Sacramento is a bloated region full of talkers lobbyists, consultants, politicians, crisis managers, union heads, neighborhood "activists" and the like.
You could say Margaret Fortune was part of the status quo until her years as an education adviser to two governors came to an end.
Fortune "left the Legislature behind" when it became clear that the political system of Sacramento was set up to protect the entrenched interests and entitlements of public education.
It wasn't set up to close the achievement gap and educate African American students, who were falling behind and into the traps ensnaring poor minority kids: poverty, incarceration, poor health and premature death.
Now, Fortune runs the Fortune School on Stockton Boulevard, a new K-8 school that's succeeding with kids who might otherwise have failed. More than 80 percent of her kids are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. She plans to open another school next year.
You'd think the Harvard and UC Berkeley graduate would be celebrated for discarding Capitol perks for the hard work of running urban schools.
This is "doing," not talking. But this is also Sacramento, and Fortune runs a charter school, a tough task in the hometown of teacher union intransigence.
Fortune's teachers are not unionized. "Our model of success depends on long days," she said. "If kids are not performing at grade level, they don't go on vacation. They hit the books. That's a showstopper in traditional schools."
Long days become a compensation fight in traditional public schools. While that fight rages on, poor kids keep failing.
"The lowest performing kids, African Americans, are 425,000 out of 6 million," Fortune said.
A recent story about Fortune School by The Bee's Diana Lambert said that tests "given at the beginning of the school year and again the first trimester show all grade levels are increasing the number of students testing proficient or better in English Language Arts. ... The most dramatic increase in English proficiency was in kindergarten where in one trimester there was a 66 percent improvement in the number of students who became proficient or advanced in English."
This kind of success will generate one reaction in Sacramento opposition. Already, unions are contributing to anti-charter candidates for the county Board of Education, which approved Fortune's schools. In the meantime, opponents will say that educators like Fortune cherry-pick their students and discard the troubled ones.
"What they are saying is this group of students (minority students) couldn't possibly get those results on their own merits. That's the problem. They don't fundamentally believe they can get results," Fortune says.
She believes, and that's the danger for her in Sacramento.