Robert (Bob) M. Ferris became an educator in 1966 when he entered a tin-roofed African-American church in Mobile, Alabama and opened a door to fifteen smiling Head Start students. He had just graduated from Spring Hill College with no education courses, and he knew absolutely nothing about Head Start. Nevertheless, he never turned back. Education became his passion and his life.
Bob begins this tale with a description of his conservative Southern upbringing. He only began to challenge the Southern white culture around the time of his college graduation and march into adulthood. His involvement in civil rights and anti-war movements transformed him from a staunch conservative to a liberal activist.
In 1971, he helped start The New Orleans Free School, which became a public school in 1973. He taught seventh and eighth grade and participated in communal governance of the school until 1980. Then the school system bureaucracy engaged the school in a bitter fight to take over leadership of the school. This struggle ended with Bob being appointed principal in 1982.
However, this battle was not an isolated onslaught. It was a precursor to a human flood of conflicts in which the bureaucracy attempted to drown the Free School over issues about staff, size of enrollment, educational practices, teachers, building conditions, neglect of duty and location of school.
Bob concludes this book with passionate and well-informed arguments about educational issues confounding our country, including charter schools, the achievement gap, high-stakes testing, poverty, fair and equitable spending, early childhood eduction and quality education..
Robert M. Ferris received his Master of Science in Education from Indiana University in 1978 and his Doctor of Education in 1989 from Vanderbilt University. He and his wife, Sue, still live in New Orleans and are the proud grandparents of Svara, Teagan, Ameya, and Isla. His sone, Mika, made The Free Schooll documentary.
In 1971, Ferris helped start The New Orleans Free School, which became a radically alternative public school promoting individual learning and grade-less classes.