The Method of King Jorge 

How a former Richmond street tough transformed an Oakland middle school.

Page 7 of 7

Five-year-old Maceo, his eldest child, wandered out to the porch wearing a T-shirt from Alameda's Rising Star Montessori School, where he is enrolled in kindergarten at an annual cost of $8,000. According to the Rising Star literature, the school promotes "academic excellence in a warm, nurturing environment that celebrates diversity."

"They're soft whiteys," Lopez acknowledged, sipping a glass of water as he admired his son. "But he doesn't need the same shit I needed. Look at what he comes home to." He watched as Maceo climbed onto a massive swing set left behind by the daycare. "I want my kids to do whatever they want," Lopez said. "I always say business or banking, but I really have no idea. But going into education? That's dead. Anyway, they'd never be good inner-city school principals. They didn't grow up in it."

And his students?

"Some of them," the principal said emphatically, "are going to make damned good administrators."

This article was inspired by the writings of Carey Blakely, the site administrator at American Indian Public High School, a new Oakland charter school. Blakely is working on a book titled Crazy Like a Fox: The Ben Chavis Story, which examines her subject's unique upbringing and influence on inner-city public education. Blakely, like Chavis, believes Oakland students can thrive in a learning environment that provides structure, rigorous academics, and high expectations.

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