History

1989 AERO-Gramme Newsletter is established. Without government assistance for housing or education, Kee Way Win Indian Chief, Geordi Kakeptum, turns to AERO to help establish a school on their Sandy Lake reserve in Ontario. AERO secures funds, supplies, and clothing, and helps the tribe organize their own curriculum which includes the teaching of tribal traditions from the elders.

1990 AERO’s Alternative Education Teacher Training program is proposed to alternative universities and organizations.

1991 AERO founder, Jerry Mintz, introduces “Organic Curriculum,” a highly effective, learner-directed approach to curriculum development and experiential learning that is fully individualized. With the support of former Soviet leader, Boris Yeltsin, Jerry is invited by the Creative Teachers Union as a keynote speaker to the first New Schools Festival in Russia on the democratization of education.

1992 AERO’s Alternative Education Teacher Training seminar is held in Russia, sponsored by Eureka Free University—Russia’s first private University.

1993 In Jerusalem, Jerry chairs the symposium on “Democratization of Schools: Types and Ways” at the International Conference on Education for Democracy in a Multi-Cultural Society.

1994 AERO’s presentation of the Alternative Education Handbook at the International Alternative Education Conference at Drake University provides important data and historical information about the alternative education movement and is a giant first step toward the unification of the alternative education movement.

1995 After helping to establish a United States branch of the Eureka Free University of Moscow, AERO and Eureka USA offer a certification course and internship program for teachers in alternative education.

1996 At the First Annual Conference on Higher Education, Jerry facilitates the organizational meeting of the Alternative Higher Education Network—the first organized primarily by students at alternative colleges. The state of Iowa requires every school district to have an alternative education program. AERO is contracted to train teachers and administrators.

1997 AERO’s Virgin Island Consulting Project trains staff at at-risk public alternative schools on the islands. AERO secures over $25,000 in grants from the Edward Foundation on behalf of four schools in financial crisis: Stork Family School in Vinnitsa, Ukraine; Rogers Person-Centered School in Budapest, Hungary; Free School in Albany, New York; and Moscow International Film School. At the Growing Without Schooling 20th Anniversary Conference, AERO’s discussion on “International Homeschooling and Alternative Schools” inspires the formation of LOYO (Learn On Your Own), the first homeschool organization run by and for homeschooled students.

1998 AERO participates in the Parent Choice in Education Conference organized to acquaint inner-city parents with options for their children’s education. Having learned the democratic process in one of AERO’s demonstration workshops, 5-,6-,and 7-year old students of the Renaissance School in Florida take initiative and ask to interview their prospective teacher—then vote on her!

1999 While the Columbine massacre takes place, AERO, parents, students and educators are just miles away at the National Coalition of Alternative Community Schools Conference involved in a variety of personal development activities including conflict resolution. Hundreds of letters, phone calls, and e-mails flood the AERO office from adults and children seeking information on educational alternatives. AERO-Gramme Newsletter becomes the Education Revolution Magazine with color cover and national distribution to newsstands.

2000 Featured presenter at Home Educators Seaside Festival in England, demonstrating democratic decision-making process to 900 home educators, 500 home educated students. Key organizer of the International Democratic Education Conference in Japan, the largest ever, with over 1000 participants from 15 countries, $120,000 raised to help bring participants from democratic schools in third world countries. Jerry facilitates workshop for 45 principals, teachers, students, juvenile justice workers and a judge in Jacksonville, Florida, to help them trouble shoot problems they were having with their alternative schools and to create new alternatives. AERO develops Homeschool resource Center Starting Kit.

2001 Jerry is invited special guest at 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Stork Family School in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, does radio tour of 25 radio shows in three days, in top markets in the USA, promoting AERO, alternative education and parental choice. AERO now has virtual staff members in England, Arizona and Vermont in addition to those at the office in New York.

