Roshi Ken (ICS President Ken Byalin) says: "I’m not a typical Zen teacher. My Zen practice manifests as social action. Integration Charter Schools is a manifestation of the practice."

In the Bardo

A few years ago, Erin Celletti, our Director of Communications at ICS and I were talking about how we might attract more visitors to our website. From that discussion emerged the idea for a blog, and then quite naturally The Zen of Charter Schools blog began. Working on the blog has been a wonderful learning […]

Begin Again

Bernie always wanted us to begin again from scratch.  That has become an important principle in my practice. Problem-solving best begins with a fresh canvas. We constantly begin again. Every year, our schools begin again, even when it seems unnecessary. There are new members of every team every year, new ingredients in the mix. We […]

Families First Revisited

Over the years, as the school year comes to an end, every couple of years, one the people who I had seen as a future leader of ICS has left.  Oh, many have left but a few have jolted me. I had not expected it. I felt the loss immediately. Dani. Kerri. Most recently Mariem. […]

Oh, Dirk.

(In Zen funerals, we talk directly to the departed). Oh, Dirk. I am at a loss for words. I am hoping that words will come. I am picturing you. Smiling. Laughing. Always finding humor in the tensest situations. And a great, great laugh. You have been such a great part of my life and the […]

Bringing to the Societal Table Those Who Have Been Excluded

This has been the expression of my vow since I found the words in Bernie’s Instructions to the Cook. “Bringing to the societal table those who have been excluded.” Maybe finding the words helped me to recognize my vow, but I have been standing up for the excluded all my life. Particularly when I was […]

Visionary Leadership

I love the story of the Golden City which the Buddha tells in the Lotus Sutra. It has inspired me. It is all about the journey, not the destination. All of life is a process. All of life is change. There are no final destinations, no final plans. And yet, this is a lesson in […]


Stumbling into the magic of success is not something to be taken for granted. It has always seemed to me Bernie made that mistake, taking what he had accomplished in Yonkers for granted. Greyston, during Bernie’s tenure as founder and leader, was becoming a beacon of engaged Buddhism and social entrepreneurship, a rare blending of […]

What is Social Action?

What is social action? There are four phrases that come to mind, two are from traditional Buddhist teaching. From the Eightfold Path, Shakyamuni Buddha’s initial teaching of the way of the path to the end of suffering, “Right Livelihood” stands out. This has been one of the great blessings in my life. I inherited the […]


“No!” Jesse and Theresa Peterford first met at ICS. Theresa, star teacher, chief joy officer, is now our Vice President for Education, Integration Excellence. And she has stepped in at a moment of crisis as Acting Principal of the Lavelle Prep Middle School Division. Jesse was a founding Lavelle Prep Teacher’s Assistant and our first […]

Infinite Onion

When I was doing koan practice with Jishu, very briefly in the last year of her life, before she and Bernie left Yonkers for Santa Fe, it seems now that she was always telling me, “Go deeper.” I didn’t know where she was pointing. Where is deeper? Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them. […]