The organization was created by four parents sitting around a table in Rebecca Coyne's house in Chapel Hill. The others present were Louise Cole, Roger Gerber and Peter Morcombe (aka Gallopingcamel).

Structural Reform
1996 - 2002

Roger came up with the name for our organization. Financial Reform for Excellence in Education = FREE. Despite our different backgrounds and political views we were united where it mattered. Academic excellence through hiring people with a passion for teaching and providing the environment they needed.

I hope the others will share their views on education but for the moment what follows are my views. Here are some of the things that influenced me:

1. Parents should be free to choose schools without interference from bureaucrats.

2. Create small schools with <300 students as outlined in chapter 5 of "Downsizing the U.S.A.". This failed in several of the FREE schools as it is hard to say NO to expansion when there are 500 kids on the waiting list for a 300 student school.

3. Specify a challenging curriculum. For example "Core Knowledge", IB (International Baccalaureate), IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) or AICE (Advanced International Certificate of Secondary Education). Forget about "Teaching to the Test"; just add a year or more of course content beyond what is needed to meet government goals.

4. Separate finance and accounting from line management as recommended in "Management" by Geneen & Moscow. At FREE we hired "Acadia Northstar" as disbursement agent for the FREE schools in line with Harold S. Geneen's philosophy of "No Surprises".

The grand design of FREE was to demonstrate that a "Non-profit Education Management Organizations" (NEMOs) could be a viable alternative to the "For-Profit Education Management Organizations (FEMOs) exemplified by Chris Whittle's Edison Group.

Ultimately FREE failed but not for the reasons one might expect. It left behind five schools and a hint of what NEMOs could do.