Janine Yass didn’t set out to be an advocate of educationreform. But once she had a firsthand look at the crisisin Philadelphia’s public schools, she couldn’t ignore it.“It’s simply an injustice,” says Yass. “Every child shouldhave the same opportunities for education that my children had. Isn’t that what this country is about?”
So Yass and her husband took action in 2006, proposing the Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School for grades nine through 12. With a private-school college-prep curriculum,the West Philadelphia institution already had a waiting list when it was approved by the School District of Philadelphia.It remains the most recent charter school to be sanctionedby the city. Its current enrollment is 450 students, and99 percent of its graduates have gone on to college—manyof them to Ivy League schools. “The more kids and parentsI met, the more it just fueled me every day to keep going,”says Yass, who’s recently received city approval for a Boys’ Latin middle school, which will open this year.
The vice chair for the national Center for EducationReform’s board of directors, Yass is also on the board ofthe Philadelphia School Partnership, a reform-focusedorganization she cofounded with other business andphilanthropic leaders. “I’ve seen struggling schools transform over the past five years,” Yass says. “Public, nonprofit charter organizations have created safe havens of learning. Weneed to keep advocating on behalf of these students.”