CharterFolk X Vol 6 – Linda Moore, Embracing the Charter School Destiny: Struggle and Progress

Good morning, CharterFolk.

I hope you’ve all had a great weekend.  It’s my pleasure this morning to recognize Linda Moore as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.

I try with CharterFolk X to recognize a wide range of people – some who may not yet be as celebrated as they should be, as well as others who have already assumed legend status in our movement.  Linda is clearly in that second category.  Her accomplishments as Founder of Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School in Washington DC have been widely recognized. Founded in 1998, Elsie Whitlow Stokes is a diverse-by-design, dual-immersion preschool through grade 5 program.

As Ramona Edelin, Senior Advisor to the DC Alliance (and CharterFolk Board Member), puts it:

The vision of Linda Moore’s school is rooted in a profound understanding of what it takes to build a community — so it is whole.  World languages, civic engagement, the systematic inclusion of families and their cultures, travel, solving community problems together, performance, arts, gardening, and music, and tying life tightly to academic subjects, all make for a wonderful place to call School!

In addition to many other indicators of success, the school has had among the longest waiting lists of all charter schools in the District for many years …

… which ultimately led the organization to open its second campus.

Along the way, Linda found the time to help establish the International School, an International Baccalaureate dual-immersion middle and high school, which has been, by the way, the secondary school with the longest waiting lists in the District …

… as well as to serve on the Board of Directors of LAYC Career Academy, a charter school addressing the needs of students age 16-24.

Over the course of her career, Linda has been consistently involved in advocacy, serving as the Board Chair of the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools and serving on the inaugural Board of Directors of the new DC Charter School Alliance.

She has also lent her voice to critical issues confronting public education like this op-ed she penned earlier this month …

Improving public education for our littlest learners all the way up to our young adults, all while being deeply involved in advocacy – Linda offering contributions like this across her entire career led the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools to induct her into the National Charter School Hall of Fame in 2013.

Linda with Josephine Baker, Ramona Edelin and an unidentified colleague at the National Alliance Induction Celebration

And she sure as heck hasn’t taken her foot off the gas since then.

I have long known about Linda’s achievements within the charter school movement, but I had had few chances to interact with her directly. That is why I have been particularly pleased to be able to spend time with Linda in the context of the support I am providing to the founding of the new DC Alliance. In preparation for a recent call I had with her, I took the opportunity to review again the comments she shared when she was inducted into the Hall of Fame. For those of you who have three minutes, I encourage you to hear Linda in her own voice talk about the progress her schools and the broader charter school movement have made since 1998.

I was in the audience when Linda made these comments. What hadn’t sunk in until the hours before that phone call was that Linda had named her charter school in honor of her mother, Elsie Whitlow Stokes, who Linda describes as the best teacher she has ever seen.

It was in that rapid succession of reviewing Linda’s Hall of Fame speech and recognizing what inspired her to make her school in the first place that a fundamental lesson clicked in for me again. It’s what I have seen in many of our most effective charter school leaders across the country. They bring this great blend of optimism about what can be done with children along with a deep and abiding realism about the fact that there is simply no progress without struggle. And in order to summon the fortitude that is necessary to push through the obstacles that confront us, CharterFolk must cultivate a deep anchoring commitment to the work, something that will sustain us through the difficult hours we all face who work in charter schools.

It’s something I have seen many of our African American leaders model as well as anyone else in our movement – Margaret Fortune naming her schools after her father, Laura McGowan-Robinson naming her school Crown Prep after her grandmother, and Ramona Wilder, forging on within a school named for her parents, to name but a few. In working in institutions that honor their own ancestors’ commitment to improve public education, they find within themselves the resiliency necessary to both embrace their destiny of never being able to make progress without struggle, while steeling themselves for that reality with a commitment to the work that often defies simple explanation.

While it’s a lesson I have learned again and again in my years working in charter schools, it’s one that clicked in at an even deeper level of understanding having had a chance to connect more deeply to the remarkable example that Linda Moore is living out for us all. It’s yet another reason why I couldn’t be happier than to have the chance to recognize her here as the very epitome of CharterFolk Extraordinaire.