The Green Dot charter chain tried to sneak through a project to open a high school in Seattle’s south end as they had done with a middle school last year. Southeast Seattle is made up of minority communities which create a rich and diverse culture adding to the fabric of Seattle. Green Dot charter school franchise targets minority communities with the promise that they, and they alone, can provide for students the best education possible. This has not been the case.
When some community members found out about a plan that the Green Dot charter chain was to be part of a development in Southeast Seattle, red flags were raised and a zoning variance that Green Dot charter school was trying to push through the city came to a halt.
It was pointed out that the requested variance, which was being pushed through by someone in the Department of Neighborhoods with no authority to do so, was only applicable to public schools under the purview of the school district and therefore Green Dot, being a charter school, could not receive a zoning variance for the location they had chosen.
The Green Dot middle school received a variance for the Southeast Seattle location last year but that was done under the radar and illegally with the assistance of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.
As former Seattle School Board Director and co-founder of this blog Sue Peters states about the charter high school which is applicable to the junior high charter school as well:
Green Dot is violating the law. They are asking for a waiver from zoning law called a departure. But they have no legal right to make that request. Only the Seattle School District can legally do so, according to city law — specifically Seattle Municipal Code 23.79.002. Yet someone in the City worked with Green Dot behind the scenes and granted them one waiver already and want to grant them another.
City law (SMC 23.79) also states that the advisory committee that makes these zoning determinations must include a representative from the Seattle School District. That did not happen. So it was convened unlawfully by the Department of Neighborhoods.
Charter schools are also required to comply with local and state and federal law (See RCW 28A.710.040).
So Green Dot is committing violation after violation. It is never a level playing field with charter operators and backers. Too often they want rules and laws broken or special treatment that truly public schools are not granted. And then they have the audacity to claim to make apples to apples comparisons with truly public schools.
When the flag was raised about the Green Dot charter franchise requesting a variance for a high school in Southeast Seattle, the Seattle School Board unanimously passed a resolution that charter schools should not be afforded a variance because they are not considered public schools. For this school board vote, Director Zachary DeWolf recused himself because of his involvement as a Commissioner with the Seattle Housing Authority, the governing body that approved to sell city land to Homesight which is a development and financial group.
You can view that portion of the Seattle School Board meeting at 1:04:00:
It is interesting to note who is on the board of Homesight. On the board are Natalie Hester, Co-founder and Director of Impact Public Schools, an organization that promotes charter schools and is also on the board of Washington State Charter Schools Associations (WA Charters), Jen Wickens, CEO of Impact Public Schools, who was formerly with Summit charter schools and Virginia Freeburg, Director of Individual Giving at Seattle Preparatory School which is a private school. It is interesting to note there is no representation of Seattle PUBLIC schools are on this board.
Along with the school board’s resolution, there have also been protests at the construction site where the Green Dot junior high and high school are now to be co-located. Apparently Green Dot charter schools has decided to co-locate the high school with the junior high school rather than try again for a variance at the Othello location.
While all of this is happening, the legality of charter schools is again being challenged at the level of the State Supreme Court and is slated for review in April of this year.
The people of Seattle have voted three times against having charter schools in the state of Washington and it’s obvious that opinions have not changed. No one wants the privatization of public schools in Seattle. The few who do want charter schools stand to make a profit on the privatization of a public good.
Some of the people associated with Green Dot charter schools and its history
Green Dot charter schools have less than a stellar history.
I originally took notice of Green Dot during the time of the scandal in South Los Angeleswhen Ben Austin was hired by Green Dot founder Steve Barr to promote the school by any means necessary and that’s exactly what he did. Parents were duped into signing a petition to “turn around” their school. What the parents did not understand is that according to a new California law, that meant closing the school and thereby providing the opportunity for that school to be converted into a charter school. The parents were extremely upset about this once they discovered that their school was to be closed.
It was a scam.
This was termed the “Parent Trigger” and was written into legislation in Washington State with Initiative 1240.
The charter school established by Green Dot Corporation in Watts, California closed.
As Brett What wrote in his article Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models:
This is a story of a charter school in the Green Dot Public School system which, after four years of operation, is coming to an inglorious end. It is not an end to the system, or even to school itself, but an end in name and in so many exhausted careers used by Green Dot to experiment with failed policies in Watts, California.
Since then I have been following the Green Dot charter franchise and consider them on par with the KIPP charter school chain, both bottom feeders in the world of charter schools.
