The Charter School Wars

Insight from a Charter School Innovator

by Thomas Lubben (Author)
©2017 Textbook X, 130 Pages


Educational reform has been a topic of scholarly conversation for a long time, but little significant movement toward action has been made. Charter schools were discussed in varied forms throughout the 1980s, but it was not until 1991 that the State of Minnesota put charter school law into practice. Thomas Lubben entered the charter school world in 1996 when the State of Pennsylvania was in the process of discussing its law that was passed the same year. The Charter School Wars closely follows the personal life of a lifelong educator as he negotiated the political and personal steps involved in creating a school from nothing. The first several chapters focus on the obstacles and pitfalls that the author faced during the seven-year struggle to create a charter high school based on the creative and performing arts. Later chapters focus on the expansion of this proven artistic model into additional schools. Lubben compliments the personal narrative with a chapter, "A Charter School Primer," that focuses on the critical elements needed to open a charter school. Charter school parents, teachers, administrators, and enthusiasts will find this book an interesting and poignant read as they navigate their way through the charter school landscape.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Chapter One: Renegade Training
  • A—The Formative Years
  • B—The “Only Child” Syndrome
  • C—Educational Roots
  • Chapter Two: Struck by Lightning
  • A—The Idea Takes Shape (1995–1997)
  • B—Meeting the School Leaders
  • C—New Jersey Retirement, 1996
  • D—The Pennsylvania Charter Law Progressed
  • E—Field Trip
  • Chapter Three: LVPA-School #1: The Search for Approval (1997–2002)
  • A—School Board Approval
  • B—The Public Hearing Phase
  • C—“The Halloween Massacre,” October 31, 1997
  • D—Actions Provisional at Best
  • E—The Building Searches, Phase I
  • F—Unamuno: “Only he who attempts the ridiculous will achieve the impossible.”
  • G—Searching For the Money Tree
  • H—“New Facility Options”
  • Chapter Four: The Interlude (1996–2002)
  • A—Escape into the Arts
  • B—Back to School
  • C—The Charter School Management Experience
  • Chapter Five: The Reawakening
  • A—The Curtain Falls
  • B—The Curtain Rises Almost
  • C—New Players in the Game
  • D—Divine Intervention
  • E—Final Site Selection
  • F—Our Founding Board
  • G—Countdown to Opening
  • 1: Identifying a Principal
  • 2: Hiring Staff
  • 3: Secure Health Benefits
  • 4: Purchase Insurances
  • 5: Order Furniture
  • 6: Order Textbooks
  • 7: Incorporate Technology
  • 8: Determine Food Service
  • 9: Copy Machines
  • 10: Open Bank Accounts and Secure Loans
  • Chapter Six: The Home Stretch—Six Months to Opening
  • A—Student Recruitment
  • B—Staff Recruitment
  • C—Construction Work
  • D—March to June 2003
  • E—July 2003
  • Chapter Seven: The Phoenix Rises—(Storming to Norming, 2003–2006)
  • A—Leadership
  • B—Finances
  • C—Students
  • D—Faculty
  • E—Board Development
  • Chapter Eight: The LVPA Years
  • A—2003–2004
  • B—2004–2005
  • C—Turmoil Leads to Norming
  • D—The LAST Years at the FIRST Dream, 2006–2010
  • E—The Transition of Leadership
  • F—Search for New and Expended Space
  • G—Toward Retirement
  • Chapter Nine: Life After LVPA
  • A—Initial Retirement
  • B—Family Upheaval
  • C—The Atiyeh Years
  • D—Arts Middle School
  • Chapter Ten: The Emergence of TLC-Art Schools
  • Chapter Eleven: The Allentown Adventure
  • A—The Allentown Phone Call
  • B—From Allentown to Autism
  • C—The Allentown Denial
  • D—Family Changes
  • E—Allentown Resurfaces
  • Chapter Twelve: Toward Expansion
  • A—Reading
  • B—Pocono Mountains
  • C—Easton
  • D—The Easton-Pocono Conflict
  • E—On to Easton
  • Chapter Thirteen: The “Caleb” Years
  • Chapter Fourteen: Lessons Learned: A Charter School Primer
  • A. Board Selection, Identification, and Development
  • a. Board Recruitment
  • b. Preliminary Meeting
  • c. Roberts Rules and By-Laws
  • d. In-Service and Board Retreats
  • e. Identifying Officers
  • f. Committee Assignments
  • B. Mission
  • C. Program and Curriculum
  • D. Facility Identification and Acquisition
  • a. To Lease or Purchase?
  • b. The Developer Model
  • c. Negotiate the Letter of Intent or Lease
  • d. Architectural Planning
  • e. Clerk of the Works
  • f. Building Access
  • g. The “Certificate of Occupancy”
  • E. Student Recruitment
  • F. Administrative Staffing
  • G. Teacher and Additional Staff Recruitment
  • H. Succession Planning
  • I. Fiscal Management
  • J. Vendor Identification
  • K. Marketing and Advertising
  • L. Development
  • Index

