The Charter Network Accelerator is an intensive cohort-based training program for charter management organization (CMO) leaders that draws on the learning of high-performing CMOs. Our goal is to increase the number of top-quality charter school seats available to parents across the country who are seeking an excellent school for their children.
We support charter network leaders in building a strong organizational and instructional foundation that will enable them to grow with quality. In the Accelerator, charter network leaders are part of a cohort of like-minded educators from across the country—leaders who approach their work with a growth mindset are and willing to put in the hard work that it takes to create truly remarkable charter networks.
“This was truly an amazing experience that has changed me as a leader.”
– Jessica Wodatch
We welcome small to mid-size networks (typically operating three to six schools) that have a strong record of success with students from underserved populations, the capacity to expand, and a CEO who is a “learner-leader” with an unyielding drive to improve outcomes for students.
- During the program, the CEO, senior instructional leader, and other senior-level leaders attend five workshops over 18 months and have monthly coaching calls with Accelerator program staff.
- Each network also takes part in two critical friends visits that provide the network with individualized feedback.
- The Accelerator also offers a wide range of webinars that offer networks the opportunity to participate in “deep dives” on a wide range of instructional and organizational topics.
- Networks commit to attending all workshops (usually 3-4 days each), hosting two critical friends visits, taking part in monthly coaching calls, and completing assignments and projects before and after workshops.
- Participating CEOs also participates in two additional critical friends visits for peer networks.
- All programmatic and most travel costs are covered by the Accelerator.
“The Accelerator is making ‘Many Minds One Mission’ come alive across the country.”
– Jen Nguyen
Our Partner Networks
Meet our current and previous cohort members and learn about the work they’re doing around the country.
- Amber Charter School (New York, NY)
Leader: Vashtie Acosta
Vasthie Reyes Acosta is the Executive Director of Amber Charter Schools. Dr. Acosta initially joined Amber Charter Schools in 2007 as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. In 2008 she was appointed Head of School/Principal, a position she held until 2014, when she became Executive Director. She is the founding convener of the Latino Charter Leaders Roundtable. She began her career as a bilingual teacher at PS 115 in Washington Heights. She was also a co-founder of the 21st Century Academy for Community Leadership School (P.S./ I.S. 210), drafting the initial proposal, serving as the project director and then assistant principal of this New Visions school. Her work as a teacher trainer, curriculum developer, and coordinator at the Early Childhood Bilingual Multicultural Resource Center, Institute for Urban and Minority Education, at Teachers College, Columbia University also provided touchpoints to schools in CSD 6. Dr. Acosta is a graduate of Columbia University’s Teachers College where she was awarded both Doctor of Education and Master of Arts degrees. She also holds a Master of Science degree from Bank Street College of Education and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham University.
- Education for Change Public Schools (Oakland, CA)
Leader: Larissa Adams
Larissa’s motivation to be an educator comes from a deep desire to ensure that every child experiences safe, rigorous, and joyful learning every single day so that they graduate from high school with the knowledge, skills, mindset, and agency necessary to thrive as adults and be powerful community members who exercise their voice. As the daughter of two parents who did not have the opportunity to go to college, and as the granddaughter of a woman whose schooling ended at the third grade so that she could support her family, she is deeply committed to making sure that every one of our children graduates college-ready, and to building a future in which socioeconomic status is no longer a predictor of academic opportunity or achievement. Her career in education started when she joined Teach for American in 1993, and taught 4th-6th grades at her original placement school for eight years. Drawn into Oakland’s district-wide New Small Autonomous Schools reform movement through a partnership with a classroom parent, she co-founded ASCEND, a K-8 school recognized for its arts-integrated expeditionary learning model and effective community engagement practices. She eventually led ASCEND as Principal for 10 years, facilitating significant increases in student achievement and leading our staff and families to successfully petition for charter status to join Education for Change Public Schools. She then served as Chief Talent Officer at EFC for five years, and currently serves as the Superintendent of Schools.
- Public Preparatory School (Bronx, NY)
Leader: Janelle Bradshaw
Janelle Bradshaw is a native of The Bronx, NY and an experienced teacher and leader committed to education reform. She is currently the Superintendent at Public Preparatory Network, the first and only PK-8 single sex charter school network in NYC, working to ensure all of its students are on a predictable path to and through college. In this role, Janelle oversees the day to day operations that drive strong student achievement. She manages principals at Girls Preparatory and Boys Preparatory Schools and sets the strategic direction for the academic programs including curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development for the organization. Before joining Public Prep, Janelle was an education consultant with SchoolWorks, and in this role, led school quality reviews in schools and districts throughout the country, led the company’s leadership coaching work, and supported foundations in disseminating best practices in urban education. She has spent the last 20 years in the field of education. After graduating from Smith College with a bachelor’s degree, Janelle started her career as a 4th and 5th grade teacher at the Mather Elementary School in Boston, MA. She participated in many teacher leadership opportunities and facilitated professional development in mathematics for the teachers in her school and district. In 2005, Janelle moved to the Cambridge Public Schools to begin her administrative career. She served in a variety of roles: assistant principal, principal, and district administrator. In her previous role as the Director of Instructional Equity in the Cambridge Public Schools, Janelle was responsible for implementing Response to Intervention, supporting and designing instructional rounds at various schools, and redesigning a collaborative school improvement plan that engaged key stakeholders. She has also taught graduate courses at Simmons College, and facilitated mathematics workshops for teachers in the Boston Public Schools, Houston Independent School Department, and Mount Holyoke College. Janelle has been an active volunteer for Smith College, where she has served in numerous roles since graduation, including president of her class, Alumnae Admissions Coordinator, Class Fundraising Agent, and President of the Central MA Smith Club. Janelle holds a bachelor’s degree from Smith College, a master’s degree from Simmons College, and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Education from Simmons College.
