SUNY charter institute director to depart for New Orleans

(Photo courtesy Chartock)
(Photo courtesy Chartock)

The executive director of the State University of New York’s charter authorizer, Jonas Chartock, is leaving to lead a New Orleans-based teacher training program as it expands around the country, SUNY officials announced today.

Beginning in January, Chartock will head up the “Leading Educators” project. The group currently runs a professional development program in New Orleans aimed at keeping strong teachers in the classroom by grooming them for leadership positions that don’t take them away from students.

UPDATE: Chartock just weighed in with more details on the program. He will be charged with expanding the program around the United States, though he said that the group hasn’t yet finalized the first school districts and charter school chains where the program will initially grow. The national expansion won’t necessarily mean replicating the New Orleans program exactly as it is now, Chartock said, and part of his job will be to adapt the model for teachers in other school systems.

The program in New Orleans is currently part of New Leaders for New Schools, the Manhattan-based group whose co-founder, Jon Schnur, served as an advisor to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, but will become an independent non-profit, Chartock said. The “Leading Educators” program is modeled after a similar teacher training program launched in the United Kingdom by Jay Altman, who now runs a charter network in New Orleans.

Chartock, who has led SUNY’s charter authorizer since 2008, saw the institute through this spring’s battle over raising the state’s cap on charter schools. He will also be leaving at a challenging time for charter schools and their authorizers, which are adjusting to revisions to the charter law.

Chartock is set to finish his work at SUNY in November, and SUNY officials said today they intend to launch a national search for his replacement.

SUNY Charter Schools Institute Director Tapped to Lead National Non-Profit Focused on Teacher Leadership

Albany – SUNY Trustees Chairman Carl Hayden and Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher congratulated Jonas S. Chartock on his exemplary leadership as he announced his departure from the SUNY Charter Schools Institute to develop an innovative non-profit organization.  Chartock will step down from his role as Executive Director of the SUNY Charter Schools to become the Chief Executive Officer of New Orleans based Leading Educators, an organization focused on supporting and developing teacher-leaders as change agents to ensure high academic achievement for every student. Chartock will lead the organization’s national expansion.

Chartock, 35, is a nationally recognized authority on education reform, school choice, and the professional development of quality teachers. Chartock has led the Charter Schools Institute with distinction, making quality improvements to Institute practices, expanding the Institute’s collaboration with state and national charter and educational organizations, and refining and executing the authorizing policies of the SUNY Board of Trustees.

Chartock will leave the Institute on November 15, 2010 and will assume his duties as Leading Educator’s first CEO on January 10, 2011.

SUNY will begin a national search for Chartock’s replacement.

“Jonas has led SUNY’s Charter Schools Institute with integrity and an unbeatable energy and enthusiasm for doing this work of charter authorizing right,” said SUNY Board Chairman Carl T. Hayden.  “He has successfully navigated the Institute through challenging times, all the while continuing to seize new opportunities for moving the organization to the next level. He will be greatly missed.”

“It comes as no surprise that Leading Educators would turn to SUNY as the source for its first CEO” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “I know Jonas will bring the expertise and innovative thinking he demonstrated at the Charter Schools Institute to his new role. We will miss him and wish him all the best.”

Prior to joining the Institute, Chartock was the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Charter School Policy Institute (CSPI) in Austin, Texas, a position he held since 2005. At CSPI, Chartock led a high quality, web-based policy and research enterprise dedicated to better understanding the concept of school choice. Prior to joining CSPI, Mr. Chartock served as Executive Director of Teach For America in Houston, Texas, where he was responsible for ensuring the effectiveness of over 500 first- and second-year teachers. He began his professional career as a teacher through Teach For America in the Compton Unified School District in Compton, California.

Julie Mikuta of NewSchools Venture Fund and a board member of Leading Educators, said, “We are thrilled that Jonas will lead the expansion of Leading Educators. This innovative organization will help schools keep the strongest teachers in the field, by effectively training them to lead other teachers in their schools to produce high levels of student achievement. Jonas brings a rare combination of skills and experiences that will enable Leading Educators to serve teachers and school systems nationwide.”

“This is a most exciting and bittersweet transition,” said Chartock. “SUNY has more than earned its reputation as a national exemplar in charter authorizing and it has been my privilege to lead this dynamic organization.  I hope to continue my support of the Institute and all of the wonderful people I met in my time there in my new role, dedicated to creating teacher-leaders for the benefit of all public schools.”

The National roll-out of Leading Educators is a partnership with Absolute Return for Kids, Teaching Leaders U.K., New Leaders for New Schools, NewSchools Venture Fund, and FirstLine Schools.

“I am excited to work to bring to scale a unique program that develops and retains our best teacher leaders in order to help more teachers significantly raise student achievement in their classrooms and across their schools,” explained Chartock.

Mr. Chartock is an Ed.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, with an anticipated degree date of spring 2011. He holds an Ed.M. in School Leadership from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education; an M.A. in Education: Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University; and a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.


Newark schools would get $37.5 million boost under Gov. Murphy’s budget plan

PHOTO: OIT/Governor's Office
Gov. Phil Murphy gave his first budget address on Tuesday.

Newark just got some good news: Gov. Phil Murphy wants to give its schools their biggest budget increase since 2011.

State funding for the district would grow by 5 percent — or $37.5 million — next school year under Murphy’s budget plan, according to state figures released Thursday. Overall, state aid for K-12 education in Newark would rise to $787.6 million for the 2018-19 school year.

The funding boost could ease financial strain on the district, which has faced large deficits in recent years as more students enroll in charter schools — taking a growing chunk of district money with them. At the same time, the district faced years of flat funding from the state, which provides Newark with most of its education money.

