachers and dedicated families remains deeply engaged in this collaboration.
Our initial goal was to quickly submit new charters to L.A. Unified so we could open new schools this month. However, 30 days was not enough time to get the charter written, reviewed and approved by the school board for an on-time start of school, particularly with no funds.
Apple Academy is a labor of love for all of us volunteering to create great inner-city schools, which will open next fall.
There is more to this.
For 10 years, charter, union and district leaders have been at war, each worried that the others threaten their right to educate students, and perhaps even their existence as well. I've lived it, both as school board president and charter school leader. The state and districts force charters to educate students with fewer dollars and little access to reasonable school facilities, despite state laws mandating that they have access to equity. So all sides fight.
While we fight, funding for each California student has fallen to less than half as much as in New York or New Jersey. When all the public hears is fighting, they throw up their hands in disgust -- rightly.
Someone has to stop fighting so we can all focus on the kids. Did I think Duffy, the public caricature of a brash union leader, was nuts? Absolutely. But when I sit down and quietly listen to one man's aspirations for students and the teaching profession, I don't. One of the things he wrote to me was:
As UTLA president, I saw that despite the promises made by the district to pilot school leaders, the district just piled the bureaucratic rules back on and never made good on the promises of autonomy. The only way to make a difference is to have real independence. Besides, charters were started in the first place from the ideas of a real union leader -- Al Shanker -- he wanted teacher-led schools. I want teacher-led schools. I believe that will be best for the students.
I want that too.
Previously reported on this topic:
"If you were to put it in evangelical terms, this is about the best conversion I could hope for," Caprice Young, former president of the LAUSD school board and former director of the California Charter Schools Association (until ousted by a campaign led by AJ Duffy's, at left, UTLA union), told the Los Angeles Times. "I hesitate to describe it that way, because this is a collaboration. I've been willing to let go of my preconceived notions about someone with whom I've fought in the past."
Young is now a member of the board of Apple Academy Charter Public Schools, a group founded by Duffy, who has since moved off the board to become executive director. AACPS plans to submit a charter proposal for review and possible approval by the L.A. Unified School District in the next few weeks ...[and plans]... to open one or more schools in the South L.A. area by the fall of 2012 at the latest, according to the Times.
As the LA Times' Howard Blume reports:
The longtime anti-charter crusader [Duffy] wants to make it harder for teachers to earn tenure protections and wants to lengthen that process. He even wants to require teachers to demonstrate that they remain effective in the classroom if they want to keep their tenure protections.
And if a tenured teacher becomes ineffective, he wants to streamline dismissals. The process now in place can stretch out for several years, even with substantial evidence of gross misconduct. Some union leaders, notably Duffy, have defended this "due process" as a necessary protection against administrative abuses.
"I would make it 10 days if I could," Duffy now says of the length of the dismissal process.
These are not viewpoints ever advanced, condoned or accepted by United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents teachers and other professionals in the nation's second-largest school system. Duffy headed that union for six years, until term limits forced him from office in July.....
As his term in office ended, Duffy had a right to return to the classroom — he had been a teacher and a dean. But he hoped for a larger role. That chance came through an unexpected vehicle: a charter-school cheating scandal.
In 2010, when teachers at Crescendo charter schools reported that they were ordered to cheat on state standardized tests, they quickly joined UTLA for protection against retaliation. Duffy took up their cause and argued that the schools should remain open.
L.A. Unified ultimately voted to close Crescendo in July. Now, Duffy hopes to hire Crescendo teachers and attract former students....