In 1919 Pierre du Pont began a quest for educational improvement, and from 1919 to 1938, more than $20 million was spent on school construction in Delaware, 1/4 of which came from Pierre, directly. Prior to Pierre’s death, he established the Longwood Foundation, which for the last 75 years has been a major driver of providing capital and operating dollars to thousands of Delaware’s non-profits — including tens of millions of dollars to education. The Longwood Foundation has been the major capital funder for our private and independent schools and a major driver of the growth of Charter Schools.
Today, Pierre’s legacy, his focus on education and an almost 100 year journey continues with a re-visit to the past. In the late 1920’s into the 1930’s, Pierre du Pont privately built over 90 schools for black students because the State of Delaware refused to improve education for black residents. Flash forward to today, and a quick look at the City of Wilmington in 2012 clearly shows that the State has still refused to build quality schools for black students — the City being largely populated with African-Americans and having no decent district schools within its borders and no high school at all.
Readers of this blog know that I tried to start a Charter High School in the City of Wilmington, but City leadership refused to help — and I wasn’t asking for money, just flexibility and good faith negotiations (That Charter School, The Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, is now in a successful first year in New Castle County and is, arguably, the most diverse public school in the State). So, I failed then, but I don’t take failure as an end state, just as an opportunity for a new beginning. Due to Bank of America’s corporate re-alignment & generosity, they have offered, and Pierre’s legacy, The Longwood Foundation, has agreed to take, one of the former MBNA buildings for donation. The Longwood Foundation plans to take that building and create the “Community Education Building” (CEB) and put 4 Charter Schools right in the heart of the City of Wilmington. Wilmington’s own “Charter School District” — an idea that I floated in January 2006 on a Comcast Newsmaker Broadcast but could find no supporters at the time. Furthermore, we will surround the CEB with educational resources like health, nutrition, special ed, etc.
It will be a difficult road forward , but a successful educational system is worth it. Saving human potential is worth it. The forces of mediocrity of arrayed against us (even the Governor in his remarks refused to mention the words “Charter School”) — we’ll need your help to fight the good fight and win…