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The Charter School Wars

Insight from a Charter School Innovator

Thomas Lubben

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.

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Chapter Seven: The Phoenix Rises—(Storming to Norming, 2003–2006)


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Chapter Seven

The Phoenix Rises—(Storming to Norming, 2003–2006)

During our first year of existence, I brought in an old friend from the New Jersey School Board Association to organize and lead one of our first major in-service days. She provided us with an analogy that I will always carry with me: “Charter schools go through three phases: Storming, Norming, and Performing.” In hindsight, how accurate she was for our first year (or two). As I continue to create new art schools, I share this anecdote but tell people that I have basically learned how to eliminate (or at least shrink) the “Storming” phase. This has been true, to date, for my subsequent schools.

Who would have known: The Principal would resign after two months of school. A student would commit suicide in the fall of our first year. A female teacher would accuse the school of “harassment” because of her sexual preferences. And, last but not least, a boy who liked to wear a “kilt” to school had to be expelled for demonstrating what a “Scotsman wore under his Kilt”!

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