When Paul Cuffee School was founded it was done so with an independent and democratic spirit. That spirit is also alive and well in countless other independent, community charter schools like ours. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet leaders of such schools representing states across the country at the two day Independent Charter School Symposium held in Long Island City, NY. Joining me were Earl N. Smith III, Board President, and Maria Palmgren, Executive Assistant.
The first national conference of its kind, the 2017 Independent Charter School Symposium was organized by the Coalition of Community Charter Schools, a member-run organization of independent, public charter schools in New York City. It was a timely experience for me. First, I walked away with a greater understanding of how chartered schools first began in 1992. Since that time a lot has changed in public education and that matter continues to be of great political debate. Second, I learned more about the organization and management of charter schools. The system must be one where the student is the worker and knowledge is the product. Third, and most important, at a Town Hall Meeting, after working in a caucus including other charter schools representing the Northeast states, leaders from four Rhode Island independent public charter schools unequivocally affirmed a Manifesto consisting of eight democratic principles of the charter school movement: Equity, Autonomy and Accountability, Collaboration, Diversity, Innovation, Respect for Teachers, Governance & Community, and Quality.
It’s a great feeling to share among other charter schools nationwide something that is so fundamental to Paul Cuffee School’s core values. All public school children and public school teachers deserve to learn and work in schools where these eight principles live and are valued. I was most struck by the proposition of how charter schools can improve our democracy through accountability. The Manifesto states that “real accountability must be rooted in the development of the whole child and the needs of society to improve our democracy and cultivate citizens who can solve the intractable problems of our time.”
How do we improve our democracy? I think that for us, at Paul Cuffee School, it means we hold ourselves accountable to these eight abiding principles. Each of us, every day. What do you think about it? Please read the Manifesto and I encourage you to share your thoughts by sending me a note.
The very future of our democracy demands that we get it right.
Head of School