Oprah gives back to charter schools

Scott Gordon — CEO of Mastery Charter Schools, operator of seven schools in the city — received a great back-to-school gift this week from a well-known philanthropist: Oprah Winfrey. Metro got Gordon’s take on the surprise.

When did you learn the school would receive $1 million?

They gave us a call maybe two weeks ago. They said Oprah was very interested in education and wanted to check out schools, and President Obama had mentioned us in a speech in July. They sent out a producer who spent a whole day. She went to two schools and interviewed about a dozen kids. … [Later] we were given a call and invited to fly out. We went out there and we were just in the audience. At the end, she said she wanted all the folks to come on up. I almost fell over.

Why do you think Oprah selected Mastery as one of the six recipients?

Philadelphia is really well known on a national stage because of Dr. Ackerman’s Renaissance schools initiative. She is the only superintendent across the country I know of who said, ‘We’re taking the struggling schools and turning them around. I don’t care who’s going to turn them around.’

How will you use the money?

We’re going to use the money to open more schools next year. We hope to participate in a Renaissance school next year. If that happens, we will use that money to help us turn around the school.

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