To follow are three key people associated with what is happening in Seattle.
After being caught with his hand in the Green Dot cookie jar in 2009, Green Dot founder and CEO Steve Barr, who is married to Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, an organization that populates charter schools with unqualified “teachers”, branded a new organization called Future is Now (FIN) and opened two charter schools in New Orleans while maintaining a seat on the Green Dot board.
Things didn’t go well for Barr’s new financial venture, even in a town where charter schools thrive. Barr’s new brand failed miserably where his school, John Mcdonogh High School, brought the School Performance Score down to a 9.3 out of 150. Two years after the school was established, Barr pulled up stakes again and the students once again became part of the diaspora that is the school population in New Orleans since Katrina.
From Diane Ravitch’s blog, Oprah’s Charter Schools Star in New Orleans is Closing Down:
It seems like only yesterday that the Oprah television network featured an exciting new charter school in New Orleans that promised to turn around the John McDonogh school. The new charter group was led by Steve Barr and his Future Is Now organization.
“One year after the Oprah television network featured New Orleans’ John McDonogh High School in “Blackboard Wars,” hoping to depict a successful charter school turnaround, the Recovery School District is dissolving the school. All staff members will lose their jobs.
“A fresh start. This school needs a fresh start,” Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard said of the school run by Future Is Now.
“Struggling charter schools have three years to prove themselves, and they can lose their authorization to operate after the fourth. However, the school known as John Mac is closing after only two years. The high school had the lowest performance score in the state in 2013, after alternative schools.
Mr. Petruzzi is a former hedge fund manager who took over the role of CEO for the Green Dot Corporation when Steve Barr founded FIN.
He will be discussed under the six reasons why Seattle does not need Green Dot charter schools anywhere in the vicinity.
Locally there is Bree Dusseault who founded four charter schools in New Orleans before moving to Seattle with her husband. Her first job in Seattle was with Bill Gates’ funded think tank the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE). Soon after Broad Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson hired her to be part of a new layer of bureaucracy as an Executive Director overseeing schools in a portion of the district. Ms. Dusseault immediately created quite the kerfuffle when she tried to oust a well loved high school principal based on student test scores. This was an attempt to instill the policy of Race to the Top (RTT) that Goodloe-Johnson was basically placed in Seattle to implement by the Broad Foundation. It didn’t work out for Goodloe-Johnson or Bree Dussault. After Goodloe-Johnson’s departure, Ms. Dussault founded WA charters in Seattle and is now Executive Director for Green Dot charter schools in Washington State.
Now getting to the seven reasons why Green Dot has no business in Seattle or any other city or town for that matter.
1. The impact of charter schools on the surrounding community
An example of the effect of a charter school on a community is exactly what we are seeing in Seattle now.
Sue Peters states the following about the impact a charter high school would have on Seattle’s Southeast community and the school district.
Pretend for a second that the proposed Green Dot school was not a charter school, but a proposal for just another public high school. Who in the city or district could justify spending taxpayer funds to build another high school within 1-3 miles of three other existing public high schools which all have space for more students? It would be fiscally irresponsible. This is no different. This is taxpayer money we are talking about, and public land it would occupy. Another school in that area is not needed. Furthermore, it will almost certainly negatively impact the existing neighboring schools by draining resources and students from them.
Now return to the fact that it is a charter school. What would it offer that Rainier Beach with its IB program, its aerospace program, its School Improvement Grant (SIG) and high graduation rates doesn’t already offer? What would it offer that Cleveland High School, with its successful STEM program, diversity, decent grad rates and popularity not offer? What would it offer that Franklin High School, one of the truly diverse high schools in the district – meaning, the student body is not comprised of any one, racial majority – academies and popularity offer? The answer is nothing. It is not needed.
2. Questionable practices:
Being a charter school franchise with little to no public oversight and no opportunity for parents and students to turn to a district school board or other outside governing body for relief, the CEO and internal board do as they see fit with little to no regard for city, state or federal regulations.
To follow are three examples of what Green Dot has tried to get away with.
Inappropriate behavior by staff:
Parents of a student who attended Green Dot charter school in Tacoma, Washington testified in a Charter School Commission meeting this January that their daughter had been sexually molested and the school’s response they felt was inadequate. They moved their student out of the school because the issue had not been dealt with, there had been no disciplinary process put into place and “race issues were thrown back in our faces”. The parents said that Green Dot was “not a steward of the community”.
