Blue School Partners
Blue School Partners is the working name of this initiative; a placeholder, intended to invoke the promise of great schools accessible to all, and raise the profile and relevance of Denver Public Schools’ School Performance Framework by amplifying its most critical elements: equity, growth, family engagement, and achievement.
Position Description: Founding Chief Executive Officer
Colorado and Denver have developed an educational ecosystem that enjoys one of the country’s most amenable political and operating environments for creating and supporting quality, autonomous public schools and parental choice. Denver’s progress in providing new and better options for families, and particularly underserved families, has served as a national example of what is possible in urban school reform.
Despite Denver’s commitment to universal choice, accountability, autonomy for school leaders, and a portfolio approach to school development, the path toward continued improvement is likely to prove more challenging. With limited surplus space available in existing facilities, and slowing enrollment growth, Denver Public Schools (DPS) faces the need to improve or replace existing low-performing schools if the community is to continue to raise achievement levels. The majority of the schools that must be addressed now are persistent underperformers serving primarily underserved students and students of color.
The substantial progress made in recent years belies the scale of the challenge that remains:
Today, Denver’s challenge is largely not a policy problem. Current and past DPS boards and staff leadership have put in place much of the policy environment required to drive academic success for all children. The challenge now is more a question of filling gaps in essential infrastructure, building and sustaining political will, and executing effectively on a strategy to create more high-performing schools.
Over the past 10-15 years, there has been significant community support for reform activity and the development of higher-performing school options. The local and national philanthropic communities have been active investors, although never in a highly coordinated fashion, or with any defined quantifiable objective. Looking forward, it is clear that the pace of progress cannot be maintained or accelerated without a more intentional approach across funders and investment strategies, and more clarity about the shared ultimate objective.
Over the last two years, local civic and philanthropic leaders have joined together to identify potential strategies to leverage past success and accelerate progress. While there is significant talent and momentum in the Denver education sector, there are also still significant gaps – particularly in the areas of developing and launching school operators, diversifying the mix of school models available, expanding pipelines of school leader and teacher talent, and effectively engaging parents and community members. Failure to address these gaps could result in a plateauing of the progress made to date. Also, the absence of a more transparent and coherent strategy for continuing to scale high-performing school options has resulted in some lost opportunities, and acted as a barrier to investment in Denver by other potential national partners.
Recognizing both the urgency and the opportunity, a group of local and national funders and community partners have come together to create Blue School Partners (BSP). BSP will play three primary roles in the city:
Denver Public Schools’ Board of Education has adopted the Denver Plan, an ambitious commitment to ensure that 80% of all DPS students attend schools rated blue or green on the School Performance Framework (the district’s report card on school quality as measured by a number of variables) by 2020. The Denver Plan commits the district to providing great schools in every neighborhood in the city. Blue School Partners’ goals embrace and build on the goals already set by the district. BSP has set an ambitious goal of creating or improving 35,000 quality school seats in Denver by 2030. This goal equates to moving nearly 40% of students into schools with a blue or green rating (the highest performers on the district’s SPF). BSP’s work in quality school development, expanding educator and school leader talent pipelines, and supporting authentic stakeholder engagement will all be in service to this seat goal.
BSP will exist to serve the needs of educators and families, and these needs will likely change as existing problems are solved and new challenges arise. BSP’s job is to identify problems and help coordinate solutions; its aim should not be to exert top-down control over a vibrant ecosystem. Accordingly, neither all substantive work nor all local philanthropic dollars will, or should, flow through the organization. For these reasons, BSP is imagined as a lean, nimble, collaborative, and entrepreneurial organization.
Management and Governance
BSP will operate as an independent 501(c)(3) organization, governed by a board of directors composed of mission-aligned civic, community, and education leaders, and representatives of the philanthropic sector. The founding board will hire the founding CEO, who will recommend for approval the organization’s strategies and major investments. The CEO will work with the founding board to recruit additional board members with strong community ties, strong commitment to the mission, and additive skill sets, and be responsible for hiring a staff capable of carrying out BSP’s mission. An organization that may grow to 3 to 6 FTEs is envisioned.
BSP has engaged in extensive conversations with a core group of local and national education funders, most with years of experience investing in and supporting high-quality schools in Denver. The core funders involved anticipate initial commitments for three years, and will ensure that BSP will have sufficient resources available to it to advance work in each strategy area, as well as support the organization’s staffing and operations.
Role and Responsibilities
The founding board and founding CEO will ensure that BSP succeeds at its core mission of developing quality schools, growing the pool of talent, and expanding parent and community engagement. The CEO will be responsible for leadership of all aspects of the organization, including financial, operational, strategic, as well as relationship management. Key responsibilities of the founding CEO will include:
The role of founding Blue School Partners’ CEO represents an exceptional opportunity to drive better outcomes for tens of thousands of children in Denver. The CEO must be firmly committed to the proposition that every child can learn, and that every child in Denver deserves access to a quality school. The CEO must believe that change is possible, and that BSP’s ambitious seat goal is attainable.
Beyond these characteristics, the founding CEO should have the vision, entrepreneurial spirit, perseverance, and imagination that will be required to be effective in this role. The CEO must also be comfortable with complexity, adept at management of relationships, and capable of inspiring confidence and earning the respect of others.
Candidates for this position should possess the following types of experiences:
Candidates for this position should possess the following types of skills:
Competitive and commensurate with experience.
How to Apply
The review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. For best consideration, applications should be submitted electronically prior to May 1, 2017, and should include a letter of interest and a current resume. Nominations, applications, or inquiries about the position and/or the search process should be directed to the executive recruiting team managing the search:
Monisha Lozier, Founder/Partner and Leslie Nair, Principal via firstname.lastname@example.org