Friday, February 24, 2012

Jim Manly: Parents Deserve the Best Customer Service on the Planet

My friend Jim Manly, the superstar principal of one of the Harlem Success charter schools (you may recall seeing him interviewed in The Lottery – see, with an AMAZING interview in the NYT.  Be sure to read all of it at the end of this email; here's an excerpt:

Q. You were a teacher in two more traditional public schools in New York City, and then worked for Teach for America and now the Success network, with people who have changed modern education. What have you learned from your experience working closely with Eva Moskowitz and Wendy Kopp and other reformers?

A. I see a lot of similarities in Eva and Wendy's drive and determination. There are so many people willing to say you're going too fast or you're being too bold or too aggressive and these things are incremental. For me there's a real urgency to this work. Both Eva and Wendy have been very helpful in making me understand that if you continue to listen to everybody's take-it-slow approach, we won't be there at the end of the day. They've been big influences on me in terms of how I want our teachers to view their work with their scholars, that there isn't always tomorrow. That this is day we've been given. Some people say, give the public schools more time. We've been hearing this for generations. These kids don't have more time. They don't get to say I'll wait five or six more years for this school to get fixed. By then they'll be in eighth grade, reading at a third grade level.

…Q. I told myself that I wouldn't treat you like the spokesman for the reform movement, but you seem to see yourself that way.

A. I do understand there are other issues, like job security and pensions that are real issues that that deserve an adult discussion. But at the same time, they're saying here's this evil empire trying to privatize schools? No, we're not. We're just trying to do this the right way for kids who for so long have been denied a quality education. Don't close us down. Don't make it impossible for kids to have an opportunity that they could only have dreamed about a few years ago. If they could come here they would see. We are getting dramatically different results. Sure, you could explain away 5 percentage points to parents being a little more motivated. But it's not even close. We pass 75 percent of our kids in the third grade test. The co-located school below us passed 22 percent. It's not even in the area code. It's a dramatic, dramatic difference. I've become more passionate about it. This should be more widespread.


Principal's Office

Jim Manly: Parents Deserve the Best Customer Service on the Planet

Feb. 13, 2012, 2:59 p.m.

By Maria Newman

In Principal's Office, a regular feature of SchoolBook, a city school principal is interviewed for insights into school management and the life of a school leader. What do you think makes a good principal? Join the conversation below.

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