Big News! NewSchools Venture Fund Announces New Strategy and Leadership

January 26, 2021

By Stacey Childress, CEO, NewSchools Venture Fund

If there was ever a time to imagine a more equitable future for our young people, it’s now. We know that an excellent education is central to this vision and that we can’t get there without rethinking the educational approaches of the past.

I’m excited to announce that NewSchools will help build this future with an investment of over $100 million across four investment areas and that Frances Messano has been promoted to President of NewSchools to lead this work.

Over the next three years, our team will invest over $100 million in diverse innovators with the vision and skills to create the way forward. Our new approach allows us to go deep on work that has momentum while erasing boundaries and focusing throughout our investments on the vital question of who leads the work. Some of the investment areas of focus you’ll recognize — innovative public schools and diverse leaders will continue to be central to our work.

We are also launching two new efforts: a new investment area to build on our racial equity work, and integrating the ed tech and model providers portfolio into a new investment area called Learning Solutions.

Specifically, we will prioritize these investment areas:

  • Diverse Leaders: We are working to increase the percentage of education leaders and teachers who are Black or Latino, mobilize and support parents of color to advocate for changes that benefit their children, and shift the culture and practices of education organizations to be more equitable and inclusive.
  • Innovative Public Schools: We’re investing in entrepreneurs who are creating a wide variety of bold designs for new schools and learning environments and the innovative learning approaches we have seen emerge during the pandemic.
  • Learning Solutions: We’ve integrated our ed tech and model provider portfolios to give us greater flexibility to partner with early-stage entrepreneurs along a spectrum of solutions for school systems that includes tools, core instructional approaches, and whole-school models.
  • Racial Equity: This new area is focused on increasing racial equity in US education through investments in opportunities that fall outside our other three portfolios. We will look for organizations and solutions that address how racial bias and systemic oppression impact the students and families we serve.

We believe it’s crucial who leads the way into this future — which is why we will continue to focus on supporting a new generation of brilliant leaders of color.

Here, that starts with the promotion of Frances Messano to President of NewSchools. In this newly created role, Frances will lead all investment areas and be a member of our Executive Team, which I will continue to shepherd as CEO.

Many of you already know Frances through her work leading our Diverse Leaders and Innovative Schools investment teams and our Summit conference over the past six years. Frances has been a valuable partner to me and has worked tirelessly to support our ventures and entrepreneurs. Her passion for the work is personal — she is a first-generation college graduate and alum of Prep for Prep, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, and Sponsors for Educational Opportunity — and she brings deep experience in the field and impressive credentials to the role as well.

In a new video, she shares her vision for this new chapter of NewSchools. If you don’t already know Frances, I believe you’ll see here why she’s the right person to lead all of our investment teams into the future.

NewSchools has always provided funding to innovators working to improve public education in three areas: schools, tools, and people. Throughout our history, we have offered risk capital, coaching, and connections to an increasingly diverse group of visionary leaders. As we build on what we’ve learned from our work over the last five years and the tumultuous education context of 2020, we are encouraged to see much progress and potential. We believe we are onto something in partnership with our community of educators and innovators. And there is so much more for us to do.