Inspirational account of a woman beating the odds to open quality schools for low-income families in Harlem.
In 2001, Kenny, who has a doctorate in comparative international education, created what would become Harlem Village Academies—even though the venture made no sense to her family and friends. A young widow with three children at home, the author had no charter school experience, no building to use for classrooms, no specific plan and little money. She did know enough to realize that without fundraising success, she would never obtain charters from education regulators. However, raising money was extremely difficult without a state charter in hand. Nonetheless, Kenny felt compelled to proceed for reasons she didn’t fully understood. The book is partly memoir; the story of the charter school doesn’t appear until approximately 50 pages in. The author begins with a chronicle of her husband’s death from cancer, followed by the story of her innovative thinking as a business executive, including her stint as group president of Sesame Street Publishing. Kenny shares the development of her thinking about her hoped-for charter school, with its emphasis on building a faculty of the best teachers available in the K-12 range. The parents of the children completed applications, and the spots were filled by an independently run lottery. Although many of the students are lagging below the norm in reading and other subjects, a high percentage of them have shown marked improvement as Kenny's charter schools have refined teaching and learning techniques.
A mostly upbeat book that explains many of the obstacles to success while often glossing over those obstacles and the negative outcomes accompanying the admirable successes.