troubled waters

New York

New hire a first step in effort to bridge district, charter divide

An initiative designed to ease tension between district and charter schools in the city has moved slowly and largely under the radar this spring. In December, then-Chancellor Joel Klein joined 88 of the city’s charter schools in signing on to a District-Charter Collaboration Compact, which mandates that charter schools “fulfill their role as laboratories of innovation” and requires the Department of Education to support city charter schools. The compact, which the Gates Foundation urged and is funding, emphasizes collaboration around issues of enrollment, space allocation, and instruction. But after more than six months — which were bookended by Klein’s sudden departure and a contentious lawsuit over charter school co-location — little progress has been made toward fulfilling the compact’s requirements. In June, the New York City Charter School Center took a first step by hiring Cara Volpe, a former Teach for America employee, to be the city’s first district-charter collaboration manager. Later, a not-yet-formed advisory council of district and charter school employees will help Volpe set priorities, according to city and charter school officials. Volpe “will be expected to implement the council’s vision for identifying, establishing and implementing the partnerships, policies and programs that will help tear down the boundaries between great district and charter schools,” according to advertisement for the position, which the charter center posted online at GothamSchools’ jobs board, Idealist, and elsewhere. Volpe’s work will come at a time when tensions around charter schools are at an all-time high.