“This increase begins to restore the deep cuts made to teaching and support staff and essential programs for students in district schools over the last seven years,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, who noted that a portion of the increase would go to Newark charter schools.

Newark’s boost is part of a nearly $284 million increase that Murphy is proposing for the state’s school-aid formula, which has not been properly funded since 2009. In the budget outline he released Tuesday, Murphy said the increase was the first installment in a four-year plan to fully fund the formula, which calls for about $1 billion more than the state currently spends on education.

Even with Murphy’s proposed boost, Newark’s state aid would still be about 14 percent less than what it’s entitled to under the formula, according to state projections.

Murphy, a Democrat, is counting on a series of tax hikes and other revenue sources — including legalized marijuana — to pay for his budget, which increases state spending by 4.2 percent over this fiscal year. He’ll need the support of his fellow Democrats who control the state legislature to pass those measures, but some have expressed concerns about parts of Murphy’s plan — in particular, his proposal to raise taxes on millionaires. They have until June 30 to agree on a budget.

In the meantime, Newark and other school districts will use the figures from Murphy’s plan to create preliminary budgets by the end of this month. They can revise their budgets later if the state’s final budget differs from Murphy’s outline.

At a school board meeting Tuesday before districts received their state-aid estimates, Interim Superintendent Robert Gregory said he had traveled to Trenton in December to tell members of Murphy’s team that the district was “running out of things to do” to close its budget gap. He said the district wasn’t expecting to immediately receive the full $140 million that it’s owed under the state formula. But Murphy’s plan suggested the governor would eventually send Newark the full amount.

“The governor’s address offers a promising sign,” Gregory said.

Civics lesson

With district’s blessing, Newark students join national school walkout against gun violence

PHOTO: Patrick Wall

Thousands of Newark students walked out of their schools Wednesday morning in a district-sanctioned protest that was part of a nationwide action calling for an end to gun violence.

At Barringer Academy of the Arts and Humanities in the North Ward, students gathered in the schoolyard alongside Mayor Ras Baraka and interim schools chief Robert Gregory, who offered support to the protesters and even distributed a “student protest week” curriculum to schools.

Just after 10 a.m., hundreds of students watched in silence as a group of their classmates stood in a row and released one orange balloon every minute for 17 minutes — a tribute to the 17 people fatally shot inside a high school in Parkland, Florida last month.

While the Barringer students and faculty mourned those victims they had never met, they also decried gun violence much closer to home: siblings and relatives who had been shot, times they were threatened with guns on the street. Principal Kimberly Honnick asked the crowd to remember Malik Bullock, who was a 16-year-old junior at Barringer when he was shot to death in the South Ward last April.

“Too many lives have been lost way too soon,” she said. “It is time for us to end the violence in our schools.”

School districts across the country have grappled with how to respond to walkouts, which were scheduled to occur at 10 a.m. in hundreds of schools. The student-led action, which was planned in the wake of the Florida mass shooting, is intended to pressure Congress to enact stricter gun laws.

Officials in some districts — including some in New Jersey — reportedly threatened to punish students who joined in the protest. But in Newark, officials embraced the event as a civics lesson for students and a necessary reminder to lawmakers that gun violence is not limited to headline-grabbing tragedies like the one in Parkland — for young people in many cities, it’s a fact of life.

“If there’s any group of people that should be opposed to the amount of guns that reach into our communities, it’s us,” Baraka said, adding that Newark police take over 500 guns off the street each year. “People in cities like Newark, New Jersey — cities that are predominantly filled with black and brown individuals who become victims of gun violence.”

On Friday, Gregory sent families a letter saying that the district was committed to keeping students safe in the wake of the Florida shooting. All school staff will receive training in the coming weeks on topics including “active shooter drills” and evacuation procedures, the letter said.

But the note also said the district wanted to support “students’ right to make their voices heard on this important issue.” Schools were sent a curriculum for this week with suggested lessons on youth activism and the gun-control debate. While students were free to opt out of Wednesday’s protests, high schools were expected to allow students to walk out of their buildings at the designated time while middle schools were encouraged to organize indoor events.

In an interview, Gregory said gun violence in Newark is not confined to mass shootings: At least one student here is killed in a shooting each year, he said — though there have not been any so far this year. Rather than accept such violence as inevitable, Gregory said schools should teach students that they have the power to collectively push for changes — even if that means letting them walk out of class.

“Instead of trying of trying to resist it, we wanted to encourage it,” he said. “That’s what makes America what it is.”

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Students released one balloon for each of the 17 people killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida last month.

After Barringer’s protest, where people waved signs saying “Love,” “Enough,” and “No to gun violence, several ninth-graders described what it’s like to live in communities where guns are prevalent — despite New Jersey’s tight gun restrictions.

Jason Inoa said he was held up by someone claiming to have a gun as he walked home. Destiny Muñoz said her older brother was shot by a police officer while a cousin was recently gunned down in Florida. The Parkland massacre only compounded her fear that nowhere is safe.

“With school shootings, you feel terrified,” she said. “You feel the same way you do about being outside in the streets.”

Even as the students called for tougher gun laws, they were ambivalent about bringing more police into their schools and neighborhoods. They noted that the Black Lives Matter movement, which they said they recently read about in their freshmen social studies class, called attention to black and Hispanic people who were treated harshly or even killed by police officers.

Ninth-grader Malik Bolding said it’s important to honor the victims of school shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida. But the country should also mourn the people who are killed in everyday gun violence and heed the protesters who are calling for it to end, he added.

“Gun violence is gun violence — it doesn’t matter who got shot,” he said. “Everybody should be heard.”