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Published in Print: February 9, 2005, as Chicago School Official to Head Up Authorizers’ Group

Chicago School Official to Head Up Authorizers’ Group

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The chief of Chicago’s high- profile push to start new small schools announced last week that he is leaving to lead a national group representing the school districts, states, universities, and other institutions that grant charter schools their contracts to operate.

Greg A. Richmond, who has served as the volunteer president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers since its inception in 2000, will leave the Chicago schools next month to take over as the organization’s full-time, paid president. The Alexandria, Va.-based group promotes strong practices in licensing, oversight, and evaluation of charter schools.

Greg A. Richmond

“A good authorizer can help create good schools, and a bad authorizer can make schools’ lives miserable,” Mr. Richmond said. “So it is in everyone’s interest that we do our jobs well.”

Mr. Richmond’s move was made possible by rapid growth in NACSA’s membership and funding in the past two years. More than 130 organizations now belong to the association, which gets about two-thirds of its money from foundations and the U.S. Department of Education.

Mr. Richmond is leaving his post in the 430,000-student district in the early stages of a major effort there to replace underperforming or underused schools with new small schools, both through the chartering process and other means. ("Chicago Board Moves to Scale Down Schools," Feb. 2, 2005.)

He was the head of the district’s charter school office from 1996 until August 2003, when he was tapped for the newly created post of chief officer of new-schools development.

Eye on Quality

In his new role at the authorizers’ association, he will focus on providing consulting services and resources for authorizers, communications, policy, and research. The association’s executive director, Mark Cannon, will continue to oversee operations, finances, strategic planning, and other areas.

“We see this as strengthening the organization both on a grassroots level and on a policy level,” Mr. Richmond said.

The changes at the association come as another national group kicked off an effort last week aimed at enhancing the quality of charter schools, which are typically run independently of districts but receive public funding.

The Charter School Leadership Council, based in Washington, announced the formation of a task force on quality and accountability to address what the group called “doubts about the efficacy of the charter model.”

The task force will include leading charter school operators and representatives from outside groups, such as the Education Trust, a Washington-based group that promotes higher-quality educational opportunities for poor and minority students.

Howard L. Fuller, the chairman of the leadership council, said the task force was coming at a “time of turbulence” for charter supporters, in light of uneven academic results and mounting criticism from opponents.

“We must address whatever doubts exist fully and completely, especially when the concerns are valid,” said Mr. Fuller, a former schools superintendent in Milwaukee who is now a professor of education at Marquette University there.

Vol. 24, Issue 22, Page 6

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