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Twenty-four years is a long time being the chief executive officer of any business and/or organization. That’s how long Geoffrey Canada has been on the job as chief executive officer of Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ). The educator and activist has been known for his work in educational reform in the Harlem section of New York City.
The Grio reports, Canada, 62 gained major recognition for the “cradle-to-college social, educational, and medical services offered by the HCZ, which covers over 100 blocks, and includes a preschool programs, parenting classes and network of three charter schools serving over 12,300 students and 12,400 adults.” HCZ seeks to break the cycle of poverty and to provide a safety net for children coming from impoverished neighborhoods.
The cradle-to-college program was mentioned in the New York Times Magazine as being successful. This social ‘experiment’ has produced a 95 percent college acceptance rate among its high school seniors.
Because of Canada’s dedication and commitment to his work, he was featured in the 2010 film, Waiting for Superman, which focused on public education and its challenges and the need for charter schools as an alternative for children. You may be asking yourself why is Superman mentioned in the title? Canada said when his mother told him Superman wasn’t real, he began crying not because Superman wasn’t real, but because ‘”no one was coming with enough power to save us.”
The success of HCZ caught the attention of President Obama who announced a plan to replicate the HCZ model in 20 cities.
As with anything successful, you’ll have a backlash of criticism. Canada and HCZ have been criticized by luring kids away from public schools into charter schools. Through the funneling of money and resources from public schools to charter schools, many public schools claim to suffer. But Canada has repeatedly voiced his concern over the failure of public schools in addressing the needs of Blacks and Latinos.
According to reports, ‘HCZ has assets over $200 million dollars, and with revenue last year of nearly $100 million, there’s no shortage of financial resources, advantages which the public schools lack.’
Further criticism about HCZ is their lack of taking into account the role of businesses and other entities involved in public school education. When businesses shut down and communities are left depleted, public schools remain open. In other words, without community stakeholders being involved in public education and the privatization of charter schools soaring, parents who can’t afford to send their kids to charter schools suffer.
[Note: ‘In 2010, 60 percent of fourth graders in on HCZ school and 50 percent in the other were not proficient in reading.’] Canada was criticized for kicking out one class because of its low performance – a claim he denied.
The HCZ model has its ups and downs. The responsibility of providing quality education is always a challenge. The next chief executive officer – Anne Williams-Isom will have plenty of work to do. Canada will remain the nonprofit board as president.
Dr. Sinclair Grey III is an inspirational speaker, motivator, author, organizer and liberator of persons from all intellectual, social and cultural walks of life. He is a committed advocate for change. Email: email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @drsinclairgrey