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With permission from Cristo Rey Network

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Academic Strategy Senior Adviser

Strategic Advising

About Bellwether Education Partners

Bellwether Education Partners is a national, nonpartisan nonprofit of over 50 professionals dedicated to helping education organizations become more effective and achieve dramatic results, especially for high-need students. To do so, we work in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, and provide a unique combination of exceptional thinking, talent, and hands-on strategic support:

  • Our Policy and Thought Leadership practice works to shape the broader education landscape by conducting policy analysis, research and writing, and idea generation, and by advising education entities on policy and public affairs.
  • Our Talent Services practice has two complementary offerings. Talent Advising helps clients build talent-ready organizations where diverse teams can work, develop, and thrive. Executive Search identifies and places education leaders through comprehensive recruiting, supports organizational search processes, and conducts individual career coaching.
  • Our Strategic Advising practice works with leading education organizations on their most pressing strategic and operational issues. We partner to create bold but achievable plans, while ensuring that leaders and stakeholders are in alignment around the path forward.

Why bring all this together? Bellwether was founded on the belief that the only way to ensure that all children have access to high-quality schools is to take a holistic approach to education’s most pressing challenges. Having all three areas of expertise makes our work stronger by tying innovative thinking to perspectives regarding on-the-ground realities.

In this way, Bellwether has carved out a special and desperately needed niche in the education reform landscape. We aren’t just a think tank, a consulting firm, or a human capital organization. We are all of the above and more, providing comprehensive, coherent, and lasting solutions to education’s most long-standing and complicated problems.

Organizational Culture

Bellwether takes our mission of serving educators, students, organizations, and communities seriously. But we try not to take ourselves as individuals quite so seriously. We do challenging work, and we know how to have fun. We welcome different experiences and perspectives because we know that our team is stronger for having a variety of political, cultural, and educational beliefs represented. 

Bellwether strives to make the work rewarding and sustainable so we can find harmony between demanding jobs and full personal lives. We are proud that our team has poets, hockey players, food bloggers, activists, teachers, karate black belts, church leaders, cyclists, and much more. Our flexible work environment allows many of our team members to work where they like, and when they like (within reason, of course). This allows us to operate in ways that feel most productive to us and do more of what we love doing on our own time.

These qualities are clear in the core values that guide our work and reflect what is truly important to us as an organization:

  • Mission Mindset: We are dedicated to dramatically improving outcomes for low‐income students. Our nonprofit status allows us to focus on this mission, and it guides the people we hire and the clients and projects we support.
  • Tailored Excellence: We work with our clients to develop customized, innovative solutions. We direct our unwavering focus on quality toward successful outcomes for our clients.
  • Synergy: We believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Our Talent Services, Strategic Advising, and Policy and Thought Leadership teams make each other better.
  • Integrity: We exemplify the highest standards of individual and organizational ethics. We carefully balance client confidentiality with transparency to other clients and the public.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: We believe that to achieve our mission, we must be a diverse and inclusive organization broadly reflecting the various communities we serve.
  • Flexibility: We believe in the philosophy of “working smarter, not harder.” We trust our co-workers and teams to do excellent work in the manner they see fit.
  • No Drama: We have no tolerance for drama or the politics of education affecting our work. We respectfully and proactively deal with frustrations, disagreements, and unexpected hurdles.

Further, we value many forms of diversity and believe race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic issues play an especially acute role in the education sector and consequently our work. By actively seeking and hiring talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences, and maintaining an environment where divergent ideas and perspectives are freely expressed, we increase our collective ability to deliver thoughtful, relevant solutions and analyses for our clients and the education sector.

About the Position

Although we believe that charter management organizations (CMOs) are improving over time and are making a significant, positive impact in reforming urban education, the quality of student outcomes across the charter sector is not consistently high enough, nor is the sector on a path to scale with high quality at a rapid pace.  At Bellwether we work with many CMOs on strategic plans for growth, but we do not currently have sufficient expertise to identify specific opportunities for improvement within their academic strategies, or to support the consistent implementation of these strategies. The Academic Strategy Senior Adviser will lead our effort to build this expertise, which we believe is essential to deepening our impact with growing CMOs.

The ideal candidate for the Academic Strategy Senior Adviser position will bring a strong track record of success in building effective instructional systems and strategies within schools and systems of schools, and in diagnosing challenges in under-performing schools and developing plans for improvement. The ideal candidate will have experience scaling systems that support strong performance, working through others to achieve results, and collaborating with instructional leaders in schools and in network offices. The candidate will bring a sophisticated understanding of relevant issues in charter school growth and replication, a network in the field of education (particularly with charter and CMO operators), and an entrepreneurial spirit.  This pairing of content expertise and entrepreneurialism is particularly important given that Bellwether is still a growing organization.  Senior Advisers play a critical role in business development and service delivery, and contribute to the success of the firm in terms of financial sustainability and impact in the field of education. 

