I’m lucky. I have a job I love, and I am doing work that makes me proud. I co-lead one of NewSchools’ investment areas that supports increasing diverse senior leadership in K-12 education. The very idea of this dedicated investment area would have been inconceivable 40 years ago when an earlier generation of diverse pioneers in education were emerging.
Deborah McGriff, who co-leads this work with me, has been fighting to increase diversity in education since 1970. She blazed trails in traditional school systems as the first woman and the first Black leader to be Assistant Superintendent in Cambridge, Deputy Superintendent in Milwaukee, and General Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools. And she has continued her advocacy to this day. Throughout her career, Deborah purposely joined organizations that embraced diversity and had inspiring leaders who served as her champions. But being “first” still came with challenges. She often had to find ways to exert her voice without the benefit of a critical mass of senior colleagues who shared her background and understood her struggles. Fortunately for Deborah, her national network filled this gap.
When I reflect on my own journey, I think about how hard it was being one of the only brown faces on the trading floor at a major investment bank. I think about the hours spent helping diverse leaders advance through the consulting ranks as one of the few Associate Partners of color. When I made the switch into education, I thought there would be greater levels of diversity. But I continue to be surprised by the large racial gap between education leaders and the students they serve.
The efforts to reimagine public education have too often excluded the Black and Latino communities they were intended to serve. It has caused missteps and distrust. Successful movements have always been led by those directly facing injustice in partnership with allies. It’s time efforts to improve education become truly inclusive. Deborah shouldn’t have to end her career the way she started it.
This is why we are passionate about our work. Deborah and I, along with Associate Partner, Erin Gums, believe in the potential of our Diverse Leaders strategy to drive meaningful change.
Today, we are thrilled to announce the first group of Diverse Leaders ventures, selected from a pool of nearly 40 entrepreneurs, and building on learning investments we made in 2014-2015. We believe this is an important step towards building a community of entrepreneurs who are committed to changing the face of K-12 leadership.
New organizations focused on increasing Black and Latino senior leadership
Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) — EdLoC is a new organization of education leaders of color from across the country who have come together to: increase the number of Black and Latino leaders in the highest-level education roles; build a strong network of leaders nationally and locally who are supported through formal programming and convenings; and influence funders and key decision-makers by advocating for a “third-way” approach that brings the perspectives of families and communities to the forefront. Kaya Henderson, Aimee Eubanks Davis, and Layla Avila spearheaded and, along with 15 other high-profile Black and Latino leaders, formed EdLoC. EdLoC’s Executive Director, a member of the original committee, will be announced in April when the organization formally launches.
Latinos for Education — Given the growth of Latinos in the U.S., we must ensure that the next generation of education leaders and advocates reflects the backgrounds and experiences of the Latino community. Latinos for Education, led by CEO Amanda Fernandez, is a new social venture dedicated to developing, placing and connecting essential Latino leadership in the education sector. LFE will develop Latino education leaders, forge a nationwide network of Latinos in education to accelerate their collective voice, and establish an advocacy agenda representing the unique assets of the Latinos in our nation. The work will be piloted in three cities over the coming year, starting in Boston, MA.
National Charter Collaborative — The vision of the National Charter Collaborative (NCC) is to equalize access and give voice to single-site charter school leaders of color. To reach this goal, Co-Founders Kim Smith and Trish Millines Dziko are developing a business plan to identify the range of supports, services, and resources single-site charter leaders need to build sustainable, high-quality schools. Replicating the benefits of well-known, high-growth “networks,” NCC will collaborate with its members to assess common barriers, partner with funders and providers to provide shared services. By creating alignment, the NCC will spur opportunities for leaders of color to grow professionally through the network and to develop sustainable schools resulting in a higher-quality education for students.
Ops360 — Led by Co-Founders Tanya Lewis and DeRonda Williams, Ops360 provides leadership development and training to finance and operations leaders to support the creation, growth, and management of high quality school operations. The result: Ops360’s charter school partners get MORE things done and spend LESS money while achieving excellent operational support for their academic teams. Serving approximately 60% Black and Latino leaders, Ops360 completed a pilot of its cohort-training program in New Orleans and Memphis and is in the midst of its second cohort in both cities. Ops360 looks forward to increasing its impact with cohort 3 starting in Summer 2016 followed by the launch of an online training platform. Moving forward, Ops360 is targeting a goal of 70% Black and Latino leaders across all cohorts.
Existing organizations with new efforts to advance senior, diverse leadership
Charter Board Partners — Charter Board Partners brings new talent into education reform leadership by recruiting individuals to join public charter school boards. Led by President and Co-Founder Carrie Irvin, CBP connects charter schools with dedicated individuals who bring relevant skills, experience, and leadership capacity. In turn, CBP provides these individuals with a meaningful, skills-based volunteer opportunity, access to training and tools to support them as they join boards, and the opportunity to build their personal and professional networks. At the heart of CBP’s work is its commitment to diversifying board leadership by increasing the percentage of Black and Latino directors on charter school boards nationwide. Last year, 50% of recruited board members in DC were Black or Latino.
Education Pioneers — Led by CEO Scott Morgan, Education Pioneers recruits, develops, and connects professionals from diverse backgrounds to solve problems from outside the classroom so students and teachers succeed inside the classroom. Through prestigious fellowships and ongoing alumni services, Education Pioneers grows and strengthens the pipeline of talented leaders across education organizations. The Visiting Fellowship, one of EP’s most promising recent pilots, identifies, supports, and retains rising leaders who are already working in education full-time. Through its partnership with NewSchools, EP will expand the Visiting Fellowship program beyond its pilot phase to serve more rising leaders, while also increasing the diversity of program participants, to support their growth into senior leadership roles across the field.