- GEM Innovation Schools (Deary, ID)
Leader: Jason Bransford
As the director of Gem Innovation Schools, Jason has designed an instructional model, specifically at the secondary level, which is fast becoming an exemplar for other schools across the state and nationally. Specifically, his innovative approach to human capital combined with his commitment to early college attainment for all students is raising the bar for what is possible for students.
Jason launched Idaho’s first charter management organization, Gem Innovation Schools, opened four K-12 charter schools in key Idaho locales, developed plans to open three additional schools in the next five years, and secured the financial support for launch and expansion of each school. He is the leader of a team that developed and executed a plan for strong student and adult culture, educational excellence, and operational efficiency.
As the Director of Idaho Distance Education Academy, Jason led the administrative team to reverse a $700,000 deficit, streamline operations in every school department, create a robust Title 1 program and increase student achievement in every sub-population. He guided I-DEA to a five-star rating, which included recognition that the school had the highest SAT scores in the state. For these efforts, Jason was awarded the Idaho Education Network Innovator of the Year Award.
Jason has held a number of education roles during his career, including teacher, faculty mentor, school director, and vice president of the Idaho Charter School Network. Jason earned a B.S. degree from Brigham Young University-Idaho, an M.S. degree from the University of Houston, and an Ed.S. from Idaho State University, and Ed. D. from the University of Utah.
- KIPP St. Louis (St. Louis, MI)
Leader: Kelly Garrett
Kelly Garrett is Executive Director of KIPP St. Louis, a high performing charter management organization with plans to serve 3,300 scholars in grades K-12 on their mountain climb to and through college. KIPP St. Louis is part of the national Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). Prior to joining KIPP, Kelly served as executive director of the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, where he helped grow the foundation’s giving by a factor of 20, and led a strategic initiative focusing on school leadership, early childhood education and project-based learning. Kelly’s education career began as a 1992 Teach For America corps member in Houston. After three years in the classroom, Kelly co-founded Project Chrysalis Charter Middle School, which quickly became one of the highest-performing middle schools in Texas. Kelly went on to found and direct Perea Preschool in Memphis, TN. He eventually served as director of business development for KC Distance Learning, a virtual charter high school program. He holds a BA from Rhodes College, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and is an Aspen Institute-New Schools (Pahara) Fellow. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and two sons.
- Aspen Public Schools (Fresno, CA)
Leader: Shelly Lether
Shelly Lether was born and grew up in the Fresno area of California’s Central Valley. She has twenty years of experience vested in Fresno’s charter school community. In 2004, Shelly was one of the founders of Valley Preparatory Academy (VPA) Charter School, a K-8 program serving at-risk (at-promise) students, and became the Executive Director in 2005. In 2016, VPA opened its second school and the new charter management organization (CMO) rebranded as Aspen Public Schools, Inc. Shelly believes all children in her community, regardless of their backgrounds and circumstances, have a right to quality education, and this has led her to work with others to create a leadership-based, academically driven charter program with committed teachers and diverse learning opportunities. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from National University and a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Central Michigan University (CMU). Since 2011, Shelly worked as a part-time adjunct for CMU’s Global Campus, as an instructor for master level charter leadership and school reform courses. Shelly is a Leadership Fresno (Chamber of Commerce) Class # 27 Alumni, a member of Downtown Fresno Rotary, and serves on the Fresno Advocacy Council (FAC) working to increase impact and the collective strength of the Fresno County charter sector.
- Carmen School of Science and Technology (Milwaukee, WI)
Leader: Jennifer Lopez
- Journey Community Schools (Memphis, TN)
Leader: Nick Manning
With his Aspire start in 2012 as the Memphis Community Outreach and Partnerships Manager, Nick Manning has continued to make his mark on Aspire Memphis as Principal of Hanley Elementary for two years, as Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the region, and most recently as Memphis Associate Superintendent and valued member of the Senior Education Team. In 2018, Nick became Aspire’s second ever Memphis Area Superintendent.
