Bobbi Snow – City of Charlottesville
Tell us about your volunteer activities.
I volunteer at the Community Public Charter School in Albemarle County. It is a school I co-founded with Sandy Richardson eight years ago. Our school is for students who have not been successful in their previous schools and are challenged because traditional schools do not meet their needs. Our school offers an arts-infused, project based program with a balance of literacy remediation in a nurturing academic environment. My major work is to raise money for the school because our students thrive in small classes and the arts offerings, which are critical to our mission. I have to convince people that voluntary giving to public education is a worthwhile investment. Besides raising between 25 percent and 35 percent of our budget, I direct the School Management Team which is the Board of the charter school. I also work with students and teachers to try and fulfill our school mission.
What inspires you to volunteer?
The students inspire me daily. Despite their significant challenges the students come to school every day and work through their struggles. Some sixth graders come to us reading on a second grade level because they still haven’t unlocked what they need to succeed- despite the many attempts made with them already. Some students are so disengaged when they first come they do not talk to us. They do not relate to their peers and they do not fit anywhere. They cannot learn the way traditional schools teach and they are miserable at school. But our small environment and the building of connected relationships, using mindfulness for self-regulation, are paramount for their success. I am often in awe of the unbelievably hard work of our teachers who come up with ingenious ways to reach resistant learners and it keeps me motivated to ask people to support school choice and give to this school.
If your volunteer work could make one long-lasting change, what would you want it to be?
I believe in school choice for public schools. Students should have schools that teach the way they learn. My dream is to have the Community Public Charter School endowed so it can last beyond my involvement and be able to provide struggling children with a place to become thinkers and explorers, curious scientists and mathematicians, imaginative writers and artists, and as makers of change in the interest of becoming more responsible citizens in our community and in the world.
What is a little-known fact about you?
When I was in my second year of teaching I started an alternative school when the entire fifth and sixth grade class left the DC Public School system protesting the way our school was integrated. Our community had fought hard to have the school integrated as a result of the Skelly Wright Decision. So, African American students started being bused to our Georgetown school from Anacostia. But we were outraged that the children from Anacostia were being treated so poorly. In fact the school wasn’t integrated at all, but encouraged segregation is some fundamental ways. Students who arrived from Anacostia were made to eat lunch in the basement of the school while the neighborhood children went home for lunch. The Anacostia children were not allowed to go home with the Georgetown students at lunch or after school. Their bus came late to school every day. Their parents were treated poorly also. I wrote a letter to the Washington Post in opposition to the way the DC Public Schools set up our situation.
For being so vocal, I was severely reprimanded by the superintendent of schools, threatened with being transferred to a different school and so I decided to take a stand and leave. The parent group stood behind me and left also. We started a school together with families from Georgetown and Anacostia. The school met in a church basement and had parents who were senators, congressman, TV anchors, house cleaners and unemployed struggling families. It was the hardest school I ever worked in and the first major volunteer job of my life.
What brought you to Charlottesville/Albemarle County?
I did not want to move to Charlottesville. My husband was offered a job here and I did not believe Charlottesville had anything to offer in education. In Cambridge MA I was involved in the center of educational efforts that were vibrant and diverse. I was a vice-principal in a large public school, was involved in many alternative programs, taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for four years and was engaged in political work and education for social responsibility. But my husband’s job was so compelling we decided to take a chance and move with our three year old son. Fortunately, I found the Albemarle County Schools which gave us a charter eight years ago to start a school and has the leadership that believes that young people CAN have wonderful ideas. My journey here is now a satisfying one.