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Volume 17, Number 4
July/August 2001

Nuts and Bolts of Charter-Business Partnerships

Corporations bring considerable political and financial clout to the charter school movement


In 1995, Renee Lerche, director of Ford Motor Company's adult education training, got an unusual message from then-chairman Alex Trotman. Trotman had just received a call from Michigan governor John Engler asking Ford to create a charter high school on company grounds. "We don't want to start a school," a skeptical Trotman told Lerche. "See what else we can do." But Lerche, who has a doctorate in education, was intrigued by Engler's idea. She brought it up during a lunch meeting with the director of the Henry Ford Museum and the head of Wayne County's Regional Educational Service Agency, the county's charter-granting body. The lunch turned into a brainstorming session about a high school whose curriculum would be closely linked to the museum's exhibits. The trio put together a plan and convinced Trotman that Ford should join the charter school movement.

This fall, the Henry Ford Academy will begin its fifth school year. The school is integrated into the campus of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, across the street from Ford's world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. Museum visitors can look through glass walls and see groups of students collaborating on school projects in classrooms that look out onto exhibits. "This school is operating in the middle of a business. It's not off in some secluded location," says Lerche. "They're getting attention from the staff and the administrators, as well as from mentors and tutors from Ford."

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington, P.O. Box 363060, Seattle, WA 98195-3060; 206-685-2214; fax: 206-221-7402.

Charter Friends National Network, 1295 Bandana Blvd., #165, St. Paul, MN 55108; 651-644-6115; fax: 651-644-0433.

Charter School of Wilmington, 100 N. Dupont Rd., Wilmington, DE 19807; 302-651-2727; fax 302-652-1246.

C.E. Finn, G. Vanourek, and B.V. Manno. Charter Schools in Action: Will They Save Public Education? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Henry Ford Academy, Box 1148, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, MI 48121-1148; 313-982-6200; fax: 313-982-6195.

National Alliance of Business, 1201 New York Ave., NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20005; 800-787-2848..

P. Hill, C. Lake, M. Celio, C. Campbell, P. Herdman, and K. Bulkley. A Study of Charter School Accountability. Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Department of Education, 2001.