Raising the Barr

Steve Barr has an "'Oh shucks, you know me--I can't control my mouth' persona," explains President of the California State Board of Education Ted Mitchell. It comes in handy as the Founder and Chairman of Green Dot, a charter school organization based in the Sunshine State. "He's a public curmudgeon and a private negotiator," continues Mitchell. This week's New Yorker profile of Barr is full of the gory details--from his own school experiences to Green Dot's hostile takeover of Locke High School, one of the worst in Los Angeles. His tactics range from tricky to aggressive as he kicks gangs out of schools, forms a parents' union to stand up to the teachers' one, and goes door-to-door recruiting students to fill his classrooms. Now, Green Dot hopes to found a national movement in cahoots with the American Federation of Teachers. The plan is to break up and remake thousands of failing schools across the nation, using Barr's number one ingredient of success, namely school reconstitution, and, maybe, availing itself of the union partnership to ease opposition. Green Dot certainly has shaken up L.A. Can it do the same to districts across the land?

"The Instigator," by Douglas McGray, The New Yorker, May 10, 2009

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