Skip to content

Steve Barr Bails on McDonogh; Surplus Laptops Sold Bearing Student Data

October 18, 2014

In February 2012, then-new Louisiana Superintendent John White told Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) about how he planned to work a marvel of renovation and preservation for New Orleans’ McDonogh High School by allowing Steve Barr, CEO of Green Dot Charters in Los Angeles (a businessman with no vested interest in the New Orleans community) to assume control of the school and work hand in hand with the locals:

RH: Post-Katrina, there were concerns about outsiders invading New Orleans schooling. There have been intense racial politics. How did you negotiate that during your time at the RSD, and how does that shape your approach going forward? 

JW: It’s extremely important as a leader to never give up on your ideals. But on the other hand, never give up on respecting everyone at the table. That gives you a baseline of credibility off of which to operate.

RH: Can you offer an example of how you do this?

JW: Yes, at John McDonogh High School. When I first came to New Orleans, the word on the Street was we were going to shut down the building of that 100-year-old high school. And now we’ve announced that we are spending $35 million to renovate it. Steve Barr [founder of Green Dot Public Schools] and teachers now are going to take over the school’s management…By staying at the table, by sitting through the discussion, by always insisting that this can be a college and career school, we had a compelling vision that attracted great partners, and are in a position to turn one of the lowest performing high schools in the country into a real beacon for change.

A compelling vision of attracting great partners to created a beacon of change? Teachers taking over school management?

Not if that “great partner” decides he wants out.

The short of it: No *beacon*. No renovation of McDonogh happened; California-based Steve Barr (of Future Is Now charters– formerly Green Dotpulled out, citing a “facilities decision” as his reason. Never mind that New Orleans has a number of unoccupied school buildings that a money man like Barr could have renovated or even demolished in favor of moving in temporary buildings while a renovation of McDonogh happened. However, such effort would have been a mark of one invested in the community more than in himself.

I teach at a 100-year-old high school that was systematically renovated over the course of several years, and that while the school remained a functioning school of approximately 1800 students.

But such projects require investment in the community. Our school was not being long-distance “managed” by someone with a short-term, profit-focused commitment.

Barr’s principal concern is not in how his decision to bail on his commitment affects the community on the receiving end. It is on his “venture.”

McDonogh closed in June 2014. As a part of washing its hands of New Orleans, Barr’s ironically-named Future Is Now (FIN) left behind equipment that the Recovery School District (RSD) (another ironic name) is auctioning off in the aftermath of the FIN-RSD divorce.

On October 11, 2014, RSD auctioned off laptops that still had student information on them, including student social security numbers.

And so we have yet another example of the problems introduced by “charter churn”: the changing of hands of equipment and the opening of fresh doors by which the security of student data might be breached.

In his weak attempt to explain the breach Recovery School District (RSD) Superintendent Patrick Dobard offers the following to Danielle Dreilinger of the Times-Picayune:

Dobard said his office has trained charter staff on property-disposal procedures but not checked up on devices until now. “We relied on the operators actually following the protocol,” he said.

And there we have yet another problem with lack of oversight in the name of charter *freedom*: “Trusting” that those preparing for disposal the property from the school that “just didn’t make it” will actually “follow procedure.”

But why should the “charter staff” from a folded operation care about procedure? Barr’s chain did not care enough to invest in keeping the “100-year-old high school” open. In fact, Dreilinger could get no word from the FIN spokesperson other than an “it’s not my problem” response:

Former Future Is Now spokesman Gordon Wright said the organization had no response because it no longer exists[Emphasis added.]

No more FIN in New Orleans for Gordon Wright to worry about. Moreover, as of June 2014, he is with Education Post, the new, well-financed corporate reform blog where Wright recently wrote a post “protecting” two teachers from education historian Diane Ravitch on a blog that worships US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. (Yeah, I know. Funny.)

But back to McDonogh, where students will not fall into new schools in the way that corporate reform promoters like Wright are able to fall into new, corporate-reform-promoting jobs.