Teachers changing answers on students tests:
From the Los Angeles Times:
The state has thrown out the test scores of a top-performing Los Angeles school and of the highest-scoring campus in the nationally known Green Dot charter group after cheating was uncovered involving several teachers.
Short Avenue Elementary in Del Rey and Animo Leadership Charter High School in Inglewood were barred from receiving academic rankings released last week by the California Department of Education. That action deprived the schools of the state rating that has become the key figure used by parents and officials to judge campuses in California.
At Short, three teachers are accused of changing answers or coaching students to the correct answers or both. At Animo Leadership, a science teacher is accused of fixing wrong answers.
The violation of students’ and parents’ rights:
Now, Green Dot, the retail chain that poses as an institution of education is facing new charges of gross misconduct: political repression of both students and retaliation against one particular teacher as well as Constitutional violations of the law.
Students, parents, staff & teachers are engaged in a campaign to protest the planned firing of Science Department Chair Mr. Friedman. Friedman is well respected and a “fabulous teacher” according to GD Human Resources Director Kelly Hurley. He has brought many science programs, scholarships to Anímo and has helped hundreds succeed and go on to college.
[Green Dot’s] Anímo Leadership students’ Constitutional Rights were violated by the on campus seizure in early May (by Principal Murcia) of student petitions collected outside school to protest the firing of History Department chair Sonia Del Pino. Students were called into the office, intimidated, forced to sign statements & petitions confiscated.
This violated CA Education Codes 48907 & 48950, US Supreme Court Decision Tinker vs. Des Moines and the US constitution. In response, Mr. Friedman called the American Civil Liberties Union & National Lawyers Guild to help protect students’ free speech rights. He helped organize a student/parent/ staff committee to defend their rights, the teachers’ contract & fight the Del Pino firing.
3. Lackluster overall performance:
The Green Dot charter school franchise promotes itself as a college-ready preparatory chain of schools promising high test scores and IB classes although the opposite is true.
As Sue Peters points out in her argument that placing a charter middle school and high school in a community already served by public schools:
We already have an example of a Green Dot charter school in WA–Destiny Middle School in Tacoma – and its state test results are not impressive. As many as 64 percent of their students failed the Smarter Balanced Language Arts test and 78 percent failed the SBA math test. Why replicate this?
And from Schools Matter:
Green Dot Corporate Charter Schools hold the dubious record of NINE of the lowest fifty average SAT scores in Los Angeles County for 2015. The billionaire backed charter chain, founded by corporate executive Barr and run by hedge fund manager Marco Petruzzi, group of SAT bottom dwellers leads all other charter chains in comprising 18% of the fifty worst. These schools were (lower numbers are worst performing):
• 4. Animo Locke Charter High School #1 (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1033
• 12. Animo Watts Charter High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1092
• 14. Animo Locke Charter High School #2 (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1104
• 16. Alain Leroy Locke High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1107
• 19. Animo Ralph Bunche High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1117
• 25. Animo Locke Technology High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1129
• 26. Animo Oscar De La Hoya Charter High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1129
• 34. Animo Jackie Robinson High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1150
• 50. Animo South Los Angeles Charter (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1180
The privately managed charter chain’s marketing slogan is “…all students graduate prepared for college, leadership and life.” These dismal SAT scores would seem to indicate otherwise. For context 1500 is considered the minimum threshold for college readiness, while 2052 was the composite average for Freshmen accepted into UCLA in 2013.
You can find a list of the SAT scores here.
4. The churn
There is the constant opening and closing of charter schools, many times with little to no notice to parents of the closing and the churning of teaching staff creates instability for students and the communities they live in. You can read what happened to Locke High School in Watts, California that was taken over by Green Dot which was led by Marco Petruzzi in the article Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models by Brett Wyatt. To follow is an excerpt.
I began to question the effectiveness of the Green Dot model after the first year, when over 30% of the teachers resigned. By my second year of teaching for Green Dot, both of the administrators whom hired me had to resign, as had the dean of the school. At the end of the first semester of my second year, another 30% of the teachers had left. Now, at the end of my second year, the school is being re-organized, only a small fraction of the remaining staff will transfer with it, and I have been re-assigned to a different and currently re-organized academy. First, I want to explore the numbers. Only two of the sixteen teachers from the original Locke Ace, who transferred to Locke II, will be moving on to Locke B academy. The new cluster re-organization will dis-aggregate the ninth grade into a separate academy to be housed in the main Locke HS building with the two of the grade10-12 academies. Locke A academy will move to the bungalow area in the back of the school.
