A Matter of Choice Part 4

A Matter of Choice Part 4

S. E. Williams

Hardy Brown College Prep 1st graders celebrating the 100th day of school

This month, the Voice/Black Voice News explored aspects of the charter school movement, beginning with its both national and California origins. 

That examination included a look at the overarching objective of charter schools, including fostering competition to improve student performance, how well charter schools have delivered on their mandate over the last twenty-five years, and an examination of concerns over the future of traditional and charter public education under the stewardship of President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. 

This week begins the final installment in this series, presented in two parts and looking at charter schools through the eyes of one of the most successful charter school systems in the state. 

Fortune School President and CEO Margaret Fortune has established the Fortune School system as a model of success for all schools, particularly those committed to serving African American students in ways that successfully close the unforgiving and persistent achievement gap. 

Fortune recently shared insights regarding the charter school movement, beginning with the evolution and success of the Fortune School of Education in California. 

The Fortune School of Education was established as “Project Pipeline” in 1989 by her father, former school superintendent, Dr. Rex Fortune. It provided a vehicle to credential people of color, and thereby created a diverse pool of teaching candidates prepared to enter public education. Over the years, it has continued to credential math and science teachers for 70 school districts across the State of California.

In 2008, after serving as a Senior Advisor to former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, M. Fortune joined the Fortune School of Education. Under her leadership, the mission of the school expanded to include a system of tuition-free, college preparatory, public charter schools. 

“I decided to open charter schools once it became clear to me the government was not going to solve our problems regarding the African American achievement gap.” According to Ms. Fortune, this pressing need motivated her to leave her position as a senior advisor to the governor and pursue this objective. 

“I opened the Hardy Brown College Preparatory Charter School in 2010,” she shared, and quickly credited her success with the school’s opening to the committed work and support of a group of parents and grandparents in the San Bernardino community. She initially engaged with these individuals two years earlier at a meeting hosted by the Voice/Black Voice News. “I heard their concerns and promised to come back,” she stated. “That was in 2008.” 

According to Ms. Fortune, the concerns expressed by those parents and grandparents in 2008 were imminent and reasonable. Their desires reflected what all parents want: their students be able to read and be prepared for college. 

The Fortune School was born of a unique partnership between public charter schools and the Black Press. It partners with the Voice/ Black Voice News in San Bernardino and The Sacramento Observer Newspaper in the state capitol. 

In addition to its partnership with the Black Press, the Fortune School takes pride in its deep ties to the communities it serves. “We name all our schools after living, local African American icons,” she shared. “It is important we don’t change our focus.”

The Hardy Brown College Prep School in downtown San Bernardino is named for former Black Voice News publisher, Hardy Brown Sr. The K-12 school serves students across the inland region and operates with the guidance of an independent school board. “Our nonprofit Board of Directors must follow all the same rules of an elected board and are subject to the same audit guidelines,” Ms. Fortune explained. The school is authorized to operate for five years at a time by the San Bernardino School Board. 

Hardy Brown College Prep School is the highest performing charter school in the City of San Bernardino. To learn more about this tuition-free, innovative, successful educational option, there are student enrollment meetings scheduled for Friday, June 2 and Friday, June 16 at the school site, located at 655 W 2nd Street in San Bernardino, beginning at 10:00 a.m. To RSVP please call (909) 884-1410. 

The Fortune School is ranked in the top ten of all schools (traditional public and charter public) in the state among those with a student population that is at least 50 percent African-American and serve 50 percent or more students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. The state rank and similar schools rank are calculated using both Math and English/Language Arts scores from the 2015-16 year on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CASPP). 

Next week, this series will be made complete with Ms. Fortune’s insights regarding the push and pull between traditional public and charter public schools, as well as her thoughts regarding the future of education in the era of Trump.

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