Andrea Gabor signed up to tour a Success Academy charter school in the Bronx. She was accepted, but shortly before the big day, her invitation was rescinded. When she inquired why, she was told that the tour was limited only to principals of other schools.


So, I was dismayed when, on December 4, three days after my original acceptance arrived, Jaclyn Leffel, the director of New York City Collaborates, which was helping to organize the tour, rescinded my invitation. “In reviewing our guest list, I did see that you are currently not leading a NYC public school. This workshop is specifically designed for people in elementary school education. Unfortunately this event is only available to principals at this time. Thanks so much for your interest!” wrote Ms. Leffel.


The only problem was that to register for the event, you had to include your title and affiliation, which in my case is the Bloomberg Chair of Business Journalism at Baruch College/CUNY. It was crystal clear from my affiliation that I was not a New York City principal. Moreover, I knew that not everyone on the tour was a current principal.


So I responded to Leffel, pointing out these discrepancies, and asked that she reconsider. She responded that she would not. I followed up with a request that she include me in another tour. Again, she responded cordially to let me know that another tour would be organized in February, but has not yet responded to my request for more information about the date and location.


All this is especially puzzling since New York Collaborates is an organization that seeks to “encourage public conversation and on-the-ground partnerships between district and charter schools.” (emphasis added by me.) Nor is this the first tour organized by New York Collaborates; previous tours also have included non-principals.


Clearly, the “public conversation” at Bronx 1 was not intended to include anyone who might be the least bit critical of the charter sector. Incidentally, New York Collaborates is “spearheaded” by the New York City Charter School Center and New York City Department of Education, and receives funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


Nor was there much partnering between district and charter schools at the Bronx 1 tour. All but one of the educators on the tour was from the charter sector. Via email, I asked Ms. Leffel about this and she responded: “We had a 50/50 signup.”


If half the registrants were from public-school, this of course raises the question: Why was the guest list for this collaborative opportunity so heavily stacked in favor of charter schools?


So Gabor relied on the report of a friend who was accepted for the tour. The group of 28 was allowed to spend only five minutes in each classroom. They were very impressed with the provisioning and the happy children. The children sat quietly, hands folded, and their eyes tracked the speaker. The principal of the school told the group that she considers the school to be part of the progressive education movement.


If the schools are proud of their work–and clearly they are–why don’t they open their doors to other educators more frequently?