November 29, 2010 The recent release of the movie Waiting for "Superman" has provided the Fresno community an opportunity to discuss how charter schools play a role in education reform. In an area where there is still so much work to do on educating families and community leaders of the promise that successful models of charters can provide to a community, this movie has created a teaching moment and opportunity for stakeholders to catalyze. Although not all charters are representative of high quality and high performing, the schools highlighted in the movie provide an example of models that have been successful at providing a quality education to underserved and challenged populations ... similar to the population in the Fresno area and the entire Central Valley.
In Fresno, the California Charter Schools Association parented with the United Way of Fresno County and the Fresno Unified School District to organize a special pre-screening of the movie.
"It was really exciting to see a theater of more then 400 educators and community members watch the movie and engage in discussions about the movie afterward," said John Madrid, CCSA's Regional Director for the Central Valley region. "The nearby World Sports Café was kind enough to reserve their patio and provide discounts on food and drinks for movie watchers; discussions continued there late into the evening."
Students from the Center for Multicultural Cooperation videotaped interviews with participants after the movie. Some of those interviews were presented at a Community Conversation facilitated by the United Way hosted by the Boys and Girls Club in Fresno. A major objective of the movie was to be a rallying point for people to engage in relevant education issues affecting our communities.
"We saw examples of this engagement first hand at the Community Conversation," explained Madrid. "The movie evokes a variety of different emotions and you could see the passion in the people involved in the conversation. The discussions highlighted a number of current and ongoing education, which will hopefully provide a vehicle for folks to bring their input forward in these critical issues. "
The Association intends to leverage the excitement and frustration demonstrated in the movie to engage local leadership to look at successful models of charters and generate community support on developing similar schools and recruiting proven charter management organizations that have expressed interest in creating a cluster of schools in the Fresno area.
"There is currently a Promise Neighborhood Collaborative in Fresno involving multiple community and government agencies and residents seeking federal dollars to duplicate the success that has been developed from the Harlem Children Zone in New York," continued Madrid. CCSA will share information about the Collaborative in future editions of the California Charter Advocate.
"Our hope is to continue to engage this effort on some of the information discussed in the movie and pursue further activity as they move forward. We continue to encourage folks to see the movie and participate in upcoming community conversation being organized by the United Way."