Monday, November 24, 2014

Rochester Charter Proposal; More Than Meets the 22-Yr-Old Eye

This jolly PR release in the Democrat and Chronicle announces that Ted Morris, Jr., is one of the new proud owners of a charter school authorization in New York, specifically in Rochester. What everyone has been agog at today is the applicant's age-- he's twenty-two years old. After some poking around, I'm not entirely sure that's the entire real story of Greater Works Charter Schools.

Morris was apparently born and raised in Rochester and attended Schools Without Walls, a very respectable example of what a good magnet school can be. Upon graduating, [Update: This just gets better and better. Here's Diane Ravitch passing along a note from the principal of Schools Without Walls during the time period in question. Seems Dr. Morris only spent a year there before switching to home schooling]  he entered into a rigorous on-line bachelor's program. He snapped up a Masters and Doctorate from Concordia-- the piece says Concordia "near Chicago." There are several Concordia Universities about, ranging from a private Christian college to an on-line university.

Additionally FWIW, there's a Ted Morris of Rochester listed as an ordained minister at the Universal Life Church (on-line) who specializes in Youth Revivals and Conferences, Church Admin Consulting and Grant Writing. His favorite quote is "For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world, for this is the Victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" I John 5:4 So maybe while getting cyber degrees, he decided to get cyber-ordained, too.
Morris has already been running consulting firms, apparently, and takes credit (according to the article) for helping to start three non-profits, including the advocacy group associated with his new school. That group-- Greater Works Charter Network-- has only a ghost footprint on line, but another-- Victoty Living Christian Life Center-- appears to be a large, thriving organization. It also, however, appears to have been founded at least ten years ago, which makes Morris's work as a twelve-year-old consultant fairly impressive.

I don't mean to pick on Morris for his age. Michael Jackson, Mozart, Jackie Cooper-- all tremendous prodigies with great early success. So maybe Morris is simply that amazing.

But if I were the New York Regents, I'd want to be super-impressed by a guy who had no actual experience running, working in, or even being a student in a public-- oh, no, wait. If I were the New York Regents none of that would bother me at all, would it.

You can actually read Morris's letter of intent from last summer right here. But it seems that this prodigy found nine solid Rochester citizens to go in on the charter with him. They are

Ursula Burke; parent with 12 years at Child Care Council
Andrea Clarke; Community Health Advocate at Rochester Medical Center
Roberta Favitta; 30+ years experience in sales, branding, marketing and operations management
Dr. Peter L. Kozik; Ass. Prof of EDucation at Keuka College
Dr. Norman Meres; molecular environmental scientist who has taught a lot
Ted Morris himself
Emily Robbins; insurance agent, previous event coordinator, studied el and spec ed at SUNY 2000-2005
Asfa Sill; Ass. Director at Action for Better Community
Bonnier Thousand; Administrator at U of Rochester
Christie Weidenhamer; Counselor with credentials out the whazoo

All but Clarke will be on initial Board of Trustees. There are also several other individuals interested in serving on that board.

But here's the thing-- this is not their first rodeo. The letter notes that "the founding group has previously applied to the NYSED Charter School Office in the January 2010 Charter School Application Cycle." In fact, they've sent in a letter of intent in every cycle since 2010, but were not asked to submit an application in most cases. In two cases they did submit a full application, but withdrew it to strengthen it. They have since "worked with a number of consultants, strengthened our application, continued to develop our founding group/board of trustees and conducted additional community outreach."

They have clearly done their homework-- the target population to be served is "all the students in the City of Rochester (including students with disabilities, English language learners, and students who qualify for the free and reduced price lunch program)"

They've been doing their community outreach for years, including eleven public meetings, and they have a hefty list of community parents, stakeholders, and organizations that they have talked to. Their general website has received over 5,5090 visits and their facebook page has 184 followers.

That was last summer when they were looking forward to submitting a full application, which obviously happened.

But the big question is obviously this-- is Ted Morris such a prodigy that he started trying to launch his charter school at age 18, right after he got his online bachelor's degree? Is he a young man of incredible drive, or a budding young huckster? Is he on a mission from God? Or is he being used as a handy front man for this organization? And did the New York Board of Regents actually take a look at any of this before okaying this virgin charter? It will take someone more versed in Rochester ins and outs to unlock the next chapter of this amazing tale.

Update: Okay-- one question is answered, sort of. Here's a piece from December of 2010, complete with video clip (that you can't watch unless you have Time-Warner cable), about young Ted Morris, Jr., and his plan to start a charter high school in Rochester. The piece is coverage of his presentation to the community

"We don't have enough innovated schools that have a strategic plan in place, specifically high schools," said Morris.

Right now Morris is in the beginning stages of planning and applying for approval for the school but already has a detailed mission statement, and layout for how the school will be run.

"Greater Works Charter School will be a blended learning charter school, which will be integrated, hands on learning and teaching," said Morris.
- See more at:

So-- not a front? Just.... very precocious? This is what the Board of Regents thinks is an improvement over public schools?

[Update: It was just one thing after another for the young Dr. So much so that a follow-up post was called for.]

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