For creating the conditions for 15,000 students to realize their dreams
For defining what it means to embrace challenge and strive for excellence
For being an inspiring leader, effective coach, and mentor to hundreds of leaders
For the corny jokes, legal pads, PowerPoints, 8 point font, and lost power cords
For leading with a sense of possibility and deep belief in kids and adults
For your kindness and care
For who you are as a human being
We thank you, we love you, and we appreciate you.
Here are just a few of the many tributes our team members shared with Doug, our founder and former co-CEO and Superintendent, who departed AF this week after 21 years of incredible service.
To a Fearless Leader Who Has Always Had My Back
I really appreciated having you as a manager, though-partner, sounding board, and friend. When the work got incredibly hard, I knew that you would always provide a safe space to listen and be my ally. I can confirm that I survived year one of being a Vice President because I knew you would be in my corner. I am tremendously sad for you to go AND I support your future endeavors going forward! – Charmayne Joseph, Vice President of Student Experience
To An Incredible Coach and Human Being
You’ve built habits of mind in all of us about how to tackle problems, and that transcends work. We’ve learned how to think about things clearly, how to unpack them with clear action steps, how to figure out the systematic cause, and do personal reflection. I’ve seen you engage thoughtfully in countless problems. More than anyone else in our organization, I’ve seen you flex and evolve, from leadership of people to leading for racial equity. I’ve seen you become increasingly self-aware as a white male—it’s inspiring how you’ve walked the walk and taught other white people how to do that. I know that I’m a better human for having known you and worked with you all these years. – Amy D’Angelo, High School Academy Lead
To The Nicest Person I’ve Ever Met
As so many of us have said, you are genuinely caring. For me personally, that means when my kids were born, you went out of your way to meet them. You went out of your way to ask about how my husband was doing. When your manager cares about your personal life, it really matters, and you’ve done that for so many of us. I’m so very grateful. – Stephanie Keenoy, Superintendent
To The One Who is Always Cheering for AF
The first year I ran the New York City Marathon, I heard someone scream “SIMON OBAS!!!” from the crowd. At first I didn’t know who it was. Then I thought, “Oh snap, that’s Doug!”
The second year, Doug was out there in the same spot, doing the same thing. And that time I was running with my friend.
He said to me, “who’s that big white boy screaming your name?”
I said, “Oh, that’s Doug, he’s the CEO of where I work.”
He said, “Wow, the CEO gets down like that? He seems so personable.”
I said, “Yeah, he’s incredible. You would never know he’s the CEO unless he told you, that’s his personality.”
That just goes to show you – Doug, you are such a force to be reckoned with, such a great human being, a cheerleader for all of us in this work. I’m extremely grateful for the times you’ve supported me, imparted your wisdom and knowledge during my time in Bridgeport and helped with my growth and development as a leader. – Dr. Simon Obas, AF Amistad High Principal
To the One Who Showed Us How to Learn & Grow
While I think Doug is larger than life in many ways, the thing I really love about him the most is that he’s so human. He’s not perfect, he never pretends to be. When you see that your leader is human and that your leader can make mistakes and say, “I made this mistake, and I see a way that I can do better” and actually puts that feedback into action, it’s powerful. It’s the thing I love about AF, it’s why I’ve been here 14 years, and Doug, I think that’s a reflection of you. – Cristina Tokeshi, Vice President of Academic Operations
To My Co-Leader For Two Decades
For 21 years, you built and obsessively improved Achievement First from a single school serving 84 students to one of the highest-performing school networks in the country serving nearly 15,000 students. With talent as both a big picture strategist and a detail-oriented educator, you led the design, redesign and constant improvement of our school model, including the spectacular evolution of the AF program in response to Common Core. Your leadership set the standard nationally for how a team should embrace challenge and what is possible for students when you do (stunning 30 percentage point gains in ELA and Math achievement in 5 years). You see the best in AF and, over and over again, you have been willing to name when something is not good enough and then to get to work to make it better.
You embodied warm demanding long before we had words for it. The thousands of AF scholars, teachers, and leaders who you have have been coached directly know how much you care, how “all in” you are on their success, and how precise and powerful your feedback can be. In the early years of Amistad, I remember all 6 ft, 5 inches of you jumping Double Dutch at recess with our fifth graders and then returning to class to ensure every student mastered every math standard. I remember countless Doug PD sessions filled with corny jokes, sports metaphors, visions of excellence, and high-bar feedback. I remember many, many documents that articulated clear plans and priorities – sometimes in 10 point font with quarter-inch margins – and always with classic Doug clarity, insight, and attention to detail. And I remember those all-important moments when you had to make a tough call, and I got to see your impeccable personal integrity, your commitment as a father, and your core decency as a human being. I love you, I admire you, and I will miss doing this work with you. – Dacia Toll, CEO