Bad timing

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