2002 AERO has a training seminar to help start a new homeschool resource center on Long Island. It organizes a demonstration mini-center as part of the process. It participates in another Homeschool Seaside Festival and a Small Schools Conference in England. AERO sets up its school-starters program, including a special listserve for that purpose, takes a group of seven to the IDEC in New Zealand and makes a successful bid to host the 2003 IDEC in the United States.

2003 Under conference Director Dana Bennis AERO co-hosts the 2003 IDEC with Albany Free School at Russell Sage College in Troy, NY, with 650 attendees from 25 states and 25 countries. We also raise $65,000 so that 100 low income and Third World participants can come. There are 17 keynoters, including Bill Ayers, Pat Montgomery, Michael and Susan Klonsky, John Gatto, Zoë Readhead from Summerhill, etc. Later Jerry attends the Coalition of Essential Schools conference in Columbus, Ohio, connecting with people such as alternative schools pioneer Debby Meier and Gates Foundation Director Tom Vander Ark. Jerry’s book, No Homework and Recess All Day: How to Have Freedom and Democracy in Education, is released.

2004 AERO celebrates its 15th Anniversary with its first solo conference. It is again at Russell Sage College, with John Gatto, Pat Farenga, Jerry Mintz and Chris Mercogliano as keynoters.It is so successful that participants demand that it become an annual event. After a year of participating in organizational meetings, AERO helps to start Brooklyn Free School, the first democratic school in New York City in decades. Late in the year two AERO staff members participate in the IDEC in Bhubaneswar, India.

2005 AERO produces a documentary of Butterflies, a democratric program in Delhi, India, for working homeless children. Jerry is brought to Guatemala by NELEB School, helps them establish democratic process. The second AERO conference is held, “A Spectrum of Alternatives.” AERO helps the IDEC in Berlin Germany.

2006 Jerry does his third consultation for the DAV schools, India to help them establish democratic process in their 700 schools, and a similar consultation for Unity Charter School in NJ, The third AERO conference, “Finding our commonalities, Celebrating our differences,” is the most successful to date. Out of the conference a new online course for school starters is established. 28 students take the first course, world-wide. The IDEC is held in Australia for the first time. Ouida Mintz, Jerry’s mother and long time AERO volunteer, passes away. Ron Miller becomes editor of Education Revolution Magazine.

2007 The first new alternative schools started by AERO school starters course members are opened. We do a demonstration of democratic process at one of the schools for children under 5, called “Preschool Democracy.” Jerry keynotes Iowa education conference, Tubessky Memorial conference in Russia, Montessori conference in Florida. Democratic process is demonstrated to Montessori attendees. 4th AERO conference, “Widening the Circle,” features John Gatto and Zoe Readhead of Summerhill.

2008 AERO helps organize the creation of Manhattan Free School, the second democratic school in NYC. AERO offers second online course, “History and Theory of Democratic Education.” The 2008 AERO conference, “Moving from Ideas to Practice,” features Public alternative pioneer Deborah Meier, Albany Free School founder Mary Leue, No Homework and Recess All Day is published in German edition. We help organize the IDEC in Vancouver, BC. The IDEC spawns the European Democratic Education Community which has its first gathering. Jerry attends “Democracy at Risk” forum at National Press Club, meets Linda Darling Hammond who suggests that if Obama is elected he will get rid of LCLB within a year.

2009 AERO helps with a gathering of democratic schools in New York State, eventually organizes the NADEC, North American Democratic Education Conference, just prior to the AERO conference. The 6th AERO conference is held in Albany, at a hotel for the first time. Its theme is “Educational Alternatives: Past, Present, and Future" and features Patch Adams as a keynoter. The New Visions Foundation began its support of AERO. Jerry did a consultation with a school in Florida that suddenly grew from 7 to 75 students. The AERO website is revamped with a new logo. Carlo Ricci and Jerry start work on developing Turning Points book. Jerry confronted new Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan at the Education Writers Conference in Washington, DC, about ending No Child Left Behind. Duncan admitted, “The name is toxic. We’ll probably change the name!” Isaac Graves attends the Education Circle of Change. Jerry does consultation with school starters in Montreal.