In sum, we have a 100-year-old New Orleans high school that was supposed to be renovated; a California-based charter manager who decides not to follow through on his commitment because it was “too hard”; the haphazard liquidation of property that resulted in a breach of student data; no charter manager to answer for the breach because the charter manager is no longer the charter manager, and a textbook example of unforeseen problems associated with “charter churn.”

Nevertheless, Dreilinger’s article includes a strategically-placed statement that downplays this inevitable and ever-present churn:

The Recovery system oversees about 50 charters in New Orleans, plus more in Baton Rouge. Every year, a small number of charters have closed.[Emphasis added.]

If  “every year” a “small number” close, that is a lot of churn. The result is a district that never stabilizes and remains forever open to the uncommitted, nonresident Steve Barrs to come and go relatively unscathed while critical property– not the least of which is student personal information– ends up sold on the auction block of apathy-birthed incompetence.


Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

previti chronicle pic


  1. Another eye opener Mercedes. Unbelievable, now all those Social Security numbers are fair game for Ukrainian hackers and mobsters, or any other of the buyers. Thought we in California were the only ones stuck with Steve Barr and Green Dot. Now please tell us more about how charter operator and hedge funder Marshall Tuck left Green Dot…but is now running for our state Supt. in California, and how the Wall Street billionaires are pouring cash into his campaign. This web of miscreants is moving East.

  2. Laura chapman permalink

    Should make national news.

  3. ira shor permalink

    Yes, the private war on public education SHOULD be national news but it is a scandal the corporate media do not want their audiences to know.

  4. Steve Barr still at it:

    Steve Barr March interview in NYC:

    STEVE BARR: Well, I’ve got to clarify one thing: I founded Green Dot Public Schools, not Green Dot Charter Schools. And I don’t—I care less about charter schools except for how they affect public schools. I think there’s an ability to create some good research and development of what school districts could become. I think our schools—I listened to a lot of teachers. They felt left out of the decision-making process. They felt like dollars were not making it into the classroom. And we used all those reforms to be very successful in areas where there was 50 to 60 to 70 percent dropout rates; we retain and graduate 80 to 90 percent of the same kids, and the vast majority of them go on to university. So, I’m a public school advocate, and charters are just a tool—a progressive tool.

    And the other thing I would say about that somehow these are private entities, it’s no more of a private entity than Pacifica or KPCC, which I give to. They are nonprofits. The idea that somehow—that this narrative that I got into this with my life savings or a lot of people that do this work are in it to somehow make some money is ludicrous. We’re in it, I think, really, to change the public school system. It was stagnant for a long time. There was a take-it-or-leave-it mentality. I’m a member of the left. I’m a liberal Democrat. I think we’ve been on the defensive for so long that, you know, we just got used to defending and not innovating. And I think there’s a lot of us that are Democrats that took the mantle of this tool and said, “Look, we can prove a different way of educating kids. We can push decisions close to the stakeholders. We can empower people that have been left out of the political system. We can create ownership.” And that’s what you’re seeing here. It’s not an evildoer thing.

  5. Reblogged this on Crazy Normal – the Classroom Exposé and commented:
    Where is the FBI and the Obama administration when they are needed to protect our children from the abuses of the corporate driven fake evacuation reform movement? Oh, I forgot. It was the Obama administration that opened the door to these Bill Gates, Walton and Koch brothers supported corporate fake Pub-Ed reformers, a reform movement based on nothing but lies and fraud.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Miracle That Wasn’t: Steve Barr’s Failure in New Orleans | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Untold Truths about the Corporate Education Reforms | theneworleansimperative
  3. empathyeducates – Celebrating Ten Years of Post-Katrina, New Orleans Charters– And You Are Not Invited
  4. John McDonogh Flunkie “Manager” Steve Barr Is Doing Just Fine in Los Angeles | deutsch29
  5. Six reasons why we don’t want Green Dot charter schools in Seattle – Seattle Education
  6. Bill Gates Doles Out $10M for Green Dot Rainier Leadership Academy | deutsch29
  7. Six reasons why we don’t want Green Dot charter schools in Seattle |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s