Nick has been instrumental in several turnaround schools in Memphis, Tennessee through his work as an assistant principal, principal, and associate superintendent. During his time in these roles, all of his schools experienced double-digit academic gains. Throughout his career, Nick has received training through New Leaders for New Schools, Harvard Principals Center, Urban Education Center, and Research for Better Teaching.
Nick earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in Secondary Education with concentrations and certifications in Economics and U.S. and World History. He also completed a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University. While completing his Doctorate at Trevecca, his dissertation on single-gender education earned him the coveted Trevecca Nazarene University’s Dissertation Award.
Nick resides in Memphis, Tennessee with his wife, Lequite, and two sons, Miller and Maxwell. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and supporting the development of children.
- Milwaukee Academy of Arts and Sciences (Milwaukee, WI)
Leader: Anthony McHenry
Anthony McHenry is the Chief Executive Officer of the Milwaukee Academy of Science (MAS), a public charter school that serves K4-12th grade students from across the city of Milwaukee in the Avenues West neighborhood. He has worked in education and the nonprofit sector to directly impact the lives of young people for his entire career.
Prior to joining MAS, Anthony served at the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center in the Westlawn neighborhood for nearly 20 years. He started out as a teacher, moved to Assistant Principal, Youth Program Director, Assistant Executive Director, and finally Executive Director from 2013-2016. Anthony led a bold initiative titled Westlawn WINS (Working to Improve Neighborhood Success). Westlawn WINS streamlined Silver Spring’s programs and collaborative partnerships to provide a conception to career pipeline in order to take ownership of the educational success for children in the area.
As a community leader, he was the chairperson for the Milwaukee Teen Pregnancy Prevention Network from 2007-14 and served as co-chair for the Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Project from 2011-2014. Currently, Anthony is the volunteer director of Silver Spring’s nationally known AAU basketball program. In this role, he serves as coach, role model and father-figure for a significant number of young adult males trying to overcome the many obstacles they face. Over 35 players have received full athletic scholarship to colleges and universities across the country. He is also an active member of the PEARLS for Teen Girls Board of Directors, which is an organization focused on providing pre-teen and teen-aged girls support and guidance for self-empowerment and development. Additionally, Anthony is also a proud member of the Acts Housing Board of Directors. Acts Housing works with individuals and families seeking homeownership and financial counseling, along with helping families execute home rehabilitation, and reclaiming vacant foreclosures. Anthony’s work within these organizations further extends his personal mission to lead and impact the lives of youth in Milwaukee.
Anthony was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a full athletic scholarship and earned a Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies in 1993. In recent years Anthony has received several distinguished awards including the Social Development Commission Incredible Person Award (twice), and in 2016, he won the Milwaukee Times Black Excellence Award and the Donald Driver Driven to Achieve Award.
- Compass Rose Academy (San Antonio, CA)
Leader: Paul Morrissey
Paul Morrissey leads the Compass Rose executive team and spent two years in the prestigious Building Excellent Schools Fellowship, working to bring best practices from the most successful schools across the country to San Antonio. Prior to the BES Fellowship, Paul worked in a turnaround school district in Lawrence, MA. Paul started his career with BASIS Charter Schools, teaching and then leading a school in Phoenix, developing new schools in other states, and then founding a new BASIS middle school in Washington, DC.
- FirstLine Charter School (New Orleans, LA)
Leader: Sabrina Pence
Sabrina Pence graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and subsequently joined Teach For America, teaching in Pointe Coupee Parish for four years as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher. During that time, she received her Master’s Degree from Louisiana State University in Educational Administration in 2005. She served as a teacher leader, leading parish-wide professional development and teaching a K-3 alternative teacher certification course through the New Teacher Project. In 2006, she moved overseas to Qatar and worked in educational reform as a science consultant for K-6 schools, training Qatari teachers to implement standards-based science instruction. In 2008, she returned to the U.S. to join New Leaders for New Schools in New Orleans. After completing her New Leaders residency at Arthur Ashe, Pence served as Principal of Albert Wicker Literacy Academy, where the school saw unprecedented gains, then returning to Ashe as Vice Principal, because she knew it was home. Sabrina served as the School Co-Director at Arthur Ashe Charter School from 2011-2014, leading the school to achieve a “B” letter grade in the state accountability system. Sabrina became FirstLine’s Chief Academic Officer in July 2014 and led all FirstLine Schools to achieve “A” letter grades for growth, with two of the schools, Samuel J. Green and Langston Hughes Academy, recognized as top growth in the region. Sabrina was named as the new CEO beginning in July of 2019 by the FirstLine Schools Board of Directors. Sabrina is currently pursuing her doctorate in Educational Administration at the University of New Orleans.
