Sunday, September 30, 2007

The next and best generation...

In the last year, I have been the project manager for this new school--Austin Polytechnical Academy (APA) ( —a new public high school in Chicago that will:

--Provide excellent contextual education for young people in Chicago that links them to dynamic careers in manufacturing;

--Create a new generation of leaders for advanced manufacturing;

--Demonstrate the means and the power of merging the creation of wealth with community development; and

--Provide a new model for urban school reform.

CLCR and our partners created the Design Team, wrote a successful proposal that won community support and a positive decision from the Board of Education, recruited an excellent principal—Bill Gerstein; and have created a community of support from local manufacturing companies, local community leaders, and others.

I see this school as essentially the same type of school that was created by Don José Arrrizmendiarrieta in Mondragon Spain. His school, started in 1943, trained young people in the technical skill of manufacturing as well as giving them the values and political orientation that gave rise to the first successful cooperative in 1956 that has now grown to 130 or so cooperatives employing 85,000 people and represents the cutting edge of the Spanish industrial economy. It also constitutes a world model for development that accepts the framework of the market as a major area for activity—but the major goals of the effort are the development of the community not individual wealth--but more on that for future entries into my blog, and central to the blog of my CLCR colleague—Dan Bianchi—currently studying in Mondragon ( .

This school is part of a broader project that I direct—the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council ( that has its objective as making Chicago the world leader in high value-added manufacturing or “leading the race to the top.” Austin Poly is our first project in our effort to transform public education and bring it to world class standards. We expect to do 5-6 other schools like this in Chicago.

Following is a longer essay on Austin Polytech and school reform. I would be very interested in your comments.