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Opportunity

With permission from Cristo Rey Network

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Executive Director

Education Matters

Vision: a West Contra Costa community where our leaders are united in driving toward an excellent school for every child in every neighborhood, enabling all students to reach their full potential.

The Context

Located in the East San Francisco Bay Area, West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) is a racially and socioeconomically diverse public school district. Its 30,000 students identify as 52% Hispanic/Latino, 18% African American, 10% White, and 10% Asian American. English Language Learners comprise 35% of the student population, and more than 70% of students qualify for free or reduced-priced school meals. The need for vastly improved educational outcomes is clear: only 16% of 11th-graders are proficient in math, and 40% are proficient in reading, leaving too many of our young people unprepared for college or career. On a state school district report card generated by Ed Trust West, WCCUSD received a D-, making it one of the lowest achieving school districts in California in terms of equity, proficiency, achievement gaps, and more.

In 2006, compelled by a desire to help revitalize their hometown and support local students and schools, local philanthropists Susan and Steve Chamberlin launched the Chamberlin Family Foundation (CFF). They remain determined today to create transformational and sustainable change in K-12 public education. After nearly a decade of grant-making, the Chamberlin team determined that additional tools had to be deployed to advance and sustain change, including more impactful advocacy and political engagement work.

Organization Overview

With that in mind, in 2014 the Chamberlins launched Education Matters (EM), a not-for-profit 501(c)(4) established to advance highly effective leaders, especially at the School Board and District, who are informed, aligned around, and accountable for excellent public schools for all students in West Contra Costa County. They recognized this as an ambitious mission, and one that must be accomplished in partnership with an empowered community. The organization strives to provide reliable information to support families, and to ensure educationally and fiscally sound decisions for WCCUSD students. This also means supporting elected leaders – and holding them accountable - for exceptional student growth and outcomes. To help achieve these objectives, EM has an associated PAC that supports candidates for local office who will be bold, independent champions for students and families.  For more information, please visit: http://www.ed-matters.org/

The Challenge & The Opportunity  

This work is, of course, not without conflict. While there is broad consensus that WCCUSD can – and must – do better for its students, the challenge is defining how to best accelerate positive change. Pressure and support for change are mounting, and new conditions exist that hold promise for our students. In addition to its manageable size, where impact is viable, WCCUSD has multiple new School Board members and promise for bold change, along with a committed new superintendent. There are also rising education and community leaders unified in the belief that the District is capable of so much more. Essentially, WCCUSD is positioned to drive student achievement forward, to better support educators, and to create a movement among people who are committed to excellent public schools for all students.

The Role

Education Matters’ new Executive Director (ED) has a unique window of opportunity to build and partner with a “coalition of the willing” to help define a collective vision for quality public schools. At its core, this role calls for a leader who listens, understands what families want for their children, and then galvanizes efforts to defeat an unacceptable status quo. This critical work has the potential to positively affect thousands of students, their families and the community at large.   

This is a rare opportunity to work with and within diverse communities in reimagining, designing, and delivering a social impact initiative, without having to find resources each year to sustain the work. The new ED, supported by a small team that s/he will build, must help Education Matters refine and set aggressive, but achievable, goals toward advancing and supporting change to dramatically increase the number of WCCUSD students on track for college and career. These goals can include, but are in no way limited to:

  1. Growing EM’s capacity to serve as a reliable source of education information and as a trusted advocate for transparency;
  2. Driving information about - and demand for - quality schools with a primary focus on serving economically disadvantaged students;
  3. Building capacity and strategic coordination to support a coalition of advocacy organizations around education issues;
  4. Elevating the community’s voice by providing families, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders with the information and support required for impactful advocacy;
  5. Developing a coordinated community effort to identify, develop, support, and elect exceptionally skilled, diverse and responsible School Board members; and
  6. Advocating for exemplary school board governance in support of fiscally and educationally sound decisions in support of students and the community.

Desired Profile  

First and foremost, the new ED must believe that all children deserve access to excellent public schools, and will effectively pursue outcomes for students in WCCUSD that enable them to fulfill their potential. Additionally, the ED must be a tireless and courageous advocate with the tenacity, grit, and influence to build bridges among stakeholders who may not always agree with each other, but who share the goal of increasing educational attainment for all students in WCCUSD. To succeed in this challenging work, it is imperative that the ED be a trusted, credible advocate who understands the complexity of city education strategies, and has ably built authentic relationships with diverse community members and organizations.

Qualifications

This role is for someone whose career has been defined by strong strategic thinking, positive action, impact, and persistence in the face of challenging work. The ideal candidate is someone who is willing to “fight the good fight” for young people and for quality schools. S/he must be able to build trust and inspire others to join him/her in work that is larger than any single individual or organization. Therefore, the successful ED candidate will have a professional track record of engagement and demonstrable results in advocacy, politics, coalition-building, and grassroots/grass tops leadership, preferably in education, in urban communities.

Finally, while not required, it is highly desirable that the new Executive Director have roots, connections, and/or familiarity with the West Contra Costa community, in addition to experience as a change-maker in the education arena.

We will know we have found our ED when we meet someone who:

  • so ably defines and conveys a vision for what’s possible that s/he is able to move diverse stakeholders toward a shared goal, even when they don’t always agree;
  • builds authentic, resilient relationships that engender trust and credibility throughout a community;
  • imagines what’s possible and translates that into a fearless plan for impact, leveraging a variety of tools, including: advocacy, community engagement, campaign/election work, and communications;
  • inspires others to understand what is at stake and to take action in a strategic manner;
  • demonstrates the capacity to receive and offer feedback to internal and external partners, incorporate new ideas, and redirect strategy as necessary;
  • manages direct reports in a thoughtful, intentional way that empowers them and helps them grow;
  • excels at building a strategy for the work, but also successfully executing in strong partnership with his/her team and enthusiastically supporting community empowerment;
  • drives unflinchingly toward goals, even when the work sometimes requires evening and weekend commitments;
  • possesses a high degree of self-awareness and humility, and takes the time to reflect on his/her own craft as a leader to best serve his/her team and community;
  • demonstrates a self-driven, entrepreneurial work ethic and a productive/engaged leadership style; and
  • embodies authenticity, humility, curiosity, an entrepreneurial spirit, and cultural competence.

Reporting Relationships

The Executive Director reports directly to Steve and Susan Chamberlin. S/he will have the opportunity to build a small team within the first year, and to learn and grow alongside the Chamberlin Family Foundation’s work.

Location

SF Bay Area/Richmond/El Cerrito, CA

Compensation

The Executive Director will earn a competitive salary, commensurate with experience, and the opportunity to earn a performance-based bonus, as well as comprehensive benefits.

To Apply

The executive search team at Bellwether Education Partners is leading the search. Inquiries and applications, comprising a resume and letter of interest, should be sent to: Crystal Combs, Senior Consultant, crystal.combs@bellwethereducation.org.

Bellwether Education Partners is a nonprofit dedicated to helping education organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors become more effective in their work and achieve dramatic results, especially for high-need students. Our Talent Services practice identifies, places, and supports education leaders through comprehensive executive searches, customized search advisory services, and individual coaching. We also partner with clients to build talent-ready organizations where diverse teams can work, develop, and thrive.