- Foundation Academy (Trenton, NJ)
Leader: Graig Weiss
Graig Weiss joined Foundation Academy Charter School in 2009 as the Middle School Principal. After serving in that role for several years and leading the expansion of the lower grades, Graig became the Chief Executive Officer in 2014. Prior to joining Foundation Academies, Graig served as the Founding Middle and High School Principal at Cap Cana Heritage School, an English immersion private school in the Dominican Republic. A 2003 Teach for America Corps member, Graig taught Math and Science in the Bronx and the Dominican Republic prior to becoming an administrator and was selected as Teacher of the Year in 2007. Prior to entering the education field, Graig worked in the financial services sector with Cambridge Associates, LLC in Boston, MA. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master of Science in Teaching from Fordham University, and a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from the University of Scranton.
- Intrinsic Schools (Chicago, IL)
Leader: Melissa Zaikos
Melissa Zaikos is the founder and chief executive of Intrinsic Charter School in Chicago. Melissa and her team designed the Intrinsic model to leverage technology and team teaching to personalize education for each student. Melissa was the principal of Intrinsic from 2014-2018 before transitioning to full-time CEO. Prior to founding Intrinsic, Melissa spent nine years at Chicago Public Schools where she last led the Pershing Network, a network of 30 elementary schools in Chicago’s south side. From 2005-2011, Melissa was the Chief Area Officer for a network of 100 high performing schools throughout the city. Melissa holds degrees from Harvard Business School and Texas A&M University. This school year, Melissa hopes to continuously refine and codify Intrinsic’s school model, collaborate with educational organizations across the nation, and ultimately demonstrate the model’s replicability.
- Amber Charter School (New York, NY)
- EastSide Charter School (Delaware)
Leader: Aaron Bass
In 2004, as Executive Director, Aaron Bass founded Breakthrough Fort Lauderdale, part of the National Breakthrough Collaborative, a nonprofit program that served 240 students and prepared middle school and high school students for college, and also gave high school and college students the opportunity to teach. Mr. Bass served as President for National Breakthrough Directors Association, and as Co-Chairman of the Fort Lauderdale Mayor’s Educational Board. In 2007, Mr. Bass joined KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) and was awarded the prestigious Fisher Fellowship, given by the Fisher Family (owners of the GAP, Old Navy) to establish KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy. KDCA was the only open enrollment school to have an ACT Average in the top 10 HS in Philadelphia. His first graduating class had a college matriculation of 95% – compared to Philadelphia’s average of 30%. In 2014, he became Chief of Staff and led advocacy efforts for KIPP’s expansion in Philadelphia. Under his leadership, KIPP was the only school to obtain two new charters in 2014 (adding to KIPP’s other 4 schools in the city). In 2016 Mr. Bass was selected as CEO for EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations. In 2017 Family Foundations changed its name to Charter School of New Castle and both charters joined under the umbrella of Vision Academies. Vision Academies is the only network of charter schools that works with students from kindergarten, through college and into their first career.
- DREAM Charter School (New York, NY)
Leader: Eve Colavito
Eve Colavito, Chief of Schools, graduated from Brown University and began her teaching career in Mmabatho, South Africa. After two years, she returned to New York City and began teaching at River East Elementary School in East Harlem, where she taught third and fourth graders in a full inclusion class. At River East, Eve further developed her belief in the importance of inclusive education and immersed herself in the practice of engaging constructivist teaching. During this time, she received her master’s degree in elementary and special education from Bank Street College of Education. Following her tenure at River East, Eve became a founding teacher and director at Bronx Charter School for the Arts. Eve held a variety of roles there and eventually became the Co-Executive Director, alongside the founder of Bronx Arts. These roles allowed Eve to think strategically about the future of the school, and shape the school’s curriculum, instruction, and overall approach. All of these experiences have led to Eve’s conviction about the possibilities for all students to succeed and their ability to achieve nothing less than excellence. Recently, Eve successfully completed the year-long Aspiring Principals Program through New Leaders, a national nonprofit that develops transformational school leaders and designs effective leadership policies and practices for school systems across the country, and was highlighted as a feature success story.
- UP Education Network (Boston, MA)
Leader: Veronica Conforme
Veronica assumed her position as Chief Executive Officer at UP Education Network (UP) in July 2017. She previously served as Chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) of Michigan from 2014 to 2017. As Chancellor of the EAA, Veronica oversaw the 15 lowest-performing public schools in the City of Detroit, spearheading important improvements in those schools with over half of students achieving 1.5 or more years’ growth in reading and math during her tenure. For over a decade, she served in senior leadership roles in the NYC Department of Education including as Chief Operating Officer overseeing a $23 billion budget and 130,000 employees. Veronica also worked as Vice President for the Access to Opportunity campaign at The College Board. Veronica’s deep content knowledge, experience as a practitioner working at the senior most levels of two of the country’s largest urban school districts, and dynamic leadership will be instrumental in the next stage of UP’s growth and development.
