James Willcox

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James Willcox, CEO of Aspire Public Schools, has been a leading figure in the charter school movement. So much so that he was profiled on Oprah in 2010 as a stellar example of leadership and a school that others should strive to emulate..

Aspire Public Schools were founded in 1998 and now include 30 high-performing charter schools in East Palo Alto, Oakland, Modesto, Stockton, Sacramento and Los Angeles, serving almost 10,000 students. Their waiting list is about half their enrollment.

After a nationwide search by Oprah producers for schools that were doing great work with students, Wilcox and Aspire were chosen to receive a $1 million gift for their work. And while Wilcox was beyond grateful for the gift, he pointed out that it came at a time when the state cut the public education budget by $10 million just in 2010.

Wilcox believes strongly that the strength of the charter school movement is its demonstration that there is a different way to approach public education, rather than using a “one size fits all” module. He believes charter schools have shown what is possible and hopes more parents will start demanding that type of education for their children.

He also believes strongly that all people should stand together and make public education a priority. Wilcox does not see the crisis in public education as an issue of charter versus public schools. He sees it about schools and students, because everything in the United States rests on a quality education that all students should be able to successfully access.