Thirty years ago, the chartering movement unleashed the potential of bold educators nationwide, inspiring these trailblazers to create a new era of high-quality and equitable public school opportunities. Here’s a quick look at just a few of the earliest chartering leaders whose lifelong commitment to making a positive impact on public education has generated better outcomes for thousands of students and families.
Veteran educator and public school administrator, Don Shalvey sponsored the first charter school in California – and second in the nation – while serving as Superintendent of San Carlos School District in the Bay Area. San Carlos Charter opened its doors to 85 students in 1993. In 1998, Shalvey founded Aspire Public Schools, one of the first charter management organizations in the country that now runs 40 college prep charter schools in low-income neighborhoods across California. He went on to assume a senior leadership role within the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, helping to spread successful instructional approaches in charter schools and traditional public schools. Today, Don has returned to his Central Valley roots and is founding San Joaquin A+to help improve education for local students.
John King grew up in New York and credits public school teachers for saving his life. In 1999, King launched Roxbury Prep in Boston, Massachusetts. Under his leadership, he helped close the achievement gap for students attending Roxbury Prep. King helped catalyze Uncommon Schools into one of the most successful charter management organizations in the United States, serving over 21,000 students in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. King later went on to become the New York State Education Commissioner, U.S. Secretary of Education under President Obama and president of The Education Trust. Today, John is running to be the first Black Governor of Maryland, bringing forward a bold equity and education agenda to help all types of public schools more effectively serve students and families.
Dr. Yvonne Chan came to the United States as an immigrant from Hong Kong at the age of 17. In the early 90’s, Chan went on to create Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, the first charter school in Los Angeles and the first conversion charter school in the country. These community-based charter schools have grown into a K-12 charter school organization serving over 3,000 students in the high-needs, mostly immigrant neighborhood of Pacoima. Chan served on the California State Board of Education for many years and led many delegations of students and educators to China to foster cross-cultural understanding and improved educational practice in both countries. Today, Yvonne is accepting a new responsibility of serving on the Los Angeles County Board of Education (LACOE) where she will provide direction and support to more than 1.4 million students.
Fernando Zuleta established one of the first charter schools in Florida and founded Academica in 1999 – a now global network of public charter schools, digital learning communities, colleges, and non-profit organizations. Academica developed a track record of improved outcomes for tens of thousands of students across the state and now serves more than 100,000 students in the United States. Today, Fernando is expanding Academica’s offerings into K-16 so that all students may complete an undergraduate education at no cost.
Now that we are 30 years into the chartering movement, we can step back and celebrate the stunning public school ecosystem pioneering educators contributed to, progress spanning decades and entire careers. And as new talent joins the chartering sector, we must keep in mind that, not only will their impact in service of students be felt immediately, but it will be magnified by their sustained commitment to public education.