- Environmental Charter Schools (Los Angeles, CA)
Leader: Farnaz Golshani Flechner
Farnaz Golshani Flechner is the Executive Director/CEO of Environmental Charter Schools (ECS). She came to ECS in 2018 with more than 20 years of experience and leadership in the nonprofit sector. Farnaz began her career as an art and English teacher in a Title 1 school in Los Angeles Unified School District. She pursued a degree in public policy with a focus on education policy reform in order to tackle greater systemic challenges. She returned to Los Angeles and served as Vice President of Programs at Chrysalis, a workforce development nonprofit serving Los Angeles’ homeless population. While there, she learned what it takes to lead an efficient and effective organization. The results of her leadership were easily measured—93% of Chrysalis’ homeless clients secured jobs, and 90% of funds raised went directly to programming. In 2006, Farnaz moved to San Francisco and joined FSG Social Impact Advisors, where she worked on the California K-12 Education Policy Program. Later, as the Director of Programs and Services at Tides, she oversaw the management of 230 fiscally sponsored social justice and environmental projects with more than 600 employees nationwide. In 2012, Farnaz returned to Los Angeles and served as the Interim Executive Director of Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts, and then as the Executive Director of the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation (MBEF) from 2014-2018. Farnaz holds a bachelor’s in fine arts and English literature from UCLA and a master of public policy from Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She has served on several nonprofit boards, including ECS 2013-2017, the Pathway Home for Returning Veterans, and Opportunity Agenda.
- Building Responsible Intelligent Creative Kids (BRICK) (Newark, NJ)
Leader: Dominique D. Lee
Dominique D. Lee is the Founder and Executive Director of Building Responsible Intelligent Creative Kids (BRICK). He is a graduate of the University of Michigan. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he was accepted into Teach For America’s highly selective service corps where he initiated his career as an educator at Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, NJ.As a result of growing increasingly frustrated at how far behind his students were in reading and other subjects, Mr. Lee lead the formation of BRICK, an education management non-profit. BRICK was highlighted on the front page of the New York Times for being an innovative model within the public education system. In 2011 Mr. Lee was recognized, as one of “TheGrio’s 100: History Makers In The Making.” Nominated by a team of experts, affiliates, and contributors from across the country, and members of TheGrio.com and NBC News editorial teams, “TheGrio’s 100” shines a spotlight on the next generation of African-American history makers and industry leaders from 10 fields, including business, education, sports, science and the environment, media, service and activism, politics, health, pop culture, and the arts. Mr. Lee has always believed that education reform is the new civil rights movement of our time and that we cannot remedy our nation’s ills unless we simultaneously grapple with and repair our educational infrastructure. Hence, his passion and mandate is to ensure that children living in low-income communities enter the global economy fully prepared as engaged, productive citizens—equipped with mutual respect and cross-cultural understanding.
- Vista College Prep (Phoenix, AZ)
Leader: Julia Meyerson
Ms. Meyerson joined Teach For America (TFA) upon college graduation and taught in the South Bronx as a first grade teacher. During her two years in the classroom, she achieved solid academic gains with her first-graders. Later selected as a corps member advisor, she was responsible for managing incoming TFA corps members and training them to become successful teachers. Realizing the tremendous impact of state and local policy on transforming education, Ms. Meyerson went on to join the Democratic Governors Association. Starting as the assistant to the executive director, Ms. Meyerson was promoted each year, and most recently served as the organization’s policy director where she had a unique opportunity to work with innovative governors, business leaders and policy experts on the pressing issues facing state and local government. In 2011, Ms. Meyerson was accepted into the highly selective Building Excellent Schools Fellowship. Eager to make a positive contribution to her home state of Arizona, Ms. Meyerson is the Executive Director for Vista College Prep and ex officio non-voting member of the Governing Board. Ms. Meyerson earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern California and a master’s in teaching at Pace University.
- Ednovate (Los Angeles, CA)
Leader: Oliver Sicat
Oliver was named the 2006 Teacher of the Year in the Boston Public Schools. Shortly after, he moved to Chicago to help start the expansion of the Noble Network of Charter Schools and founded UIC College Prep, the #1 non-selective high school in Chicago. He was then appointed onto the executive cabinet as Chicago Public School’s first Chief Portfolio Officer where he led the city’s strategic efforts of opening new schools, closing low performing schools and converting the district to operate as a portfolio of schools. Oliver attended the University of Southern California and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As Chief Executive Officer of Ednovate, Oliver is responsible for overall leadership of the organization and the continuous development of our student centered instructional model. Outside of work Oliver loves running, golf, reading, outdoor concerts, quality time with loved ones and searching for the world’s best nachos.
