Florina Rodov: I believed the charter school myth — until I learned about the reality and who was behind it
Florina Rodov bought the hype about charter schools. She believed in Arne Duncan’s push for choice. She cheered for the students in Waiting for Superman. And she entered the charter school scene in Los Angeles.
In 2016 I interviewed for an English teacher position with a woman I’ll call Ellen Peters, the principal and co-founder of Savior Academy, a charter school serving grades six through 12. (The names of the school, administrators and students have been changed for this story.) Her assertion that the close bond between students and staff made it feel “like a family” inspired me to sign a non-union contracton the spot, though the school had recently lost its co-founder Cathy Reynolds (name changed), who stepped down from the board, and several teachers, who resigned.
But the chasm between the hype and reality became evident to me immediately upon starting work. There were high attrition rates of students and teachers. Over the summer, more than half the faculty resigned and were replaced by new teachers. About three-quarters of the students hadn’t returned either, and though new kids had registered, the enrollment wasn’t anywhere near what was needed in order to be fiscally stable, because funding was tied to enrollment. There were legal violations: The special education teacher had 43 students, though the law capped class sizes at 28. The overage made him fall behind on students’ individualized education plans (IEPs), making the school noncompliant on special education requirements.
It was clear to the new teachers, who were carrying heavy course loads and referred to getting through the workweek as “surviving,” that this was unacceptable. But what kept the indefatigable old-timers going was an upcoming election of the LAUSD Board of Education in 2017, in which charter school advocate Nick Melvoin was running to unseat charter school skeptic Steve Zimmer in District 4, which stretched from the Westside to the west San Fernando Valley. The election made headlines in the Los Angeles Times and HuffPost.
But that election ended up tearing the mask off the LA charter world for Rodov. Read the whole post to learn what she found out about the truth behind charters in LA.