By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer, LA Daily News/Daily Breeze | http://bit.ly/qzWkof
9/2/11 - Once a vocal opponent of the rapid growth of charter schools in Los Angeles, former teachers union leader A.J. Duffy has announced plans to launch his own independently run public campuses.
Duffy, who left his post as president of United Teachers Los Angeles this summer, said the new venture will give him an opportunity to launch "revolutionary" schools that will be teacher-led and free from bureaucratic rules.
If approved by the Los Angeles Unified School District, Apple Charter Academy Public Schools could start opening sites in South Los Angeles as early as next spring.
"This is going to be the school of every teacher's dreams," Duffy said.
Teachers at Apple Academy would get union protections most educators don't get at charters schools, which generally don't hire unionized workers, such as the right to earn tenure and have an arbitrator present at termination proceedings.
But teachers who receive poor evaluations could be fired for performance and the dismissal process would take no more than 20 days - not the years it can take under the current union-protected system.
Working with Duffy as board members of Apple Academy are former LAUSD school board President Caprice Young, who also headed the California Charter School Association; Ref Rodriguez, founder of Partnerships to Uplift Communities Charter Schools; and David Cunningham Jr., a former Los Angeles Councilman representing South Los Angeles.
Duffy's new project is sure to raise eyebrows among teachers who see the growth of charters as a direct threat to the traditional public school system.
And there are many within the reform community who would question how the former labor heavyweight will mesh in the charter community.
Young said she understands how people could question the "charter maven" joining forces with the "union geek."
But she pointed to Duffy's record of approving reforms for local schools as proof of his qualifications to run a charter.
That included pushing UTLA leaders to unionize charters and approving streamlined contracts for pilot schools where teachers have more decision-making power.
"In public life, the quotes you give to the press are not always reflective of your personal feelings but reflective of the position you hold," Young said.
Jed Wallace, current president of the CCSA, questioned whether Duffy's charter petition, put together over a shorter time than most successful charters, would lead to a quality new campus.
"We recommend that the district put this charter petition through the same rigors that its Charter and Innovations Division brings to its review of every charter applicant," Wallace said.
Still, Wallace welcomed Duffy's entrance into the charter world.
"We are pleased to see that Mr. Duffy, who has been a vocal opponent to charter schools in the past, is now demonstrating by his own desire to lead a charter school, that charters are absolutely an effective ingredient for public education reform in LAUSD," Wallace said.