Richard Whitmire writes a great article about Linda Brown. It's called "Meet The Grandmother Of America's Best Charter Schools."
I've written about Linda and her colleague Sue here and here and here. Match is a child (grandchild?) of what has become Building Excellent Schools (BES).
Back to D.C.’s Shantelle Wright, who, like me, had never heard of BES until she was handed a brochure. Her reaction: You mean they pay you to do what I desperately want to do? Immediately, she threw herself into the application, finished it at 5 p.m. and pushed “send” while muttering a hopeful prayer.
Brown looked it over as soon as it arrived, and was floored. The essay was 13 pages long, single space. There was no white space, not even between the paragraphs.
“This essay was on fire,” said Brown. “She talked about how the vast black/white school achievement gap is not only a black person’s problem; this is also a white person’s problem: Why can’t we have decent schools east of the Anacostia (the poorest neighborhoods in the District)?”
The tone was more analytical than angry, but the passion was clear. Brown wanted a meeting.
At 7 a.m. the next morning, Brown phoned Wright at home. Says she woke her up: When can you be here?
Wright: When do you want me?
Brown: Can you be on the next shuttle to Boston?
Wright made the 9 a.m. shuttle and sat down with Brown for a long talk. At the end of the talk, she was offered a fellowship. That’s how Brown rolls. Today, Shantelle Wright sits on BES’ board of directors.
Last year, I was hosting a delegation from Kenya's parliament, their education committee. They visited Shantelle's school, among many other stops.
At the end of a week, I asked them: what have you learned? What can you take back with you to help kids in Kenya?
Remarkably, all 7 said the same thing: We need more Shantelle Wright's.
But for Linda Brown, Sue Walsh, and BES, I'm sure Shantelle would have a thriving career doing something, maybe corporate law....but not probably not creating amazing schools.