The world lost one of its greats: a beloved husband and father; a smiling and laughing friend; and a fierce warrior for educational equity.
On Saturday, October 2, 2021, Dirk Tillotson tragically lost his life. No other details will be made available at this time.
The details that matter most however, center on the measure of a man Dirk is, and the legacy he leaves with us. As the testimonials will surely illustrate, Dirk’s influence reached all corners of the US and the world. In New Orleans, he set foot as one of the first boots on the ground to support schools post-Katrina, helping with the formation of New Schools for New Orleans. In Qatar, where he led the school-based aspects of RAND education’s largest project there. Much of his love, though, centered upon two cities that were also dear to his heart.
In New York, he founded the Charter School Incubator, which incubated at least 19 community-based, public charter schools serving the most disadvantaged students in the state with some of the most innovative educational models, including schools that provided dual language programs, GED programs for the over-aged/under-credited, sustainability education, pathways to law school and health care related licenses, embedded social and emotional learning curriculum, and guaranteed seats for students with autism. They represented charter schools that were some of the first to represent Mt. Vernon, Rochester, and Staten Island. He then founded Great School Choices, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to educational equity, but an organization whose website could not keep up with all of the work he’s done to challenge the status quo.
In Oakland, with his ear to the ground and his heart forward, he led countless initiatives that broadened Great School Choices’s portfolio, and were in direct response to the inequities rampant in public education. He launched his own advocacy blog Great School Voices (www.greatschoolvoices.org) that shone a light on myriad issues, including the pandemic-influenced push for Internet For All and digital inclusion for all students, leveraging all forms of media including blogs, podcasts (https://citizen.education/2021/09/23/oakland-is-leading-the-way-to-desegregate-the-internet/), and live demonstrations. He launched State of Black Education in Oakland (www.stateofblackeducation.com), a community advocacy organization that with other partners in the Oakland Unified School District, succeeded in unanimous adoption of Housing For All, Internet For All, and the Opportunity Ticket initiatives. Great School Choices is also set to launch Ledbetter (www.led-better.org), a platform to provide low-cost, on demand professional development to serve America’s most needy students, including special education students and students where English is a New Language, and coaching for school leaders/communities to build great schools and to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
Most importantly though, we cannot measure Dirk’s outsized influence without recognizing those he loved most, his son Malcolm, his wife Amina, and their beloved pets. No man can be a movement, as a colleague noted he is, without the bedrock of family, and as anyone can attest, his love for both Amina and Malcolm fed the garden that forms the basis of all we know and love about our Dirk. This fundraiser is to help support Amina and Malcolm through this time.
More information will come about other means to support his legacy and to commemorate his life.
Thank you for supporting this GoFundMe.