The first charter school to open in Colorado was the Academy Charter School in Castle Rock. One of the parent founders of the school was Bill Windler. Academy was immediately in a fish bowl. Then-Governor Roy Romer visited the school and media were visiting on a regular basis. The school opened in a strip mall. Not long after opening, the governing board dismissed the principal, which of course brought on more media attention. The second principal at ACS was Kathy Consigli.
ACS was also the first charter school to use the Core Knowledge curriculum. A district-operated school in Fort Collins (Washington Core Knowledge) was one of the very first to use Core Knowledge in the nation. Core Knowledge was developed in the early 1990's by E.D. Hirsch and the Core Knowledge Foundation. CK was created after E.D. Hirsch's book, Cultural Literacy, outlined "standards" or things students should know to be a productive and literate member of society. Former Colorado Education Commissioner, William J. Moloney, was at the initial brainstorming meetings that resulted in the formation of the Core Knowledge Foundation. Dr. Moloney later served on the CK Board.
Vincent Carroll, of the Rocky Mountain News interviewed Professor E.D. Hirsch in November, 1993. It was this article that caught the attention of Barry Arrington and myself and ultimately resulted in our developing Jefferson Academy, and using the Core Knowledge curriculum. After reading the article, Barry met with Kathy Consigli at ACS and received a hard copy of their charter school application.
After Dave D'Evelyn's death, Bill Windler was assigned the responsibility of creating the Charter Schools Unit at CDE. He wrote the first federal grant application in 1995 in one evening because he was scheduled to leave the next day for a business trip. That grant application was funded. At that point, there was much less money available for states. Charter schools in Colorado were lucky to receive $30,000 a year, for three years, to assist in their startup costs.
As a charter school founder and parent, Bill Windler has always adamantly defended the rights of the average parent to start a charter school. The charter application process has become much more sophisticated over the years and there have been countless philosophical discussions about when regulation is too much and how to guard against only "professionals" starting charter schools. Bill was the first person to work for a state agency charter school office who also had personal charter school experience. The US Dept of Education's Charter School Program office soon saw the advantages to first-hand charter school experience and today there are numerous people working for charter schools in state agencies.
Bill Windler attended the very first National Charter School Conference where everyone fit around one table. Chester Finn, Joe Nathan and Eric Premack were at that first meeting. They still attend, and speak at, the national conferences.
To be completely transparent, I report to Bill Windler at CDE. He hired me in 1999. In addition to learning an immense amount from him over the years, he's instilled in me a strong belief in a "pure" charter school philosophy. I rely on his wisdom on a regular basis. After this many years, I don't even have to ask him a question when I can hear his response in my head. One of his favorite responses is, "Don't ask the question, if you don't want the answer."