- University Prep (Denver, CO)
Leader: David Signer
Entering urban education nearly fifteen years ago, David Singer started his career as a high school math teacher. While working relentlessly to change the life trajectories of high school students, Singer recognized the need to serve the same children in the same community with the same families, but at a much younger age. In 2009, Singer was selected for and engaged in the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship, a year-long, highly intensive leadership training program for future founders and leaders of game changing urban charter schools. Singer spent the next two years with his founding board and team preparing tirelessly to launch University Prep, a K – 5th grade public charter school with the sole mission to educate every child for a four-year college degree and a life of opportunity. Opening its doors in August of 2011 to 100 kindergarten and 1st grade scholars, University Prep has since grown to a network of two public charter schools serving nearly 600 children. While the first campus was a slow growth, fresh start school, University Prep’s second campus launched in 2016-17 as a full K – 5 turnaround. In 2015-16, University Prep – Arapahoe St. was one of only four “distinguished” rated elementary schools in Denver Public Schools out of nearly one hundred elementary schools. In 2016-17, University Prep – Steele St., the turnaround campus, had the highest math growth in the state of Colorado out of 1,500 schools and the eighth highest growth in English language arts. During his time as a principal and now as an executive director, Singer has had the opportunity to complete RELAY Graduate School of Education’s National Principal Fellowship Academy and is currently a member of the 2017-18 Leverage Leadership Institute.
- Great Oaks Legacy Charter School (Newark, NJ)
Leader: Jared Taillefer
Jared Taillefer is the Executive Director of Great Oaks Legacy Charter School. He received his bachelor’s degree from Boston University in 2005. He then spent one year as a tutor at the MATCH Charter Public High School in Boston before becoming a math teacher. After two years as a teacher, Mr. Taillefer became the director of development at MATCH Charter Public High School. Later, Mr. Taillefer spent one year as the dean of students for MATCH Charter Public High School, followed by another year as the dean of students for MATCH Charter Public Middle School. In 2011, Mr. Taillefer became the Founder and Executive Director of Great Oaks Charter School, and in 2016, he led the school through a merger with Newark Legacy Charter School to establish Great Oaks Legacy Charter School, a Pre-K through 12th grade college preparatory charter school in Newark, New Jersey.
- EastSide Charter School (Delaware)
- Village of Excellence Academy (Tampa, FL)
CEO: Cametra Edwards
Dr. Cametra Edwards founded the Village of Excellence Academy (VOEA) in 1999, serving as its principal for 16 years before assuming the role of executive director in 2015. VOEA is one of the longest running charter schools in the Hillsborough County school district, the nation’s 6th largest. The approximately 400-student charter school network aims to help students from low-income, high-crime neighborhoods by creating a collaborative community environment, recruiting the best teachers, and developing skills for emerging career opportunities. Middle school students are provided with laptops to meet the needs of a technical curriculum with coursework in multimedia, programming, spreadsheets, web, logic, 3D printing and data. In addition, the school teaches Mandarin Chinese to enhance global competitiveness through an understanding of the language spoken by the largest population in the world. This year, all 28 eight-graders, 99 percent of whom live below the poverty threshold, graduated and each student was accepted into an international baccalaureate high school, accelerated magnet program or private school.The daughter of three-term Congresswoman Betty Reed, Dr. Edwards earned a Ph.D. in school psychology from the University of South Florida and completed her undergraduate degree in social science teacher education from the University of Central Florida. Dr. Edwards is an excellent resource to the Florida charter community, having served as the president of the Charter School Leaders-Florida, principals’ association for three consecutive terms. She was instrumental in forging strong district-charter partnerships and presented several times at the national Best Cooperative Practices between Charter and Traditional Schools Conference. Most recently, Dr. Edwards became a National Principal Fellow through Relay Graduate School of Education in 2016.
- Bright Star Schools (Los Angeles, CA)
CEO: Hrag Hamalian
Hrag Manuel Hamalian currently serves as the chief executive officer of Bright Star Schools, an organization comprised of seven high performing charter schools serving 2,700 K-12 students in the communities of West Adams, Koreatown, and Panorama City. Prior to joining Bright Star, Hrag founded Valor Academy Middle School, a high performing 5-8 grade charter school in Los Angeles. Valor Academy is a member of the Excellent Schools Network, selected for strong academic results, sound organizational practices, and the genuine ability to close the achievement gap in the community that it serves. Hrag was an Aspen Pahara Next-Gen Fellow in 2015, a Building Excellent Schools (BES) Fellow in 2007 and a Teach for America corps member at Locke High School from 2005-2007, where he taught high school biology and honors biology, helped found the School of Math and Science, and served as the head of the biology department. In 2011, Hrag was the recipient of Boston College’s prestigious Gold Award, honoring him as the alumnus of the decade. Hrag holds a double-major degree from Boston College in biology and honors English, a Masters in Secondary Education from Loyola Marymount University, and a Master’s in Business Administration from UCLA. Hrag serves as a board member on the boards of ExEd and Building Excellent Schools.
