"As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it."
- Antoine de Saint Exupery
I got involved with the Board of Trustees for the Lafayette Charter Foundation in March 2012. At that time it only existed as a dream in the hearts of a few community members and a charter school management company known as Charter Schools USA (CSUSA). Once I heard about CSUSA’s dream to open a charter school in
Lafayette Parish, it took hold of my imagination and piqued my interest!!!
A local elected official informed me of plans by CSUSA to open a school in Lafayette, Louisiana. This was at the time that Governor Bobby Jindal was proposing a comprehensive Educational Reform package for Louisiana that focused heavily on the development of charter schools. This elected official suggested that I drive to the state capitol, attend these legislative hearings and meet one of the officials from CSUSA. I drove to Baton Rouge, sat in on some of the hearings and telephoned the CSUSA representative who had already left by the time I arrived. I was intrigued by the Governor’s proposals to link teacher pay to student performance and replace teacher tenure with a close look at educational outcomes. I thought that this new educational model that charter schools were embracing would do a lot to improve education in Louisiana’s public schools.
Why did you say yes when asked to serve?
I said “YES” when I was asked to serve because I already had a fire for charter school reform burning deep down in my soul!!! I first became intrigued with the power of charter schools while serving as a church pastor in Washington, DC in 2004.
At that time I attended a public charter school graduation and was amazed with the enthusiasm that I saw among the students, parents, and faculty. The atmosphere was electric!!! I had a hard time remembering when I saw so much excitement at a traditional public school graduation. I kept wondering about what was going on in this charter school that made everyone so excited. I remember thinking that every graduation should be like that.
Sometime in 2004 or 2005 I envisioned our church establishing a public charter school in Washington, DC. I teamed up with two members of my congregation to make it happen. We formed an education corporation and served as the initial board of directors. Our goal was to support the vision of the superintendent for DC Public Schools and open a charter school for middle school students. We worked with an educational consultant and prepared a grant application that was awarded $520,000. This funding was for a 3-year Pre-Charter Planning and Implementation Grant under President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” Initiative.
When I moved to Louisiana in 2008 I brought my vision and passion for charter schools with me. I wanted to see low-income, disadvantaged students on the north side of town attend a clearly excellent educational institution that would prepare them for college and for life. On a national level, Louisiana was near the bottom in education and, to me, quality public charter schools could help reverse this trend.
I supported the drastic educational reforms that were being proposed by Governor Jindal and many state legislators in 2012. I felt that these reforms would quickly improve the quality of education for students in Louisiana. Becoming a board member for the Lafayette Charter Foundation would help me make that dream come true.
What was compelling about the opportunity?
One compelling factor was the successful track record of the management company. CSUSA has been operating high performing charter schools in several states for over 15 years. Their first school was opened in downtown Miami and was built to serve inner city youth and families. Downtown Miami Charter School is an “A” rated school and has shown phenomenal progress over the years. I lived in downtown Miami while I was in elementary school and was familiar with the challenges that schools face when educating inner city children. I thought that if CSUSA could produce successful results there, they could be successful anywhere! Other compelling factors for me were learning that CSUSA is the first SACS accredited charter school management company in the country (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools); CSUSA is approved to offer certificates by the University of Cambridge in England ; CSUSA provides every student with an Individual Education Plan and CSUSA embraces a core educational principle by education researcher, Robert Marzano, that “every child can learn.”
What leadership roles have you had while serving on the board?
I have served as the board’s incorporator, the initial President and I currently serve as Vice President for the Lafayette Charter Foundation.
“Working with Bishop Harvin is breath taking. His passion for all children keeps him focused on the broader picture, which is an uneducated child is a community's liability. Bishop Harvin is a valuable board member because through his ministry he works daily in the community to undo the damage caused by a lack of education. Further, Bishop Harvin recognizes that education is the only key to economic stability and independence.” – Mary Louella Riggs-Cook, Board President
The success of a charter school hinges largely on the decisions of its governing board. The Top Shelf enhances the capacity of charter school boards through professional development, board recruitment and community engagement.