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Green Dot Public Schools Chairman Steve Barr steps down

Green Dot Public Schools Chairman Steve Barr at Pop!Tech 2009 in Camden, ME (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license)
Kris Krüg/Flickr
Green Dot Public Schools Chairman Steve Barr at Pop!Tech 2009 in Camden, ME (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license)

Steve Barr, the founder and chairman of the influential charter school company Green Dot Public Schools, is stepping down from day to day activities and his position as chair. A spokeswoman said today Barr is leaving Green Dot to work on “national education issues.” She gave no other details about his departure.

Steve Barr wanted smaller schools with young, motivated teachers willing to experiment with lesson plans. He opened his first Green Dot campus nine years ago with only 140 high school students.

Barr’s view was that his charter schools – independent from school district control - could outperform traditional schools, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

Education researchers point out that charter schools like Green Dot attract motivated students with parents active in their children’s education. Green Dot says 80 percent of its ninth graders graduate – and the vast majority of those graduates get into four year colleges.

Parent involvement is up in area schools, UCLA education researcher John Rogers said, while L.A. Unified and other school districts now talk about a school's guiding principles not whether it should be run by the district or as a charter.

“All these changes, to some extent, were initiated because Steve Barr really pushed on the system and sought to open it up by establishing his group of charter schools,” Rogers said.

Rogers remembers Barr talking to him about opening a school in the mid 1990s. At the time Barr had a slew of Democratic party experience under his belt. In 1990 he co-founded the non-partisan "Rock The Vote" outreach campaign and hosted an inaugural ball for President Bill Clinton.

Barr used some of the political tactics he’d learned to successful effect as leader of Green Dot.

He’d often organize parent rallies outside L.A. Unified board meetings on the days of key policy votes. UCLA’s John Rogers says that was something new in L.A. education.

“Steve is a somewhat larger than life person and I think he brought a certain style of political mobilization into the educational sector," Rogers said. "I think some of the strengths of that was that it brought a lot of attention to education reform. At the same time it didn’t always highlight issues of teaching and learning perhaps as much as would have been important.”

Loyola Marymount University School of Education Dean Shane Martin, a Green Dot board member, will assume Barr’s role as chairman.