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This book does not pretend to be a know-it-all about developing and initiating a charter school. It is more a set of memoirs and memories of my adventures in attempting to create (as of this writing) eight schools. At the conclusion of the more “memoir” portion of the book, you will find a special appendix with several major points that you may find helpful as and if you consider forming a new charter school.


It was mid-September of 2015. It was closing in on an artificial anniversary of what I sometimes called my “Year from Hell.” In September of 2014, my wife of twenty-plus years told me that she was leaving (with good cause—but that’s another book […]). My divorce became final in January of 2015 and I had a near fatal fall in February. Major radical knee surgery put me down for several months […]. (Subsequently, God guided me, and I remarried my first wife one day prior to my seventy-fifth birthday in 2016!) ← vii | viii →

By September, I had (mostly) recovered (both physically and spiritually) and was back at the charter school game. I was sitting in the boardroom of the Reading Area School District, undergoing—what turned out to be almost four hours of questioning. In summary, they were asking me to explain in full detail—how a proposed charter school would be created. On top of that, my business partner for the evening decided, on the hour trip to the city of Reading and the return trip, to regale me with why he wanted to discard the friendship and partnership—by telling me everything that was wrong with me.

After a late night arrival, I awoke the next morning to find several “disturbing” e-mails related to the previous evening. Somewhere around mid-morning, I took out my home blood pressure machines and checked by blood pressure. As I would have predicted, it was up, up, up […]. I chilled out for the day, went for a walk, took a hot bath, had a glass of good red wine—and the blood pressure moved back to normal!

I have a deep and abiding religious faith (buts that’s another book too). I began to reflect on where I was in my life of seventy-four-plus years. One friend suggested that I didn’t take “time to smell the roses.” I began to question myself. Why was I still working seventy hours a weeks at my age? Slowly, in conversations with a wide range of my friends, I came to the realization that: I do it (education), because I love schools and want to see the system changed to benefit a greater percentage of the population. After a long career in public education, I had seen the emergence of the charter school movement as a route to revolutionizing education. I have been in that “revolution” ever since.

At the writing of this book, currently over 1200 students (from Kindergarten through twelfth grade) are coming from over fifty school districts in the area of the Lehigh Valley to attend one of the three arts-focused charter schools that I have already founded. Over 1400 students have already graduated from the area charter arts high school and are finding their success in the world. Some of those graduates are teaching in my other schools. These schools have created over 150 full time jobs for the area. ← viii | ix →

In addition, I was in the process of planting a new high school in Reading, PA and replicating my Elementary School in Easton and the Poconos. (This should keep me relatively busy for the next ten years—if the Lord grants me those.

Finally, nothing matches the joy in seeing a new school open! I found some redemption for the past year on September 8, 2015 when over 400 children came to school for the first day in our newest model—an Elementary Arts Academy Charter School. This was a struggle that faced two rejections by the Allentown School board and over two years and nine months.

This book, semibiographical, takes you on a journey with me through this animal called “the charter school movement.” I hope it provides some insights and assistance to those who choose to dedication themselves to improved education for all. I hope it also shows the reader how a rather “average Joe” can make a difference in the world. I believe that you need some insights to how an average guy gets to put three schools together from scratch (by 2015). Much depends on how I was raised and become the change-agent renegade I seem to be at the writing of this book.

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Chapter One


X, 130
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (September)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. X, 130 pp.

Biographical notes

Thomas Lubben (Author)

Thomas Lubben has over twenty years of extensive experience in the charter school movement and over fifty years of educational experience. He earned a Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University in 1996. He is actively in the process of creating new arts focused charter schools.


Title: The Charter School Wars