New Schools Summit Tackled Today’s Toughest Education Issues: Charter Schools, Assessment, Technology, the Role of Federal Government and More

February 28, 2001

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.– Education entrepreneurs, teachers, policy-makers, and venture capitalists met last week at the New Schools Summit to discuss the nation’s most pressing education issues.

Topics ranged from the convergence of the public, private and non-profit sectors, charter schools, technology in education, assessing student performance and the role of the federal government in education. Leaders in education joined the Summit, including Senator John Kerry; Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO; Susan Sclafani, recent appointee to the Bush Administration’s Department of Education; Mike Smith, former acting deputy director, U.S. Department of Education, and program officer for education at the Hewlett Foundation; Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford School of Education professor; John Doerr, co-founder of New Schools and venture capitalist; and Gene Wade, the founder and CEO of LearnNow. The event was organized and hosted by the New Schools Venture Fund.

The event began with words from Kim Smith, founding president of New Schools, and John Doerr, New Schools co-founder. Smith discussed the mission of New Schools, “At New Schools, we are harnessing the power of entrepreneurs to improve public education.” Doerr underscored the importance of using new models to bring about positive change in the public school system. Doerr proclaimed, “We can, we will, change and improve this public education system.”

The morning panel discussions tackled the tough issues surrounding convergence of public, private and non-profit sectors, and the challenges inherent in translating concepts and best practices between sectors. The afternoon panel discussed the future of public education and the need to modernize the model of public schools to match with our new, information-based society. As Linda Darling-Hammond explained, “We have a factory model system from another time.”

Afternoon roundtables covered key concerns, including how to scale and finance charter schools, leveraging technology in education, recruiting and retaining quality teachers and venture philanthropy in education.

Senator John Kerry, along with John Doerr, led a roundtable discussion on the shifting federal role in public education. Kerry spoke of the crisis of leadership in the public schools and his ideas to reform the tenure system in public schools, along with fair pay and extended training opportunities for teachers. Kerry also promised a bipartisan education bill in the near future. “We have to understand the marriage of resources with standards and accountability,” Kerry said.

Over lunch, Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape and New Schools board member inspired education innovators to forge ahead with their entrepreneurial ideas though they may initially appear undoable. He began, “Just because they tell you you can’t do it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. If they tell you you’re a fool, that’s the highest compliment.”

Gene Wade, the founder and CEO of LearnNow, followed Barksdale with his own story of success in inner city schools and the importance of elevating education to meet the needs of our post-industrial society. As Wade explained, “Next to raising children, educating them is the most important thing we can do.”

Throughout the Summit, entrepreneurs in education shared their stories of success through innovative programs. In the Summit opening, Susan Sclafani, who was recently appointed to the Bush Administration’s Department of Education, spoke about her experience as chief of staff for educational services in the Houston Independent School District. Sclafani explained how her district embraced charter schools to offer greater choice for students and competition within public schools, which led to higher scoring, better-educated students. Houston’s unique programs include Project YES (Youth Engaged in Service), which allows students to study the social issues around them, and Project Chrysalis, which allows its students to use the whole city as their classroom, visiting museums, newspapers, architecture firms and more. With humor and enthusiasm, Don Shalvey, a 34-year veteran educator and CEO of Aspire Public Schools, described his experience writing business plans for his education ventures and the results from his charter school program that inspires students to work toward a college education.

The New Schools Summit was sponsored by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, myCFO and Goldman Sachs.

About New Schools

New Schools is a non-profit venture philanthropy fund that combines business expertise with a deep understanding of education issues to support education entrepreneurs striving for systemic change in public schools. More information is available at

Contact Information:

Alexander Ogilvy Public Relations

Alex Clark, 415/644-3080