By now, most of you who knew Dirk Tillotson know that he was murdered in his home in East Oakland. His wife was injured, but will survive. The news has hit the charter school community hard, as he was one of us. And, as humans, all of us are once again left to ponder why a good man like that was struck down in this particularly violent and senseless way.
Dirk was chief operating officer here at the Charter Center in 2007 and 2008 (and for a time served as its interim CEO). Dirk was a hard-working, caring and effective leader, especially around the Charter Center’s work in new school development. To be honest, though, the position called for working at a level that is pretty far removed from the front lines; and the front lines is always where Dirk wanted to be. And was. He was happiest when he was helping a small, struggling group of folks from the community come together to form a charter school. That was the heart of his work at the Charter Center and later as a consultant and activist. He moved back west, nearby to where he went to law school to try to give children in Oakland a chance at a good education. He was a passionate voice and force for low-income students—and a scourge to anyone who got in their way. He had no time for people in the school district or in charter schools who didn’t put children’s interests first.
He was the quintessential happy warrior. Those who knew him will always remember how mild in voice he was and ready to laugh at the absurdities that the world threw his way. “It’s all good,” he would say with a chuckle and a shrug. But at the same time, he was indefatigable in his efforts to bring more good and caring institutions into being. If you were on board with that he was your friend and partner; if you stood in opposition, he was ready for a good fight.
It is deeply unfair that he has been lost to the senseless violence that he spent his life saving children from through greater opportunities and better and more loving institutions that served them. He will be missed is an understatement. He leaves a hole in our hearts and in the fabric of this movement.
If you would like to donate to help with all the inevitable expenses that his family will face in the years ahead, a GoFundMe page has been set up.
Join with me in mourning his passing.
Chief Executive Officer