National Alliance Bestows Lifetime Achievement Award for Second Time in History of Honor
Three honorees inducted into Charter School Hall of Fame
Washington, D.C. – The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools today announced it will give the prestigious Charter Schools Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, former chief of staff to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at the 16th Annual National Charter School Conference in Nashville on June 28. Dr. Walker will be only the second recipient to earn this honor since its inception; President Bill Clinton received the award in 2011. The National Alliance will also induct three charter school advocates – Bill Kurtz, Dr. Rod Paige and Kim Smith – to its Hall of Fame.
“We honor all of these outstanding leaders in the charter public school community because of their significant contributions to the movement and unyielding work to grow the number of effective, high-quality charter schools so all students have access to an excellent education,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “We thank Dr. Walker, Bill Kurtz, Dr. Paige and Kim Smith for lending their talent and vision to the charter school movement. It is because of people like them that we now serve nearly 3 million students in charter schools.”
The Charter Schools Lifetime Achievement Award is granted to extraordinary individuals who devote tireless passion in support of charter schools, and dedicate their lives to accomplishing significant results for the charter school movement. This honor is awarded to contributors who have had a lasting and fundamental impact on, not only charter schools, but the education system as a whole. The awardee is someone who has demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to the cause, and whose numerous achievements have been acknowledged by charter school advocates, their professional peers, and the general public.
The National Alliance’s Hall of Fame inductees are recognized for their pioneering efforts in the growth of charter schools, their long-term commitment and contributions to charter schools, and their innovative ideas and successful implementation of those ideas. The latest honorees join 29 other members of the charter school movement who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame program since it was established in 2007.
About the Winners
Charter Schools Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker is the former chief of staff to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also served as executive director of the Southern Leadership Conference, and from 1970-1980 as special assistant for urban affairs to New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. Walker was essential to the civil rights movement, working as the first full-time executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He helped organize the 1963 “March on Washington,” and the 1963 protests in Birmingham, Ala., which led to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. His pioneering work extended beyond the borders of the United States as Walker worked to fight apartheid in South Africa by organizing the International Freedom Mobilization in 1978, and was later inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. Serving 37 years as pastor of Harlem’s Canaan Baptist Church of Christ (1967-2004), he was named Pastor Emeritus in 2004, and remains an integral part of the community.
His concern for educational excellence as a continuation of his civil rights activism led him to advocate for a charter school in the Harlem community, where he co-founded the Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem, the first charter school in New York approved by the State University of New York.
Hall of Fame Inductees
Bill Kurtz is the CEO of the Denver Schools of Science and Technology (DSST) Public Schools, which serves 4,800 students in 12 middle and high schools, and is expected to educate 1 in 4 of Denver’s middle and high school students by 2022. During the 2014-15 school year, DSST ran the top three public schools in Denver and five out of the top six. Prior to becoming the CEO, Kurtz was the founding head of school of the Denver School of Science and Technology (Stapleton), the flagship school of DSST Public Schools. Bill was recognized as the 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year by the NewSchools Venture Fund, and was an Aspen Institute-Pahara Fellow. He is currently participating in the Broad Academy for superintendents.
Dr. Rod Paige grew up the son of a school principal and librarian in a segregated small town in Mississippi. He has devoted his life to improving the U.S. education system, ultimately serving as the U.S. Secretary of Education from 2001 to 2005, under President George W. Bush. As the first African-American to serve as the superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, he was known for his inclusive leadership and innovative approaches to academic improvement, and was named as the National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators in 1996. Dr. Paige’s relentless quest to improve the quality of education for all students has always motivated his work, and in 2010 he published “The Black-White Achievement Gap: Why Closing it is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time.”
Kim Smith, widely recognized as an innovative and entrepreneurial leader in education, is the CEO and founder of the Pahara Institute. Featured in Newsweek’s “Women of the 21st Century” report on as “the kind of woman who will shape America’s new century,” Smith has championed for the improvement of educational outcomes for low-income students throughout her career. Smith co-founded Bellwether Education Partners, served as a founding team member at Teach For America, created and led an AmeriCorps program for community-based leaders in education, and co-founded and led NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit organization focused on transforming public education through social entrepreneurship.
About Charter Public Schools
Charter public schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.
About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit www.publiccharters.org