Last year as he was preparing to open a new middle school in Rhode Island, Osvaldo Jose Martí worked as an administrator, first at Blackstone Valley Prep’s existing middle school and then at one of their elementary schools. When the fourth graders there made the move up to middle school, it would be to Martí’s new school. The goal of embedding Martí in the elementary school from January until June: to ensure that both he and the fourth-graders who would become his inaugural class would be equally steeped in the culture of this young start-up charter network.
One moment stands out in Martí’s mind as a vivid reminder of the urgency of the work.
“On this particular day, I had spent the morning doing instructional rounds, popping into classrooms, and providing feedback to our teachers,” he wrote later. “As I walked the halls I came upon a teacher with a second-grade scholar who was walking to their classroom.”
“In three years, Mr. Martí will be your principal just like Ms. Colarusso is now,” the teacher told the boy.
“Full of innocence, the scholar looked at me and said, ‘Wait, how can you be a principal? You’re black,’” Martí,...