Sunday, July 07, 2013

Ryan Hill Speaking on Cami Anderson

Newark super (and ed warrior) Cami Anderson launched her “One Newark” plan in a speech on June 13. The founder and CEO of the incredible KIPP schools in Newark, Ryan Hill, introduced her with this brilliant, short speech focused on this line: “one thing has been consistent throughout the 14 years that I’ve known her: Cami Anderson is an unreasonable woman”:

Good Evening,

I’m Ryan Hill, the CEO and Founder of TEAM Charter Schools, representing five schools – soon to be six – and over 2000 students and alumni, all here in Newark.

Superintendent Anderson asked me to talk about leadership tonight, so I wanted to start with my favorite quote on the subject.  It goes like this:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one adapts the world to himself.  Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

All progress depends on the unreasonable man.  Or woman.

I’ve known Superintendent Anderson since I began teaching in New York back in 1999.  She was my boss and my mentor back then, and she’s a big part of the reason I opened TEAM Academy over a decade ago.  And of course I’ve followed her career as she took some of the hardest jobs in education in the country, from running District 79 in New York to now one of the toughest jobs on the planet, Superintendent of Newark.  And one thing has been consistent throughout the 14 years that I’ve known her:  Cami Anderson is an unreasonable woman. 

It was  unreasonable for Cami to think she could close a bunch of schools that were failing our kids here in Newark.  A lot of people said it couldn’t be done.

It was unreasonable for her to think she could get the best new teacher contract in the country, when many before her have tried, and failed.

It was unreasonable for her to give unprecedented levels of autonomy to the principals of the Renew schools she started, letting those closest to the kids make the decisions.

And now, with One Newark, Cami has an unreasonable vision for all of Newark’s kids. 

At TEAM Schools, we are no strangers to unreasonable visions. 

Our organization’s vision statement says that “One day, the world will know Newark, New Jersey, as a city of world-class public education.” 

Note that this does not just focus on TEAM Schools or about our own kids, but about our city, Newark.  Because, you see, the 2000 kids and families we serve in our five schools – they don’t care if we’re charter schools or district schools.  They just want GOOD schools.

The 8,700 students and families on our waitlist – they aren’t there because the sign on our building says charter, they just want a place to be safe and to learn. 

The 300 teachers we have hired over the years didn’t come to us just to teach the kids who happened to win our lottery, but also to be part of a movement that would see ALL the kids in Newark have great schools available to them.

So it has long been our unreasonable goal to be part of a citywide solution whereby every single kid in Newark has the very reasonable expectation that he or she could attend a school that you or I would be happy to send our own kids to.  And we believe the ONLY metric that should matter – the only number we should pay any attention to, is the number of kids who are in great schools.  Not great charter schools, not great district schools, just great schools.

So thank you to Superintendent Anderson for throwing down this gauntlet, and let me make some unreasonable predictions:

-If we act as One Newark, we WILL see the day when the voices of parents are heard over the noises of people competing for political points.

-If we act as One Newark, we WILL see the day when high expectations and belief in all of our city’s kids overpower the cynicism of skeptics and disbelievers.

-And if we act as One Newark, parents won’t have to worry about what kind of school their child attends, because they will all just be great schools.

From Governor Christie to Mayor Booker to Commissioner Cerf to Superintendent Anderson to my fellow charter leaders to all the people in this room like Clem Price and Maria Ortiz, to the teachers in our schools, and most of all to the kids and families of Newark, we are surrounded by unreasonable people with very reasonable dreams for our the kids in our city.  The education of our kids is a life-or-death matter of terrifying urgency, and all progress depends on the unreasonable  women and men in this room and in classrooms and homes across Newark.  So please welcome to the stage the exceptionally unreasonable Cami Anderson.

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