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California lost a giant in the field of education on January 29, 2023, with the passing of Dr. Rex Fortune. A powerful voice for the most vulnerable students and a valiant warrior in the continuing effort to close the education achievement gap for Black students. Recently, Black Voice News spoke with his daughter, Dr. Margaret Fortune, a premiere educator and advocate in her own right, about her work and the lasting and meaningful impact of her father’s life.
Dr. Margaret Fortune, CEO of the Fortune School of Education (FSE), is on a mission to close the African-American achievement gap by getting scholars ready for college, starting in preschool and going all the way through 12th grade. In a recent interview with Black Voice News, Dr. Fortune stated, “It is a labor of love. I was inspired by my father Dr. Rex Fortune, who was an educator with the same passion.”
Dr. Rex Fortune was a school superintendent for over 20 years, and founded FSE in 1989. The organization was created to credential teachers of color in shortage areas like math and science. Dr. Margaret Fortune has since built the organization to include a network of public charter schools focused on closing the Black achievement gap. She explained, “We had done work with teachers and administrators since 1989 in traditional public schools, and we just felt that it was time to expand our mandate, to get in the classroom and do the work that we know how to do ourselves. As a result, we’ve founded 12 schools since 2010.”
Dr. Fortune’s father, Dr. Rex Fortune, played an instrumental role in shaping her career. She said, “He wrote books about educators who have been successful with Black students and we like to put those practices in place at Fortune School. I think there’s a certain amount of humility in acknowledging your colleagues who are doing excellent work, and sitting at their feet and learning from them. I’ve just been really blessed to be able to encounter people along the way who teach us on the journey.”
Dr. Fortune’s dedication to education has earned her several awards, including the NAACP Woman of the Year award. When asked if she ever gets surprised when people and organizations recognize her achievements, she stated, “The NAACP Woman of the Year Award was a real surprise and an honor. I’ve served in the San Bernardino community since 2008, having founded Hardy Brown College Prep, which is now a PK-8 school. We just opened Fortune preschool on that site, a couple months ago. So it’s just an honor to serve the community, and really gratifying to be recognized for the work.”
Dr. Fortune is a role model for young Black women interested in pursuing careers in education. Her advice to them is to research successful people and organizations, learn from their experiences, and be humble. She stated, “I firmly believe in researching other successful people in organizations, who do what I do better than I do it. That’s something that my father did as well.”
FSE is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and has received several awards and recognitions for its work in improving education for Black students. The organization’s success is due in part to its focus on preparing students for college from an early age, providing them with a rigorous curriculum, and ensuring that they receive the necessary support to succeed academically.
Looking ahead, Dr. Fortune outlined three priorities for the future of the organization. Firstly, she emphasized the importance of advocating for the support of Black students in California, who are currently not receiving the same level of funding and accountability as other high-needs groups. Despite Black students having academic performance comparable to other high-needs groups, they are not officially considered as such. Thus, Dr. Fortune co-founded the Black in School Coalition to raise awareness and push for change.
Secondly, FSE plans to expand their work in preschool education for African-American children, as it is a critical stage in a child’s development. With their recent launch of Fortune Preschool in San Bernardino and Elk Grove, Dr. Fortune intends to take the program statewide and offer it in communities that value the early education of Black children.
Finally, FSE has received recognition from the Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education as a degree-granting institution and will launch a master’s program in education and social justice. This new program will serve as a pathway towards Fortune School becoming a Black college on the west coast, as they seek to further their mission of preparing teachers who are equipped to serve their communities with equity and justice.
But perhaps most importantly, the organization is dedicated to creating a community of learners. Dr. Margaret Fortune has emphasized the importance of building relationships with students and their families, and the schools prioritize parent involvement and engagement. By creating a sense of community and belonging, the Fortune School of Education is helping to prepare the next generation of leaders and change-makers.
Dr. Margaret Fortune’s passion for education and dedication to closing the African American achievement gap is ongoing. Her father’s legacy and teachings have helped shape her career, and she continues to pass on that knowledge to the next generation.