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February 06, 2003

Cesar Chavez school

My day began with a nice breakfast at a fancy downtown hotel, talking to a foundation program officer about a project that he is planning. I camped out in the lobby to do some work, and then Metro'd to the Cesar Chavez Charter High School for Public Policy. It seems like fun to go there. Two hundred kids are tightly packed into improvised classrooms in a former office building. There's a sense that they are helping to create something idiosyncratic and important. Students participate heavily in planning the service projects that are central to the curriculum, so their voice matters. At the same time, discipline is strict: if you arrive one second late, you go straight to detention. As we walked through the halls, the principal had something specific to say to practically every kid she met: "We set up SAT classes for you. Oh, you can't do them because you're in the Corcoran art program. OK, we'll figure out an alternative."

The neighborhood, near U Street, is full of charter schools—I suspect because the rent is fairly low and Metro connections are good. It's a transitional neighborhood, traditionally African American and working class, but now with quite a few White yuppies. I was thinking about the problems and advantages of gentrification when I passed workers restoring a beautiful row house. Outside the next-door house, an African American woman stood and shouted at them: "White man already has everything!" As an illustration, it was too perfect.

Posted by peterlevine at February 6, 2003 04:47 PM