Steve Barr– Who Ditched His New Orleans School Renovation Commitment– Wants to Become Mayor of Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Times reports that Green Dot charter schools founder Steve Barr plans to run for mayor of Los Angeles in 2017.
The Times considers Barr a long shot– unless current Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti lands a position with Hillary Clinton (assuming Clinton is elected president in 2016).
Barr is a greaseball. I wrote about him in my first book, Chronicle of Echoes, for his assisting Ben Austin in launching Parent Revolution, the astroturf group that manufactures faux-grass roots discontent enabling so-called parent takeover of schools so that said schools might be turned over to charter operation.
Barr also was supposed to manage and renovate a New Orleans school, McDonogh Senior High, and after two years of doing nothing, Barr bailed on the project. No big deal to him, of course, since New Orleans is 1,900 miles from Los Angeles, and any bad press from bailing on a New Orleans school did not touch is Los Angeles-based life.
Below are both my Barr excerpt from Chronicle of Echoes as well as a brief recap of Barr’s shafting the McDonogh Senior High community by bailing on his long-distance commitment to New Orleans.
From Chronicle of Echoes (pages 328-329). (For end note references, see the excerpt as published in the book):
Although promoted to be adopted as ALEC model legislation, the parent trigger originated in California with a group called the Los Angeles Parents Union, whose web address is parentrevolution.com, and whose leader is Ben Austin. Austin was already in the privatization business associated with Green Dot Charter Schools. In January 2010, the parent trigger barely passed the California legislature (by one vote in each branch) in an effort to garner Race to the Top money. However, the positioning of the Los Angeles Parent Union/Parent Revolution was happening in the years prior to passage of California’s parent trigger legislation.
Before being connected with PR, Austin was associated with Green Dot charters. Indeed, via Green Dot, Austin takes credit for “transforming” Locke High School, “the worst school in Los Angeles into a college preparatory model of reform.” In 2006, Eli Broad announced that he would invest $10.5 million in Steve Barr’s Green Dot Education Project. Sadly, Locke High School became a casuatly to Barr’s amply-funded “experiment.” Austin was able to benefit from Locke’s undoing. In 2007, Austin was paid $95,000 by Green Dot for “consulting” If a “model of reform” involves dividing a school into several smaller schools, closing and reopening these smaller schools multiple times, and finally putting some but not all back together into one school again, all inside of five years, the yes, Locke is a “model of reform.” Teacher and administrator turnover at this “model” is astounding, with only a handful of teachers remaining through multiple years and no original, 2008 admnistrators remaining. The overwhelming majority of teachers are temporary teachers hailing from Teach for America (TFA). This is what billionaire money buys.
PR/ Los Angeles Parent Union was the brainchild of Green Dot charters; according to its 2008 990, the organization was formed in 2007. On the 2007 990 for the Los Angeles Parent Union, the address listed is 350 South Figouroa Street, Los Angeles—the same address as Green Dot Educational Project (charters). Green Dot Executive Director and CEO Steve Barr is listed as the Los Angeles Parent Union president, and Green Dot CEO Marco Petruzzi is listed as a Los Angeles Parent Union member. Ten other individuals are listed, and all twelve (including Barr and Petruzzi) use 350 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, as their address. On the 2007 Green Dot 990, Green Dot board member Steve Barr earns $215,467 in his position as Green Dot executive director/CEO; Petruzzi earns $204,022 as CEO.
On the 2008 990 forms of both Green Dot and Los Angeles Parent Union/ PR (PR was not listed as a name until 2008), the two groups continue to share a common address: 350 South Figueroa Street in Los Angeles. On the 2008 PR 990, Steve Barr is listed as the “principal officer.” That same year, Steve Barr was paid $198,855 as a Green Dot board member—not as executive director/CEO. In the listing of board members and employees, the title next to Barr’s name is written in all caps—BOARD MEMBER—as though it were written another way first and later changed. And oddly enough, Barr is the only “board member” working 40 hours a week and earning a salary.
The fishiness continues on the 2008 PR 990: Even though the “principal officer” is Steve Barr, the signature on the 2008 Parent Revolution 990 is Ben Austin’s. He signed with the title, “executive director,” and he dated the form August 10, 2009. At some point between the typing of Steve Barr’s name at the top of the form as “principal officer” and the signing of Austin’s name at the bottom of the same form, Austin “became” executive director.
Wait. There is still more.
On its 2009 990, PR has both a new principal officer and a new address: Ben Austin; 315 West Ninth Street, Los Angeles. And yet, as recorded on the 2007 Green Dot 990, Austin’s home address is in Beverly Hills. Since Austin was listed as an independent consultant with Green Dot, Green Dot was required to include Austin’s home address on its 2007 990. As of 2013, Austin was still registered as living in Beverly Hills, California.
Austin is not a Los Angeles parent. Austin was on the Green Dot payroll before he assumed Green Dot Executive Barr’s position as “principal officer” of the Los Angeles-based Parent Revolution.
So much for the “Los Angeles ‘parent’ union.” PR is nothing more than Green Dot prefabrication. What money there is to be made for charters if one can pass legislation “empowering” parents to hand over their neighborhood schools to charter operators! And what if this new “grass roots prefab,” the Los Angeles Parent Union, could be handed over to someone already credited with “turning around” the “worst school in Los Angeles”?
Given the above Barr-Austin history, just think of what “mayor” Steve Barr could do to Los Angeles in the name of “parent empowerment.”
And regarding Barr’s New Orleans charter betrayal, here is an excerpt from my October 2014 post entitled, “Steve Barr Bails on McDonogh; Surplus Laptops Sold Bearing Student Data”:
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 Dot) pulled 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.
There is more to the above post. Feel free to read the rest.
For the photos below of the dilapidated McDonogh Senior High that Barr left for the New Orleans community to deal with, see this post, which includes a selfie in which Barr criticizes Garcetti for being “M.I.A. on education.”
Here is what Barr agreed to renovate in New Orleans but did not:
Rat feces/termites?/rotting wood
Students continued attending school under these conditions as they awaited those promised renovations. Barr never delivered. (Neither did La. state superintendent John White, who allowed Barr to come and go unscathed.)
Steve Barr: M.I.A. on education.
Anyone in LA remotely considering voting for this guy as mayor should keep the info above in mind as the juicy, pro-Barr funding rolls in from the likes of LA charter boss Eli Broad and other billionaire charter school advocates whose children and grandchildren will surely be unaffected by either Barr’s actions– or inaction.
Coming July 08, 2016, from TC Press (revised release date):