Monday, January 30, 2012

Whistle-blowing teachers to open a charter school

Normally the approval of a charter school isn't a lead item on my email, but the approval of the new Apple Academy in LA is particularly interesting for two reasons: A) some of the founders are teachers who blew the whistle on a cheating scandal that led to the closure of the six-school Crescendo charter network; and B) because of the partnership between my friend Caprice Young, a true reform warrior (former LA School Board member, founder of the CA Charter Schools Assoc, chair of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; her bio is at: and former LA union head A.J. Duffy, who, as union head, waged a war against Caprice that led to her being voted off the LA School Board.  Here's what I wrote about him last September (

STOP THE PRESSES!  To understand how important it is that former LA union head AJ Duffy is now talking about basically dumping tenure rules, you must understand what kind of union leader he was: the oldest of the old guard, not a reform bone in his body, the worst of the worst – so bad, in fact, that he was GOOD for reformers because he drove people to our side with his behavior.  He was so bad that, in one of the all-time classic lines, Steve Barr called him a "pig f**ker" – sort of (  

So is Duffy's fear off base that Barr might be creaming the top of the student population, selecting only the most capable? "It's bullshit," says Barr. "It's like me saying, 'Duffy's a pig f**ker.' Have I seen him f**k a pig? Do I have photos? No. So I can't say it. He should check these things out before he says them."

And now that the shoe is on the other foot and he's starting a charter school?  Here's what he's saying:

A.J. Duffy, who headed a teachers union that has long fought against charter schools, now is starting his own. And some of his ideas are going to trouble some educators and his friends in the labor movement.

The longtime anti-charter crusader wants to make it harder for teachers to earn tenure protections and wants to lengthen that process. He even wants to require teachers to demonstrate that they remain effective in the classroom if they want to keep their tenure protections.

And if a tenured teacher becomes ineffective, he wants to streamline dismissals. The process now in place can stretch out for several years, even with substantial evidence of gross misconduct. Some union leaders, notably Duffy, have defended this "due process" as a necessary protection against administrative abuses.

"I would make it 10 days if I could," Duffy now says of the length of the dismissal process.

These are not viewpoints ever advanced, condoned or accepted by United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents teachers and other professionals in the nation's second-largest school system. Duffy headed that union for six years, until term limits forced him from office in July.

I hope reformers are embracing him with open arms – I love converts!  They're extra powerful – for exhibit A, see Diane Ravitch.

I also love the fact that my friend Caprice Young (who, among other things, was the board chair of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; she recruited me to the board) is on Duffy's board – the very person he helped drive out of office!

Among those on his board: Former school board President Caprice Young, who went on to head the California Charter Schools Assn., after the teachers union mounted a successful campaign to oust her in 2003. Duffy was a union activist then; he became president in 2005, joining an anti-charter union leadership.

"If you were to put it in evangelical terms, this is about the best conversion I could hope for," said Young, who now heads a nonprofit teacher-recruiting effort. "I hesitate to describe it that way, because this is a collaboration. I've been willing to let go of my preconceived notions about someone with whom I've fought in the past."

And what does Duffy's successor think of his new direction?  Not much -- LOL!

Former UTLA President John Perez said he wished Duffy well but said he could not endorse Duffy's new direction. Charter school operators, he said, are laying the groundwork for using public-school funds at private schools through so-called vouchers.

They're also opening the door for corporations "who want to destroy public education by getting their hands on the hundreds of billions of dollars we spend on public education in this country," Perez said.

Thanks for coming over from the dark side, A.J. – I wish you, Caprice and Apple Academy the best of luck!


Whistle-blowing teachers to open a charter school

They lost their jobs during a cheating scandal at Crescendo schools. Former union chief and charter foe A.J. Duffy will lead them.

A.J. Duffy, left, former teachers union leader and director of the new charter school, celebrates its approval with teachers Elise Sargent and Tanisha Patel and with David Cunningham Jr., president of the Apple Academy board. (Katie Falkenberg, For The Times / January 17, 2012)


By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

January 18, 2012,0,4988587.story

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