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Charter School Group Is Getting $6-Million Gift to Help Overhaul L.A.'s Jefferson High

April 07, 2006|Joel Rubin | Times Staff Writer

Green Dot Public Schools, one of the city's leading charter school operations, will receive a $6-million gift today from the Wasserman Foundation.

The money, which more than doubles Green Dot's reserves, comes at a critical time for the organization. This fall, Green Dot plans to expand dramatically, opening several South Los Angeles campuses as part of a plan to reform Jefferson High School -- one of the city's lowest-performing public schools.

"Green Dot has an opportunity to take one of the worst schools in Los Angeles and turn it, hopefully, into several high-performing, smaller schools," said Casey Wasserman, 31, who owns the Avengers arena football team and heads his family's foundation.

Charters are publicly funded but independently run schools that are granted greater flexibility in exchange for a promise to improve student achievement.

Green Dot operates five charter campuses in impoverished Los Angeles neighborhoods.

For months, Green Dot founder Steve Barr has clashed with Los Angeles Unified School District officials over control of Jefferson.

Barr originally called on the district to relinquish control of the campus and allow it to be divided into several Green Dot charter schools.

When Supt. Roy Romer and school board members rejected that idea, Barr began opening six schools in the Jefferson area. He said he hoped that the competition would pressure district officials to be more willing to collaborate with charter groups and reform failing schools.

In an interview Thursday, Barr said he and Romer have agreed to open two of the charters on an L.A. Unified campus. Green Dot will rent facilities for two other schools, and Barr said his staff is searching for sites for the remaining schools.

If no space is found, Barr said, two schools could be opened on other Green Dot properties.

The Wasserman gift, Barr said, will help enable Green Dot to cover the roughly $1.2 million it costs to open and operate a charter for a year. "It takes a huge weight off," Barr said.

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