It is with deep sorrow that NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools shares news of the passing of Norman Fruchter at the age of 85. Norm, as he was affectionately known, was a change-making school leader, community organizer, and academic who stood as both a steadfast advocate for equity and a resounding proponent for expanded educational pathways. Norm Fruchter led a full and active life as a dedicated reformer, consistently campaigning to bring about social change and improvement. Whether protesting in support of Civil Rights and getting arrested at the 1964 New York World’s Fair alongside notable Black Freedom activists such as Bayard Rustin and James Farmer, or co-directing an alternative high school for students whom had previously stopped attending high school in the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ, Norm remained committed to his guiding principles of justice and community.
Those same very principles drove Norman Fruchter to serve ten plus years as a member of Community School Board 15 in Brooklyn, NY. One of Norman’s most pivotal accomplishments occurred when he helped to form the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, an advocacy organization that sought to protect and promote the constitutional right to a sound basic education for all public school students in the State of New York. The Campaign for Fiscal Equity would sue the city of New York over inadequate school funding for the city’s public school students and win. The landmark ruling in “CFE v. State of New York” found that New York State’s school finance system severely under-funded New York City public schools, and as a consequence denied students across the 5 boroughs their constitutional right to an education. Subsequently, NYC Public School budgets would see financial increases of over $600 million dollars, as New York State continues to take incremental steps to meet the Fair School Funding formula mandated by the lawsuit.
Norm Fruchter’s remarkable life and principles would find him guiding a brand-new generation of education, equity, and justice advocates at two of the nation’s leading institutions of higher learning. Norm served as the co-founder and Director of NYU’s Institute for Education and Social Policy. After retiring from NYU, Norm became the Director of Community Organizing and Engagement at Brown University’s Institute for School Reform, and most recently at NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and School Transformation, in stints as the Center’s Deputy Director, and finally as a Senior Consultant until his death.
In each of these positions, Norm believed the relationship between university researchers and communities are more effective, relevant and equitable when the people and organizations most impacted by public education policies and practices share in the decisions concerning the collection, analysis and presentation of education data and the production of research about those policies and practices.
We remember and mourn Norm Fruchter as a resplendent multi-hyphenate–a visionary, an intellectual, a radical organizer, and mentor to many hundreds of educators, organizers, and researchers. Norm brought his roots as a civil rights movement organizer and activist into the field of public education, and cultivated an institutional home for researchers, community organizers, parents, and youth to join forces for equity and justice in public schools. He was a brilliant thinker, prolific writer, probing researcher, and a master at cultivating and supporting leadership. Norm didn't shy away from asking hard questions, challenging conventional wisdom, and imagining new realities. Norm was steadfast and unapologetic in his conviction that public school parents and youth, especially those from marginalized communities, should be in the lead of education policy. A theme Norm would often revisit in his monthly blog posts featured on the Perspectives page of the NYU Metro Center website. The staff, alumni and partners at NYU Metro Center will miss Norm terribly, and we aspire to continue his legacy.
NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools grieves the death of our beloved friend and colleague Norm Fruchter. Norm will always be remembered as an unabashed, radical visionary whose indelible gift was to inspire those he encountered, to change the world for the better, as he did for so many years. Norm Fruchter will never be forgotten.
Our deepest condolences go out to his surviving family members, loved ones, and the countless community members influenced by his brilliance.
The Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC) is a student-led coalition of NYC youth organizing groups fighting to transform the city’s public schools into safe, supportive, and liberatory learning environments. Through the annual Youth Organizing Institute, UYC's cornerstone leadership development program, cohorts of high school students gain critical organizing and advocacy skills, learn about the education justice landscape and develop strategies to lead powerful campaigns to transform schools and communities. Graduates of the Youth Organizing Institute are eligible for a $1,000 scholarship once they have enrolled in a college of their choice. Donations to UYC in Norm’s memory can be made here and will be used to create a YOI Scholarship Fund for youth leaders for years to come.
College Access: Research & Action (CARA)'s mission is to ensure that first-generation college students, low-income students, and students of color have the knowledge and support necessary to enroll in and persist through postsecondary education. CARA works with high schools, community-based organizations, and higher education institutions to move access and success guidance from an ‘enrichment for some’ to an ‘entitlement for all’ model. Online donations to CARA can be made here (please leave a comment noting "in memory of Norm Fruchter").