Aaron Dare was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Urban League of Northeastern New York, Inc. and Founder of the New Covenant Charter School in Albany, N.Y. This is an edited version of remarks he delivered at a luncheon in New York City on September 30, 1999.
I am very fortunate that much of the credit surrounding the founding of the New Covenant Charter School in the Arbor Hill neighborhood of Albany has been attributed to myself. However, the true founders of the school are the parents, and it is their story that I would like to share with you.
It is the story of a community coming together and developing a vision for public education that is based in principles like quality, opportunity and universal access. Many of us have had the good fortune of being able to take these notions for granted. In many urban communities like Arbor Hill, people cannot afford such luxuries.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the consumers of one of our states largest business concerns. We discussed the inferior services the business provided and they told me that while the cost of the services grew at a much greater rate than inflation, the business continued to provide a depression-like return to investors. The business promised high quality services, but it provided acceptable levels only on the margins, the outer limits of its trade areas, where the consumers were much more organized and had greater options available to them. It performed at acceptable levels only in those areas where it was forced to because of greater levels of competition.
When emergencies occurred and services were called into question, the businesss response time was slow and the repairs that were made were shoddy at best. The new products that were introduced to replace outdated ones consistently fell short of even the most modest expectations.
As the costs associated with services increased, the company explained that quality would quickly follow. The consumers had every reason to believe these claims, especially as they saw the improvements in the outer trade areas. The quality and the improvements that were promised, however, simply never came.
When the consumers met with the businesss governing body to express their frustrations and concerns, they were met with entreaties of, Wait: We are doing the best that we possibly can. Please be patient and we promise we will do better. Again the consumers waited patiently...