The Academic Strategy Senior Adviser will take on the important challenge of defining, and then building out Bellwether’s initial efforts to support partner organizations, primarily CMOs, to clarify, assess, and improve their academic strategies and implementation. Bellwether has worked with over 50 CMOs to build strategic plans for growth.  We bring strong expertise in organizational design, financial modeling, operations, governance, and strategy – along with a proven process for leading executive teams through the planning process to build a common vision and plan.  However, we do not currently have on our team individuals who can effectively help CMOs clarify their academic strategies and identify specific plans for improvement.  The Academic Strategy Senior Adviser will bring this expertise and will build out Bellwether’s capacity to do this work.

This Senior Adviser role will be a leadership role within the organization and will contribute to building the firm with the partner team by contributing to decisions on organizational strategy, financials, marketing, hiring, operations, and development of field-leading intellectual capital. The Senior Adviser will report to Managing Partner and Co-Founder Mary Wells and work most closely with Partners Lina Bankert and Rebecca Goldberg and Principal Steph Itelman. Additionally, Senior Advisers often work across the organization, and may partner with our Policy and Thought Leadership and/or Talent teams. While the Senior Adviser will have the opportunity to work across the Bellwether practice areas to broaden his/her skills and perspectives, the majority of time will be allocated to supporting Strategic Advising.

In that context, the Senior Adviser’s primary responsibilities and duties will be to:

  • determine Bellwether’s approach to providing consulting services related to academic strategy and implement the strategy; develop several pilot projects in this area to rapidly build out, test, and improve the Bellwether approach in this area, leveraging professional network and knowledge of this area
  • cultivate and manage relationships with clients. In this capacity Senior Advisers collaborate with and support Partners and Principals on business development efforts, determine scope of work for projects, support project planning, lead in the development of high-impact academic strategies and implementation plans (as stand-alone support to clients or as part of a larger strategic planning effort), and package insights and recommendations effectively to clients;
  • collaborate with Bellwether leadership to refine and improve early CMO cohort-based growth planning efforts; build out academic strategy module as part of the cohort program and lead in its delivery;
  • promote and support cross-practice teaming and knowledge transfer (with a particular focus on CMO academic strategies and performance), to contribute to the “whole is greater than the sum of the parts”;
  • develop, sustain and enhance relationships with senior executives, funders, and other leaders in the field;
  • represent Bellwether externally in the education reform field;
  • play a critical role in the management and support of internal teams – including the recruitment, professional development, and mentorship of Bellwether staff; and
  • proactively identify and take on internal roles to strengthen Bellwether as an organization.

Qualifications

Bellwether is a strong fit for professionals who possess strong personal drive and motivation; demonstrate exemplary professional behavior and values, and who are resourceful, responsible, tenacious, independent, and self-confident. 

The ideal candidate for this position will have formal training and experience from a premier CMO in an academic and/or principal-management role, bring a sophisticated and wide-ranging understanding of successful strategies that CMOs use to drive strong results for students, and possess an entrepreneurial spirit.  In addition, the successful candidate will have:

  • 10 years or more professional experience – the ideal candidate will have a track record of success in an academic and/or principal-management role in a growing CMO, including participation in the leadership team, visibility to strategic decision-making, and accountability for school performance;
  • demonstrable passion and commitment to working in the field of urban education reform;
  • experience assessing a wide variety of school and classroom approaches as a “critical friend” or coach, and belief that a range of academic strategies can be effectively implemented to support rigorous learning environments for under-served students
  • a well-rounded interpersonal skill set with the capacity to build strong senior client relationships, work effectively in a team environment, and facilitate joint problem-solving with clients and teams;
  • a strong network of relationships with nationally significant practitioners, and/or funders in the field of education reform, or a demonstrated capability to quickly build and grow such a network;
  • an understanding of, and aptitude for, client service;
  • excellent analytical skills, creativity in problem solving, and a keen business sense;
  • strong communication skills, both verbal and written;
  • experience translating recommendations into action, well-developed influence skills, and comfort working through others;
  • a highly self-motivated work style and willingness to proactively take on leadership roles within project teams and the firm;
  • maturity, flexibility, and comfort working in a small organization;
  • a strong academic record including a graduate degree, ideally in business; and
  • comfort with some travel.

Compensation

Bellwether Education Partners provides competitive compensation and an attractive benefits package that includes a performance bonus based on individual and firm success, health care coverage, and a 401(k) plan with an employer matching contribution policy.

Location

Our work is national in scope, and our team is primarily concentrated in three major cities: Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and San Francisco. Although we maintain offices in these cities, and strongly encourage our team to regularly access their local office, our flexible working style allows our professionals to work where they have built their lives, thereby enabling Bellwether to hire the best person for each role, regardless of geography.

To Apply

Applications or inquiries about the position should be directed to:

Mary Wells, Co-Founder and Managing Partner

careers@bellwethereducation.org.

The review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. Applications should consist of a letter of interest and a current résumé and should be submitted electronically.

Bellwether Education Partners is committed to providing equal opportunities. It is our policy to ensure that all individuals with whom we are in contact are not discriminated against on the basis of age, race, ethnicity, color, disability, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran’s status. Further, as described above, Bellwether is committed to building a diverse team and strongly encourages individuals from all backgrounds to apply.