Going to Summer Camp to Create a New School

Leadership, Learning Innovations, Mission-Driven Work, PreK-12 / by

Christine Ortiz has been been asked many times, “How do you start a school?” She is the person to ask because Christine has actually founded a school and feels confident others can do it too. This feeling inspired her to start the organization, Blank Schools, also known as [ ] Schools, basically an accelerator for education leaders who dream of major change in the current education system. The first [ ] Schools event will be held July 6-12th in Orlando, Florida with the intent of about 50 participants spending the week together in order to design and then actually launch a new school in August! This event is truly experiential learning for educators and other stakeholders participating and following their passion for improving education. This event is only for those unafraid to “fundamentally disrupt the current school model.”

Although Christine began her studies at MIT in Chemical Engineering, she had many experiences to fuel her passion for education. While still in high school, she started writing Florida’s anti tobacco campaign curriculum which led to working for the national campaign, and before she even graduated from college, Christine was running her own curriculum design/development firm throughout her years in undergrad and graduate school. As the political climate changed, so did Christine’s focus on how to create an effective learning environment. She decided to open her own tutoring and test prep center,the Knowledge Commons, including  Lawton Chiles Preparatory School, “a K-12 school, with mixed-age classrooms, an integrated and thematic curriculum design, and a constant focus on individuality, collaborative curriculum development workshop series.”

“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” -Herbert Spencer

This is not an event for the teacher who wants to in the crowd and passively listen to someone talk. [ ] Schools has an ambitious agenda and the enthusiasm to follow it up. Their goals include to:

  • articulate the purpose and philosophy of the school
  • develop the school’s culture
  • physically design the school spaces
  • develop curriculum models
  • name, brand, and market the school
  • decide on school structure (for-profit vs nonprofit, co-op models, etc.)
  • secure accreditation and work with the state to fulfill all necessary requirements
  • develop processes for student application & enrollment, hiring, professional development, accounting & record keeping

                   …and many more things that are exciting, mundane, and necessary to open a school.

To participate in such a process is not something an educator often has the opportunity to jump into. But, Christine’s main goal is to get as many educators and stakeholders involved in this session of [ ] Schools in Orlando, FL and then have those participants take what they learn and lead more [ ] School model development events around the country.

Currently, there are many conversations being had about how to ensure professional development is not simply putting in the hours required, but making sure it is time well spent. [ ] Schools is answering this question, but not for the timid educators, satisfied with the status quo. “We’re looking for people who think big, can make connections between seemingly unrelated fields, can work well and communicate with their peers, and who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.” This will take a dedicated, mission driven group of people to succeed in creating a school from the ground up.

Hopefully, this can be a new model for professional development… one that stems from design thinking, asking the hard questions and taking action. Christine Ortiz and the [ ] Schools team are ready to use this summer professional development time to create a new school… not just talk about it. The [ ] Schools team tackles this project with the enthusiasm, excitement and dedication truly needed to create new answers to old problems.

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson is the managing editor at Getting Smart. Follow her on twitter at @tedrosececi

1 Comments

Tom Nixon /

Wish I could attend. Rather impressed that the final exam is the creation of a real school. It strikes me that this is the sort of training that potential school-openers should have (as opposed to a more traditional route).