Citizens of the World Charter Schools’ first location opened in 2010 in Hollywood, California. The development of this elementary school – and the community-based national network soon to follow – took place over an eight-year period, building on the success of previous school reform efforts.
CWC Schools began with the vision of Mark Gordon, a successful film and television producer with a fervent commitment to improving public education. Inspired by the potential of high-achieving charter schools to dramatically enhance young people’s lives, Gordon sought to create a new charter school in Los Angeles with an emphasis on community service.
Seeking a high-caliber partner to successfully launch and guide a new charter school, Gordon immediately reached out to Kriste Dragon, herself a committed education reformer. The two had previously worked together at Teach For America Los Angeles, where Dragon was Executive Director and Gordon was Board Chairman. At the time Gordon reached out to her, Dragon had been searching for a high-achieving public school for her own children, but was struck by the paradox of racial and economic segregation prevalent in public schools in even the most diverse of the city’s neighborhoods.
Like Gordon, Dragon recognized the great potential of outstanding charter schools to open new doors and new possibilities for young people. Previously, Dragon had been an early parent leader and board member of Larchmont Charter School, an integrated school that consistently ranks among the best academic performers in L.A. Recognizing that Larchmont’s success could be replicated in other neighborhoods, Gordon and Dragon assembled a broad coalition of parents, educators and community members to create a new school based on the same proven learning model. These efforts led to CWC Schools’ flagship location in Hollywood.
Motivated by the chance to serve many more students and families, this growing community coalition was joined by Chris Forman and Cam Starrett, longtime philanthropists and passionate advocates for education reform. With the support and guidance of these four founders – Gordon, Dragon, Forman and Starrett – the CWC Schools coalition pursued a national network of charter schools providing true diversity, exceptional performance, and deeply engaged parent communities.
The second CWC school opened in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles in 2012, and a third school in the community of Mar Vista opened in 2013. Parents and community members in New York City paved the way for CWC to expand to Brooklyn, where two schools (Crown Heights and Williamsburg) opened in 2013.
In October 2015, CWC Kansas City was unanimously approved by the Missouri State Board of Education to launch in 2016, leading to the first Midwest CWC location. This approval followed an extensive two-year engagement process after CWC Schools’ was selected by a local Kansas City parent group to service their neighborhood.
With additional schools opening in other cities in the coming years, CWC is suceeding in building the first national school network committed to racial and socio-economic diversity.