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Update: Green Dot & Steve Barr Finalize Their "Divorce"

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Sam Dillon reported in Saturday’s New York Times that Steve Barr's spinoff organization has now changed its name in order to clarify the legal and operational separation between Barr’s current work and Green Dot Public Schools, Barr’s original organization. Dillon describes Green Dot and Barr as “going through a divorce” and is kind enough to mention some of the uncomfortable dynamics that led up to the split that are described in my forthcoming book.

The story behind Barr and Green Dot parting ways is understandably fascinating to education watchers, who rarely get to see any of the internal strife and sausage-making that goes on behind the velvet school reform curtain communicated to them by the mainstream media and reformy blogs. But internal conflicts and partings of ways aren’t really all that unusual in education or other fields (think politics, business, or entertainment). Jon Schnur left New Leaders just a few months ago after having gone through a slew of senior staff over the years. Richard Colvin departed less than two years after having announced the “new” Hechinger Institute. Co-founders Tom Toch and Andy Rotherham fell out with each other and their board and left Education Sector after just four years. The CDF and the Forum have had a lot of turnover.  Tom Vander Ark and the Gates Foundation went their separate ways in 2007, after eight years together.  

The only thing particularly notable about the Barr/Green Dot split is how poorly covered and understood it was for such a long time -- and how long everybody seemed to leave it that way. Marco Petruzzi replaced Barr as CEO of Green Dot in the fall of 2008 and Shane Martin replaced him as board chair in 2009.  The organization formally known as Green Dot America never had much to do with the "real" Green Dot. But no one in the media or among any but the anti-reform bloggers seemed to grasp (or be willing to say out loud) what was happening, and Green Dot and Barr both seemed understandably content at the time to let the circumstances remain vague. [Much the same thing is happening now with Rhee and Klein, whose untimely dismissals are usually ignored in news stories and at conferences.]

The situation would have remained unclear for even longer but a recent NYT article about Barr’s possible expansion in NYC made apparent just how confused everyone was.  (A story in GothamSchools fails to explain the split or the rationale behind the renaming.) Friday's news was the signing of the final divorce papers after a long separation – and the beginning of what one hopes is a strong future for the work being done by Barr and Petruzzi.

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