Massachusetts Charter Schools are Producing Some Serious Troublemakers

… passionate, inspired and beautiful troublemakers.

This week, the Massachusetts High School Democrats selected Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School senior Keith Chatinover for the High School Activist of the Year Award.

This award is being given out by the Massachusetts High School Democrats for Keith’s tremendous work to conserve the environment and educate about environmental issues. His work is being recognized for visibly making a difference in our community.

A charter school kid? Making a difference in his community? No way. How could this have happened? I thought charter schools were only concerned about test scores and academic performance? What do you MEAN activism?

As a freshman, Keith became involved in the school’s composting program, and took it over as a sophomore.

A composting program? What does that have to do with excelling at the MCAS?

In the summer of 2016, Keith joined the Sheila Lyons campaign for state senate as the regional coordinator for Martha’s Vineyard. He has also been an active member of the We Stand Together movement, where he has helped to organize several marches.

We Stand Together? How did these kids even know about the Women’s March and the concept of fighting for equality and inclusivity? I thought charter schools banned all of that kind of stuff?

In December of ’17, Keith and a few students from the Charter School traveled to Cuba to learn about Cuba’s sustainable agriculture and climate change adaptation efforts.

Cuba? Sustainable agriculture? Climate change?

After the Parkland shooting, Keith turned his attention to school safety and gun violence issues. When he heard student activists such as David Hogg and Emily Gonzales speaking out, he said, he was motivated to support them. Keith began the task of leading a student-organized walkout, and later a bus trip to Washington for the March for Our Lives.

But, wait? I thought charter schools were just about reading and math — and standardized testing? 

What kind of awful family chooses a charter school for such a great kid anyway?

Keith came to Martha’s Vineyard from Chatham, N.J., in 2011, his parents in search of a school that would consider the whole child, support him in his pursuits, and empower him as a self-learner. They found it at the Charter School, where Keith credits Bob Moore for being instrumental in teaching him about leadership and his teachers for stoking his passion for the environment and helping him become a grassroots student activist.

Well, THEY sound awful. 

And what’s up with the Massachusetts High School Democrats? Don’t they know that anyone who steps into a charter school is evil?

And anyway, this must be just ONE kid — in ONE charter school, right?

Nope.

Meet Trevaughn Smith of Springfield — an incredible student leader and activist who attends SABIS International Charter School of Springfield.

(I love this kid.)

He’s the co-chair of Teens for Action Springfield along with Sarah Reyes of Longmeadow High School and has led the charge to organize the community in Western Massachusetts to stop gun violence and hold Smith and Wesson (headquartered in Springfield) accountable while politicians have been cowering in the corner.

That’s right. Charter and district kids working together. You see, young folks don’t really buy into the edu-drama and turf wars. They don’t villianize or attempt to morally indict other students for choosing (or having their parents choose) a different type of public school. There is no public shaming and stone throwing here.

Unfortunately in Trevaughn’s case — some “progressive community organizations” in the Springfield area have openly criticized the organization and the movement he has built — even has a high school senior — because he is … A CHARTER SCHOOL STUDENT. 

How progressive.

Apparently attending a charter school actually means you are no longer an actual person, let alone a member of the community — the mere act of attending a school that has not been approved by labor unions means you are nothing more than a pariah and a leech — something that has been painful for me to watch this young man experience.

But luckily, I don’t think these are the type of kids who scare too easily. And while some continue to use the charter school issue as some kind of litmus test on “progressive values” and continuing to fight a ballot question that was settled two years ago while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the achievement gap, thanks to these kids I have hope that it won’t always be this way.

They won’t let it.

 

 

What do you think?

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