Huffington Post: Only a Fool Would Try to Build a Business on Public-Private Partnerships in Education

June 6, 2016
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Robyn Shulman interviewed me for The Huffington Post. Here is an excerpt of the discussion:

“Life is about creating and living experiences that are worth sharing.”– Steve Jobs

Meet Mark Claypool, a pioneer in the public-private education sector who exemplifies Steve Jobs’ quote everyday through his pioneering advocacy work for youth.

I had the opportunity to talk with Mark about his extraordinary work in the public-private partnership sector of education. Mark Claypool is the epitome of a leading social entrepreneur who took a chance, made an unyielding difference, and continues to change the lives of countless children across the country.

1. Looking back at the beginning of your career, what was the motivating factor that moved you toward social work?

The motivating factors that resulted in pursuing a career in social work started at a very young age. I was raised in a family that was dedicated to a life of service. My father was a minister and for as long as I can remember it was instilled in me the importance of giving back. I always wanted to make a difference which is why I chose to earn my master’s degree in sociology.

My personal philosophy has always been that “one can do well while doing good for others” and I’ve used that same philosophy in my professional life, which led me to social work and then starting a company with a social mission to offer hope.

As I’ve noted within my philosophy of this mission, “Only a fool would try to build a business on public private partnership’s in education.”

2. In 1999, you noticed a great lack of resources and services for students with different learning needs. You founded Educational Services of America (ESA) in 1999, which is now ChanceLight Behavioral Health Therapy & Education. Can you provide us with some background about this great movement? Was there a defining catalyst that moved you forward toward such an incredible goal?

As a social worker, I interacted with some of the most neglected kids in the education system—foster children. Bouncing from school to school, sometimes as often as six times in one academic year, foster children had lower standardized tests scores, many had undiagnosed learning disabilities, and all were twice as likely as their peers to drop out of school before graduation. Unfortunately, those same kids often landed in jail. I was frustrated by decreasing resources for foster children and all children with learning differences, so in 1999, I sat down at my dining room table and founded Educational Services of America, now ChanceLight.

3. I know great value is added to the lives of children when public schools and communities (including private institutions or companies) work together. However, I am aware that others do not feel the same way. When do you believe this social stigma or negative attitude toward public and private partnerships began?

There has been a common misconception that private organizations can only work in competition, instead of cooperation with their public school partners. It is important to understand that specialists who have expertise in educating at risk-students and children with behavioral health issues like autism, and who can concentrate solely on them, help students succeed and improve graduation rates. Whether the education specialist comes from a public entity or a private organization should not even be a consideration. The focus should remain on the student and the best education-delivery model is public-private partnership, which is proven to achieve meaningful results for special and at-risk students.

I’d love for you to read the rest of the interview here.