- Gestalt Community Schools (Memphis, TN)
CEO: Yetta Lewis
Yetta Lewis is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Gestalt Community Schools. Gestalt’s vision is building better communities through education. To this end, Gestalt targets underserved communities that have failing schools, then catalyzes grassroots leadership to revitalize the neighborhood, educates the youth through high-performing schools, and partners with providers to tackle out-of-school challenges that hinder students from succeeding. Prior to her role as CEO, Yetta served as the chief academic officer of Gestalt Community Schools for 5 years where she managed the academic program for the network. Yetta was the founding principal of Power Center Academy Middle School, Gestalt’s first school. As a founding principal, she lead a team of extraordinary educators, dedicated parents, and supportive community partners who in just three years moved the school to the top-performing middle school in Tennessee. Prior to joining Gestalt, Yetta was the vice president of curriculum and professional development for The JASON Project, a subsidiary of National Geographic. She also worked as a managing director of professional development for the WorldCom MarcoPolo Internet Content for Classroom Program. Yetta started her educational journey as a teacher in Baltimore City, where she taught middle school language arts for eight years and served on the board of Head Start. Yetta holds a B.A. from Salisbury University, a M.Ed. from Loyola University, and a Certificate of Technology in Education from Johns Hopkins University. She is now a proud Pahara-Aspen 2015 Cohort member.
- Amethod Public Schools (Oakland, CA)
CEO: Jorge Lopez
Jorge is the founder and CEO of Amethod Public Schools. Mr. Lopez has over twenty years of experience working with school reform organizations, charter schools, and at-risk youth. Mr. Lopez is a former member of the California State Board of Education (SBE), appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and served as the SBE liaison to the Advisory Committee on Charter Schools for the State Board of Education until 2010. Currently, he is an Aspen-Pahara Fellow (cohort 16). Mr. Lopez oversaw the growth and transformation of Oakland Charter Academy from a flailing and failing single middle school campus into a nationally renowned, multi-site K-12th grade system whose schools rank among the highest in the state of California. Prior to his leadership role at Amethod Public Schools, Mr. Lopez worked for Sacramento Unified School District as part of the Migrant Education Advisor Program, serving as a counselor at Cesar Chavez Intermediate School. Mr. Lopez also worked at MAAP Inc. based in South Sacramento where he served as the Director for the Sacramento Youth Project, overseeing tutoring, mentorship, and counseling programs throughout the Sacramento public and continuation schools. Other past work assignments include the Federal Migrant Education Program Region 2 in Butte County, and Region 23 in San Joaquin County as a Program Director overseeing K-12 education site based services for identified migrant agricultural families and students. Mr. Lopez holds a B.A. and a graduate degree in education from Sacramento State University.
- RePublic Schools (Nashville, TN and Jackson, MS)
CEO: Jon Rybka
Jon has spent his career dedicated to transforming schools and policies to better serve students who have traditionally been underserved. He comes to RePublic from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, where he functioned as a program officer on the U.S. Education team’s expanding Quality Schools Options portfolio. In that role, he worked to support the creation of high quality schools by partnering with authorizers, regulators, districts, and charter operators to enlist stakeholders in creating a system of great schools through the creation, expansion, and replication of quality schools.Prior to his work at the foundation, Jon was a managing director at a turnaround charter management organization, Scholar Academies, and the Office of School Innovation in Washington, D.C. Public Schools where he led schools that were focused on arts integration, STEM, and world cultures. He also worked at the Children’s Defense Fund where he led advocacy efforts on quality health care, early childhood programs, and equitable juvenile justice policies. He began his career in education as a social studies teacher at Carver High School in Winston-Salem, NC and SEED Public Charter Schools in Washington, D.C. Jon earned his B.A. in history at Denison University and M.A.Ed. in secondary education from Wake Forest University.
- Henderson Collegiate (Henderson, NC)
CEO: Eric Sanchez
In 2010, Eric Sanchez co-founded Henderson Collegiate with his wife, Carice Sanchez. Eric served as the school leader as it expanded a grade level each year through July 2015, when he assumed the role of executive director. In this position, he supports principals, directors of operations and regional team members across all three schools within Henderson Collegiate and facilitates the charter school’s expansion to over 1,200 students in grades K-12 by 2019. Under Eric’s leadership, Henderson Collegiate has exceeded expected growth each year since opening, earned Title I Reward School status for high student growth each year from 2013 to 2015, earned National Title I Distinguished School status in 2015 (the only charter school in North Carolina to do so), and achieved the highest school performance grade in the state of North Carolina, an honor earned by only 3.5% of all NC public schools, for the past three consecutive years. Eric earned his B.A. in philosophy and economics from Binghamton University in 2002. He began his career with Teach for America as a teacher in Vance County in eastern North Carolina. He then transitioned to Gaston College Preparatory, part of the Knowledge Is Power Program, where he taught and served as grade level chair. In 2015, Eric completed the National Principals Academy Fellowship through the Relay Graduate School of Education, and subsequently served as an advisor to the program. He was additionally invited to participate in Paul Bambrick’s Leverage Leadership Institute in 2017. He is a member of the Henderson Rotary Club and served for two years as a house-appointed, voting member of North Carolina’s Charter School Advisory Board, which makes policy recommendations and provides performance evaluations to the North Carolina State Board of Education.
