August 01, 2007
At exclusive Mills College in the upscale Oakland foothills, arriving fashionably late to meetings, lattes in hand, is considered good form. At American Indian Charter School in crime-ridden downtown Oakland, tardiness brings a swift kick in the derrière--latte or no. A Mills graduate student recently learned that lesson when he showed up late, coffee in hand, to a meeting with American Indian Charter's then-Principal Ben Chavis (himself a Native American), who turned his school into a high-scoring academic powerhouse. "I told [the grad student] he's a dumbass idiot," Chavis recalled. "An embarrassment to minorities. That's what I said. He came late. White people are on time. What does he think, there's black time? Mexican time? Indian time?" Chavis, alas, is no longer the school's principal; whether his exposition on timeliness expedited his departure is less clear. (He was criticized for other instances of roughness, such as when he purportedly punished a misbehaving student by making her clean the bathroom.) Whatever one thinks of Chavis's style, he produced awesome results. And he has produced students who are more likely to run a coffee corporation, not simply serve--or drink--coffee.
"Charter school principal who raised scores to leave," by Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, July 27, 2007
"Charter's notorious chief quits," by Katy Murphy, Oakland Tribune, July 27, 2007