2010 AERO helps Brooklyn Free School buy its own building in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, NY. AERO helps with the IDEC in Israel. On the way to Israel Jerry speaks at the Family School in London, visits Summerhill School for the 15th time. On the way back he is stranded in England by the ash cloud from Iceland, visits the Family School again! Isaac Graves organizes his 7th AERO conference. Herb Kohl is featured by the AERO conference, along with the return of John Gatto. It’s theme is “Learner Centered Alternatives for Everyone.” Turning Points is published by AERO. Video documentaries “Schooling the World,” and “The War on Kids,” are featured. Former AERO staff member Dana Bennis organizes the Institute for Democratic Education in America. The US Olympic Committee names Jerry Mintz as Volunteer Coach of the year for his work with the democratic table tennis clubs at several Boys and Girls Clubs. AERO teams with IDEA and Ron Miller to have a booth at the Green Festival in Washington, DC. AERO organizes visits by Brooklyn Free School and Manhattan Free School to the Democracy Now radio show. Our School Starters program has now helped to start over 50 new schools. In addition to our regular school starters course we launch our first Spanish language school starters, led by Mari Luce Fernandez.

2011 In February Jerry is brought in as a consultant to Nuestra Escuela in Puerto Rico. In a week he visits 6 schools, starts two new democratic programs and three table tennis programs. He is invited to participate in the 20th anniversary celebration of the Stork Family School in Vinniytsia, Ukraine. AERO presents at the Voyager conference in New Jersey, a public school seminar in New Haven, CT, the AERA conference and Education Writers conferences, in New Orleans. This is followed by presentations at the IDEC in Devon, England by Jerry and Isaac. In August the AERO conference is held for the first time in the west coast, in Portland, Oregon. A record number attends. Keynoters include Riane Eisler, Deborah Meier and Linda Stout. We helped organize Parents Decide, a prototype for options fairs for parents, near Worcester, MA. A record number enrolled in the school starters course and a second Spanish course started. Education Revolution Magazine and the AERO website are redesigned as an online magazine, bookstore, and information hub by new Education Revolution Editor Josh Cook.

2012 The year started with a bang with the unveiling of the highly acclaimed, completely revamped AERO website. In March AERO was a major presence at the hugely successful IDEC in Puerto Rico. In May, Jerry was brought to England, Austria and Hungary for several public talks and consultations with people wanting to start new educational alternatives. For the second year the AERO conference was held in Portland, Oregon, in early August. This year’s keynoters included Israel’s Yaacov Hecht and TED Internet sensation Sir Ken Robinson. In August, AERO had a special fundraiser to help with expenses toward John Gatto’s recovery from two strokes. AERO published two new books, one by Nikhil Goyal, a 17 year old high school student, called “One Size does not Fit All!" and a second, by Bob Ferris, was about the history of New Orleans Free School. In October, the 7th School Starters course was full again. In late October, AERO’s Long Island headquarters was hammered by Hurricane Sandy at the same time as AERO was trying to make a challenge match by the New Visions Foundation. An outpouring of support from the AERO network not only made the match bur surpassed it by a third!

2013 We started the year by releasing the edited version of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on the AERO website, our most popular release ever! We had the first New York City area AERO conference, our 10th, in May at LIU/Post, featuring Alfie Kohn, Peter Gray, and three other keynoters. AERO had a big role at the 21st annual IDEC in Boulder, CO, running the bookstore there, among other things. Jerry delivered a well received TEDx talk in Bergen, Norway. He then visited a new AERO school and Summerhill in England. AERO opened the 8th annual School Starters course and continued the Spanish School Starters course. We released several new maps of schools, including democratic schools, higher education alternatives, and schools AERO has helped to start.