Here is the churn that occurred at Green Dot’s Amino Locke II charter school in Los Angeles:
ANIMO LOCKE II ADMINISTRATION NOTICE OF TRANSFER Locke Cluster Coordinator Chad Soleo – Moved to a national outreach position of VP of Advancement due to his excellent service as Locke Cluster Coordinator.
FORCED RESIGNATION (2008-2012) Principal – Discrepancies in practice, test scores did not improve
FORCED RESIGNED (2008 -2012) Assistant Principal – There was a discrepancy during state testing, he left three days later.
RESIGNED (2008 – 2012) DEAN – Multiple incidences of being beaten by students
TRANSFER (2012-2013) Assistant Principal– Transferred from Locke Tech where he was reportedly attacked by students to Locke II, and now transferred to be the principal at an Animo middle school.(2012 – Present) INTERIM PRINCIPAL – Position to be made permanent 2013-2014 (2012 – Present) DEAN , being promoted to Administrator in Residence.
COUNSELORS (2011-Present) Three full time counselors have been at the school since 2011, no reports on their placements for 2013-2014
FULL TIME TEACHERS Note: Teach for America (TFA) Full Time Educator (FTE) Provisional – Teacher does without a clear credential
SPECIAL EDUCATION RESIGNED (2008-2013) TFA – Moving out of state
RESIGNED (2009-2013) FTE – Hired into another district
RESIGNED (2011-2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons
RESIGNED (2010-2012) Provisional – Left mid-year for personal reasons (2010 – Present) FTE (2010 – Present) Provisional
MATH RESIGNED (2011-2013) TFA – Leaving for personal reason, possibly leaving profession
TRANSFER (2010-Present) FTE – Transfer to Animo Pat Brown
TRANSFER (2010-Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th Grade Academy
TRANSFER (2010-Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th Grade Academy (2012-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2011-Present) TFA
SCIENCE RESIGNED (2002 – 2012) FTE – Moved out of state
RESIGNED (2009-2012) TFA – Left teaching profession
RESIGNED (2011-2012) Provisional – Left teaching profession
MEDICAL LEAVE (2010 – 2013) FTE – Return is uncertain (2011-Present) FTE (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA and Provisional
HISTORY RESIGNED (2011-2013) TFA – Hired into another district as administrator (2008 – Present) FTE (2010 – Present) TFA (2010 – Present) TFA (2011 – Present) FTE
ENGLISH RESIGNED (2008 – 2012) TFA – Left teaching profession
RESIGNED (2009-2012) TFA –Hired into another district
RESIGNED (2010-2012) FTE – Left teaching profession, resigned mid-year
RESIGNED (2011-2012) TFA and Provisional – Left teaching profession
RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Injured by student, Left mid-year for personal reasons
RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons
RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons (2010-Present) TFA
RESIGNED (2011-Present) TFA – Hired into another district.
TRANSFER (2011 – Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th grade academy
RESIGNED (2011) FTE – Left without a new assignment, (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2013 – Present) TFA
SPANISH TRANSFER (2010 – 2013) TFA – Taking new position at Animo Pat Brown (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2012 – Present) TFA
PHYSICS MEDICAL LEAVE (2011-2013) FTE – Injured after battery by student, left in January 2013
PE (2006-Present) FTE (2011 – Present) TFA
TECHNOLOGY RESIGNED (2011-2012) FTE – Left mid-year for personal reasons (After a series of long term subs, a new full time teacher has been hired in April)
DRAMA RESIGNED (2009-2013) FTE – Moving out of state
ART (2011 – Present) FTE
ENGINEERING RESIGNED (2011- 2012) TFA – Left for personal reasons
LONG TERM SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS – Used to fill in for resignations and accounted for about 15% of the teachers at Locke II.
LONG TERM SUB (2011-2012) CLEAR CREDENTIAL- Left to be full time PE teacher and athletic director in another district.
