Participant Media CEO Jim Berk has a strong personal connection to “Waiting for Superman,” the Davis Guggenheim docu on the crisis in public education.
Berk began his career as a high school music teacher, and in short order he became the youngest principal in the history of the Los Angeles Unified School District when he was tapped to lead the Alexander Hamilton High Schools complex in 1990. He established Hamilton’s renowned music academy program, now one of the largest performing arts magnet schools in the country.
As Paramount opened “Superman,” produced by Participant and Walden Media, on Friday in New York and L.A., Berk was at CAA’s headquarters hosting a benefit screening of the doc to raise money for the L.A. branch of the nonprofit org Communities in Schools. The org provides mentors, tutors and other services to more than 2.3 million students around the country in a bid to cut the dropout rate in low-income schools. (CAA provides office space and other support for CIS Los Angeles West.)
Berk, who is a member of the national CIS board, noted at the screening that “Superman” embodies Participant’s goal of producing pics that compel social change. The launch campaign for the doc includes a push to secure major coin from foundations and other orgs for the cause of education reform. Last week, San Francisco-based NewSchools
Venture Fund announced a $5 million pledge to fund charter schools and other reform efforts. And Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg made headlines (a week ahead of “The Social Network’s” bow) with his donation of $100 million to public schools in Newark, N.J.