On a sunny Los Angeles afternoon in early May, Steve Barr gathered with parents, teachers and other supporters across the street from Alain Locke Senior High School in the Watts neighborhood. He proudly declared to the news media that the 2,800-student school, one of the state’s worst, was seceding from the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Green Dot, Barr’s charter school operation, was ready to take over the school and pump up its abysmal graduation rate. A majority of Locke’s tenured teachers had voted in secret to shuck their cozy union contracts and side with Barr. Standing next to him was Frank Wells, Locke’s popular principal, fired two days earlier when district officials got wind of the takeover plan.
“So here the revolution starts, in Watts,” Barr declared.