LONG TERM SUB (2011-2012) PROVISIONAL– Hired into Locke Tech
LONG TERM SUB (2012 – 2013) PROVISIONAL – Birth of child
LONG TERM SUB (2011-Present) PROVISIONAL
LONG TERM SUB (2013 – Present) PROVISIONAL
LONG TERM SUB (2013 – Present) PROVISIONAL
LONG TERM SUB (2013 – Present) CLEAR CREDENTIAL
Regarding little to no notice given by Green Dot charter schools to parents when a school is to be closed, or in the following case a public school being “reconstituted” by Green Dot, Fremont High, Ánimo/Green Dot Social Justice Charter, Menlo Adult School: SOUTH CENTRAL PROTESTS SCHOOL CLOSURES + smf’s 3¢.
Mirna Rico, a Fremont High School parent and activist, said, “The district still hasn’t notified us parents or the community. We heard about the reconstitution on the news. They’ve been stonewalling us, and it doesn’t give us a chance to decide what to do.”
School reconstitutions, like charter takeovers of public schools, are extremely disruptive to students and their families. Fremont representatives discussed the ongoing community efforts to save the school and invited people to go to their Web site.
Marlon Silva, a junior at Ánimo Justice and one of the student leaders, described the march to Green Dot. He explained how Petruzzi told all the press to leave before agreeing to meet with students and parents.
“Green Dot’s motto is parents and students have a voice and input,” Silva said, “but when this decision was made, the only thing Green Dot cared about was money. It’s a business behind a mask of a school.”
For more on charter school churn, see:
5. The use of public dollars with little to no oversight:
The Green Dot charter chain of schools has a CEO and an unelected in-house board. There is no oversight provided by a local school board. In this type of system, parents, students and teachers have no where to go with grievances outside of the charter school. This makes for frustrating circumstances for parents and students.
The example I used previously in this article is the incident that occurred at a Green Dot charter school in Tacoma. According to Melissa Westbrook who attended a charter school commission meeting recently, parents of a student who attended Green Dot testified that little to nothing had been done in response to their daughter being sexually assaulted at the charter school. The parents stated they withdrew their daughter from the school out of fear that something might happen again to their child.
They began to understand that the charter school commission had little to no say over what happens at a specific charter school, it is only the charter school and they are in complete control.
This is a lesson everyone needs to remember.
Ironically, the public money that went with the student to the charter school will not be returned to the school district even if the student returns to a public school. It’s just one less student the charter school has to worry about and yet they get to keep the cash for that school year.
There is also a lack of transparency in how the public dollars are used.
6. The money
The people who establish a charter school and run it, generally referred to as CEO’s and synonymous with Principals at a public school, pay themselves very well.
Mind you, the teachers are poorly paid and there is always skimping on books and supplies but there is a reason these folks establish charter schools and it’s all about the money.
Marco Petruzzi, CEO of the Green Dot Corporation, in 2013 made $279,478. Most charter schools do not post salaries as they do in public schools.
In 2014, CEO’s representing various charter school brought home the following:
There are many reasons why we don’t need the headache of a Green Dot charter school in our school district and probably more than I have outlined here.
Let’s just not look backwards one day and find new reasons why Green Dot was a bad idea.
Note: Melissa Westbrook at the Seattle Schools Community Forum is keeping up on this issue and is a recommended follow.
GREEN DOT CHARTER SCHOOLS: A CAUTIONARY TALE: This is a story of a charter school in the Green Dot Public School system which, after four years of operation, is coming to an inglorious end.
The Inside Story of a Green Dot charter school: Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models
The schools Steve Barr made: Green Dot Charters post NINE of lowest fifty SAT scores: “The lowest-performing, based on test scores, is the large Green Dot chain.” — Los Angeles Times
14 of 15 Green Dot schools are “failing” by Parent Revolution’s definition by Caroline Grannan and originally posted in the San Francisco Chronicle
Signing Their Rights Away:A series of court rulings suggests that students who attend charter schools do not have the same rights as public school students…
The Racist History of the Charter School Movement:Touted as the cure for what ails public education, charter schools have historical roots that are rarely discussed.
Updated: Hostile Charter Takeovers Sideline Communities: One of the top-down, private control education reformers most prominent tenants are hostile takeovers of neighborhood schools and turning them over to charter corporations.
Charter Schools:What is a charter school?
Do Profits Drive Desire for LAUSD Board Seat? Most of the time the charter school industry’s corporate leadership is able to craft their messaging so as to distract the populace from the real purposes undergirding their projects. But occasionally, someone in their sector goes off script and tells the truth about what chartering is all about.
K12 Inc.: Virtually Failing our Students: Yale Education Studies students research on equity, policy, school choice and desegregation