New Report Profiles School Leaders of Color and How Their Personal Experiences Shape Their Schools

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Washington, DC – Today, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (National Alliance) in partnership with Public Impact released the first in a series of three reports profiling charter school leaders of color to show some of the ways their experiences and perspectives shape how they lead schools with excellence. The report, Identity and Charter School Leadership: Profiles of Leaders of Color Building an Effective Staff highlights the experiences of school leaders of color in California, Louisiana and North Carolina and the calculated steps they take to ensure the staff in their schools are positioned to support outstanding outcomes for students.

The impact school leaders have on student performance has been well documented. However, there has been little attention to how leaders’ experiences and racial identities inform and influence their practice. While many practices of good leadership are universal, our identities shape how we approach a situation and can inspire innovation in the classroom.

“Although good leadership stands out in any public sector, we’ve seen anecdotally that leaders of color bring unique value and understanding to their students,” said Amy Wilkins, senior vice president of advocacy at the National Alliance. “The report begins to uncover practices that can be replicated in schools across the country, regardless of size, location, and resources.”

The report highlights three common themes that ran across the individual stories included in the series related to leaders’ experiences as people of color:

  1. Addressing holes and creating opportunities based on personal experience. Based on holes in their own academic experiences as a person of color or as a child from a low-income family, several school leaders reported taking nontraditional steps to address those same challenges in their own schools.
  2. Emphasizing value over deficits. Many of the leaders in this series emphasized the value students and their families offer rather than seeing their primary roles as compensating for or working around perceived deficits.
  3. Providing an equitable educational experience to produce equitable student outcomes. The leaders of color included in this series work hard to provide students an educational experience like that of their more advantaged peers—an experience full of art, sport, travel, and extracurriculars – as well as opportunities to learn from their mistakes. In some cases, they have even built their schools around themes and curricula seldom available in low-income districts.

“We wanted to feature charter school leaders of color who are making a clear difference in their communities. And of course, there are many,” said Daniela Doyle, vice president for policy and management research at Public Impact. “The three leaders highlighted in this report are doing so both by implementing proven practices for the field and by adopting innovative and replicable strategies that provide leadership opportunities for and build empathy within their staffs.”

Profiled Leaders Include:

Eric Sanchez (Henderson, NC), co-founder of Henderson Collegiate—a network of three schools serving elementary, middle and high school students in Henderson, North Carolina. Eric and his team train all the teachers at Henderson Collegiate in empathy as a way to fight biases.

Frances Teso (San Jose, CA), founder and CEO of Voices College-Bound Language Academies, a network of four dual-language charter schools in the San Francisco Bay area of California. Frances has developed a leader training program that both encourages and provides a clear pathway for her teachers to pursue school leadership.

Jamar McKneely (New Orleans, LA), co-founder of InspireNOLA Charter Schools which currently operates a network of seven charter schools in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jamar took his responsibility to mentor beyond InspireNOLA and founded the Alliance for Diversity and Excellence to develop future charter school leaders of color across the city.

The remaining two reports in the series will release in 2019 and spotlight how some charter school leaders of color use their backgrounds to cultivate family and community engagement and to create a strong school culture.

To speak with the report’s authors, the profiled school leaders of color or for more information about the National Alliance and Public Impact, please contact: Shaelyn Macedonio.