Saying good-bye to the scribe of our movement

February 16, 2011

By and large, we at NewSchools like to use this blog space to announce news, or to ruminate on ideas, trends, and policy matters that are core to the work of education entrepreneurs. It’s rarely for individual matters.

This will be an exception.

For the last eight years, Julie Landry Petersen has served as the scribe to our movement, as well as our supporter, muse, and conscience. She joined NewSchools in its toddlerhood, as a former high-tech reporter who would collect, sift, and make sense of the ideas of a fast-growing sector, while fighting a daily war against misplaced apostrophes. She’s done all that, making sure that the movement for entrepreneurial, results-oriented education reform could back up its results with intellectual heft. She has explained not just NewSchools, but a whole family of work and ideas, to the world. If you’ve ever read anything with our name on it, chances are she played an important role in shaping it. She built a whole communications world (including the blog you’re reading now), and helped translate dozens of individual organizations and efforts into a powerful network.

In the process, she became a trusted friend to everyone inside our walls, and to many, many people outside. She was never afraid to tell the truth: when ideas didn’t match, when arguments didn’t make sense, when the words weren’t right, and even when the formatting was lame or the slide was cluttered. Yet she matched her candor with support and kindness. People will tell you that after working with her, they didn’t just end up with better ideas; sometimes, they ended up better people.

Julie leaves us tomorrow. She and her family are moving to the sunny climes north of the foggy Bay, and she’s taking the opportunity to hang out her shingle as a communications consultant. She’ll be great at it, and for the many organizations on the cusp of developing a communications strategy, you should call before she’s fully booked.

Since we are an organization that supports entrepreneurs, we all ought to be delighted that Julie is becoming one herself. But it’s hard to deny that the excitement for her next step is mixed, for all of us around here, with a twinge of sadness that we won’t see her when we come in to work next week.

Julie, good luck, and don’t be a stranger.