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Entrepreneurial Leaders Honored for Contributions to Public Education

WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 12, 2010 – While more than 650 supporters of entrepreneurial change in public education gathered at its eleventh annual NewSchools Summit in Washington D.C. today, venture philanthropy firm NewSchools Venture Fund announced the recipients of its annual awards, including Entrepreneurs of the Year, Organization of the Year, Change Agent of the Year, and the Career Achievement Award. The awards are designed to recognize and celebrate the achievements of this important class of social innovators, who are making a difference in the lives of students in underserved communities across the country and changing the national conversation about what’s possible in public education.

The 2010 award winners are:

Entrepreneurs of the Year:

Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, Revolution Foods

Kristin Richmond and Kirsten Tobey co-founded Revolution Foods in 2006 upon the belief that every child’s education, regardless of their income level, should include healthy eating and learning about nutritious food. Over the last three years, Revolution Foods has grown from that simple idea into an organization that works with over 220 education programs in Washington DC, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Denver Colorado, serving close to 50,000 meals each day in traditional public, charter, and parochial schools and afterschool programs.

“These women have shown that it is possible to build a thriving, entrepreneurial enterprise that can remain deeply connected to its social mission and seek to make a profit,” noted NewSchools partner Julie Mikuta when presenting these awards. “By delivering on their promise of all-natural, safe and fresh meals, Kristin and Kirsten are building healthier kids and communities, and raising the bar for what healthy organizations can do and be.”

Entrepreneur of the Year:

Bill Kurtz, Denver School of Science & Technology (DSST) and DSST Public Schools

Bill Kurtz is the founding school director of the Denver School of Science and Technology, an open-enrollment, college preparatory liberal arts school with a science and technology focus. Founded in 2004, the organization has grown to serve middle school students as well. The school is the top performing public school in the city of Denver, and over the last three years has had the highest median student growth and one of the ten lowest college remediation rates in the state of Colorado – not to mention a 100% four-year college acceptance rate with 47% of its graduates choosing science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields of study in college. DSST was also a finalist in this year’s Race to The Top Commencement Challenge. To expand the impact and the reach of this powerful approach, Kurtz has created DSST Public Schools, a new charter school management organization (CMO) that will replicate the success of the original campus at four additional sites serving 4,300 students (12% of the Denver Public Schools student population in grades 6-12).

“Through his work as the leader of DSST, Bill has created an exemplary model that balances liberal srts education, STEM, 1:1 technology with traditional and project-based learning,” said NewSchools partner Deborah McGriff, as she handed Kurtz his award.

Organization of the Year:

The New Teacher Project (TNTP)

Founded in 1997, The New Teacher Project partners with school districts and states to implement scalable responses to their most acute teacher quality challenges. Since its inception, TNTP has trained or hired approximately 37,000 teachers, benefiting an estimated 5.9 million students nationwide. It has established more than 75 programs and initiatives in 31 states. But TNTP’s work hasn’t been limited to simply being a premier partner to districts in recruiting and training excellent teachers. The organization has also made a sustained, purposeful investment in research and advocacy work, helping to identify the root causes of the challenges confronting urban and high-poverty school districts as they strive to attract, train, hire and keep outstanding teachers, as well as to provide actionable recommendations and effective tools that make reform feasible.

“What’s inspiring about The New Teacher Project is its absolute refusal to be satisfied with the status quo or give up on urban and high-poverty schools,” says Kati Haycock, chair of the TNTP board and president of the Education Trust, who was quoted by Mikuta during the awards presentation. “They know change is possible, and everything they do speaks to their determination to make it happen.”

Change Agent of the Year:

Paul Herdman, The Rodel Foundation

Paul Herdman, the president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, was honored as an individual who has played a critical role in creating the conditions necessary to dramatically improve public education. Throughout his career, Paul has worked as a tireless advocate for standards and accountability. Under his leadership, the Rodel Foundation helped to craft and implement a new educational plan, called Vision 2015, for making Delaware one of the finest school systems in the nation. This bold plan puts students at its center, advocating for high expectations and common standards, additional instructional time, investment in early childhood education, the development and support of high-quality teachers, principal empowerment, and equitable funding systems. This work helped to position Delaware as a leader and one of only two states to win a grant in the first round of Race To The Top. Paul has also spearheaded the work of the Common Core Standards Initiative, a collaborative effort of governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia who have committed to developing a common core of state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12.

“Such initiatives are rarely successful without a committed leader who positions themselves to take on the grunt work, and Paul has been this leader,” noted NewSchools’ McGriff, who has also been involved in the initiative. “In doing so, he is lowering obstacles, confronting the technical and policy challenges of reform head on. He is setting the stage for incredible gains in the future.”

Career Achievement Award:

Nelson Smith, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

As the current president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Nelson Smith has been a tireless advocate for choice and for quality public education opportunities. Having served as the leader of the Alliance since its creation in 2004, and, during his tenure, the national charter school movement opened over 1,500 new charter schools. As one of the movement’s key leaders, he has emphasized charter school quality as the path to greater growth, including creating a movement-led task force on quality and accountability, encouraging state charter associations to adopt quality standards, and developing a new model state charter school law with strong accountability provisions. Several states are now using this new model law as a template for statutory reform. Outside of his work with the Alliance, Nelson has been a nationally recognized expert on charter schools and education policy in general, in roles that have included senior management positions at the U.S. Department of Education, the D.C. Public Charter School Board, the New York City Partnership, and most recently at New American Schools, where he served as vice president for policy and governance. In 2002, he was appointed one of 21 negotiators who developed federal regulations for the No Child Left Behind Act.

“Even if you have not had the opportunity to work with Nelson directly, it is likely that you’ve felt the impact of his work,” said NewSchools’ McGriff. “Although Nelson is stepping down from his role as CEO at the Alliance and will serve as an advisor for the next year, his shoes as the charter sector’s chief advocate will be hard to fill.”

About NewSchools Venture Fund

NewSchools Venture Fund (www.newschools.org) seeks to transform public education through powerful ideas and passionate entrepreneurs so that all children – especially those in underserved communities – have the opportunity to succeed. As a national nonprofit venture philanthropy firm, we support education entrepreneurs, a special breed of innovators who create new nonprofit and for-profit organizations that redefine our sense of what is possible in public education. Founded in 1998, NewSchools has invested in more than 35 nonprofit and for-profit organizations and raised nearly $150 million. We take an active role with each venture in our portfolio to help them create sustainable organizations that generate breakthrough results for the students they serve. In addition to the direct support we provide those entrepreneurs, NewSchools also connects their work to the broader landscape of public education reform, by analyzing the results of our work, commissioning relevant research, publishing our insights, and convening leaders at events like the annual NewSchools Summit.

Media Contact

Julie Petersen, Communications Director
NewSchools Venture Fund
415-615-6863
jpetersen@newschools.org