- Neighborhood House Charter School (Boston, MA)
CEO: Kate Scott
Kate Scott is the executive director of the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, Massachusetts, an expanding school which by 2021 will serve over 800 students in preK – 12th grade across two campuses. Neighborhood House is a particularly diverse school with a rigorous academic program and an emphasis on students’ social and emotional development, and has consistently been one of the highest performing charters in Massachusetts. Over more than twenty years at Neighborhood House, Kate has served as a classroom teacher, dean of the middle school, and the assistant headmaster, where for 9 years she oversaw the school’s academic program with a particular focus on math and science. Kate got her start in education as a Teach for America corps member in Long Beach, California. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education and was a National Board Certified Teacher.
- Navigator Schools (Hollister, CA)
CEO: Kevin Sved
Kevin Sved is the CEO of Navigator Schools, a high-performing charter network that is eliminating the achievement gap in California’s North Central Coast. On average, 84% of Navigator students meet or exceed ELA standards, and 71% meet or exceed math standards on statewide Smarter Balanced assessments. This phenomenal level of achievement is the result of a mission-driven commitment to developing top-tier educators through systematic peer coaching and professional development. In 1994, Kevin co-founded The Accelerated School (TAS), the first charter school in South Los Angeles. Over the course of his fifteen-year stewardship, TAS grew from its original site in a church recreation room to encompass a family of four schools serving more than 1,300 students in grades PK through 12. TAS received national recognition as Time Magazine’s School of the Year in 2001. Kevin was awarded the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award in 2006 for advancing innovative and effective solutions to significant issues facing California’s future. A champion and educator of children for more than thirty years, he has developed a broad spectrum of expertise in school development, public administration, and youth services.
- Envision Education (Oakland, CA)
CEO: Gia Truong
Gia Truong currently serves as Chief Executive Officer at Envision Education, a mission-driven organization committed to transforming the lives of low-income, first-generation college-bound students. Envision’s unique approach consists of two strategies: operating charter schools and providing training and consulting services to others through its Envision Learning Partners division. Prior to joining Envision, Gia was the executive officer of Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) 60-member Curriculum and Instruction Department, where she led strategic planning and reorganization. Gia has significant leadership experience across district and charter organizations, having served as the lead of OUSD’s Effective Principals and Leadership Task Force, as OUSD’s Middle School Network Executive Officer, and as a former principal of Urban Promise Academy in Oakland. Gia started her career as a social studies teacher, working with innovative Expeditionary Learning strategies. Gia received a B.A. in psychology with a minor in Asian-American studies from San Francisco State University, an M.A. in teaching from Brown University, and earned her administrative credential through the New Leaders Principal Residency Program. Gia is a 2016 Pahara-Aspen fellow.
- Village of Excellence Academy (Tampa, FL)
- Equitas Academy Charter Schools (Los Angeles, CA), CEO: Malka Borrego
- Alpha Public Schools (San Jose, CA), CEO: John Glover
- Excel Academy Charter Schools (Boston, MA), CEO: Owen Stearns
- Valor Collegiate Academies (Nashville, TN), CEO: Todd Dickson
- Education for Change Public Schools (Oakland, CA), CEO: Hae-Sin Kim Thomas
- Wayside Schools (Austin, TX), CEO: Matthew Abbott
- Rocky Mountain Preparatory Schools (Denver, CO),CEO: James Cryan
- STEM Prep (Los Angeles, CA), CEO: Emilio Pack
- Two Rivers Public Charter Schools (Washington, DC), CEO: Jessica Wodatch
- Brooklyn Prospect Charter Schools (Brooklyn, NY), CEO: Daniel Rubenstein
- Milwaukee College Prep (Milwaukee, WI), CEO: Robert Rauh
- ReGeneration Schools (Chicago, IL), CEO: Stacey Shells
- Freedom Prep (Memphis, TN), CEO: Roblin Webb
- Hiawatha Academies (Minneapolis, MN), CEO: Eli Kramer
- Fortune Schools (Sacramento, CA), CEO: Margaret Fortune
- Voices College-Bound Language Academy (San Jose, CA), CEO: Frances Teso
- Charles A. Tindley Accelerated Schools (Indianapolis, IN), CEO: Marcus Robinson
- Collegiate Academies (New Orleans, LA), CEO: Benjamin Marcovitz
- FirstLine Schools (New Orleans, LA), CEO: Jay Altman
- Harvest Network of Schools (Minneapolis, MN), CEO: Eric Mahmoud
- LEAD Public Schools (Nashville, TN), CEO: Chris Reynolds
- Inspired (Detroit, MI), CEO: Lesley Esters Redwine
- Public Prep (New York, NY), CEO: Ian Rowe
- Scholar Academies (Philadephia, PA; Washington, DC; Trenton, NJ), CEO: Lars Beck
Are you interested in taking part in the Charter Network Accelerator? Please reach out to Laina Vlasnik Yip at email@example.com for more information on how to apply for our next cohort.