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Achievement First Achievement First

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

Program Details

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 they work they’re doing around the country.

  • Cohort 4

    • New Beginnings Schools Foundation (New Orleans, LA)
      CEO: Michelle Blouin-Williams
      CEO New Beginnings Michelle Blouin-Williams headshot
      Michelle Blouin-Williams, a life-long educator, is CEO of New Beginnings Schools Foundation (NBSF) in New Orleans. NBSF led the New Orleans charter movement by opening its first charter school in 2004. As its CEO, Ms. Blouin-Williams works to create new beginnings and opportunities for the success of every child, every day through innovative practices, strong relationships, and educating the whole child. She is motivated by an unwavering commitment to student achievement that is grounded in professional learning, high expectations, transparency, and community engagement. Michelle was born, raised, and educated in New Orleans. She has deep ties to the community and twenty-seven years of experience in the field of education. Prior to joining NBSF, Michelle served as senior chief administrative officer of the Orleans Parish School Board, where she oversaw district non-academic operations, administrative functions, and district-wide initiatives. Her tenure as an educational leader includes previously serving as the chief human capital officer, mathematics teacher, secondary mathematics consultant, chief academic officer, network executive director, and deputy/acting superintendent in Jefferson Parish. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Xavier University of Louisiana and a Master of Arts in the science of teaching mathematics from the University of New Orleans.
    • Village of Excellence Academy (Tampa, FL)
      CEO: Cametra Edwards
      Cametra Edwards CEO of Village of Excellence Academy head shot
      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 Hamalian, Bright Star Schools head shot
      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 CEO Gestalt Community Schools, head shot
      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.
    • Ewing Marion Kauffman Schools (Kansas City, MO)
      CEO: Hannah Lofthus

      Hannah Lofthus believes all children are capable of meeting high academic expectations in the right educational environment. Ms. Lofthus is the founder and chief executive officer of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Schools (EMKS) in Kansas City, Missouri. She founded EMKS in 2011 while participating as a partner founder in the Fisher Fellowship – a selective year-long fellowship for charter school founders. Today, EMKS is a three-school campus serving over 1,000 students in middle and high school. The mission is summarized in three words: create college graduates.  The data shows students are on track to achieve extraordinary outcomes: before entering EMKS, students typically score in the bottom third of the state. After four years at Kauffman, the founding class ranked # 1 in Missouri in biology, and # 2 in algebra I. Ms. Lofthus is a nationally-recognized talent developer. She was one of two leaders across the country awarded the Ryan Award in 2016 for being a transformational school leader. Ms. Lofthus graduated from RELAY’s National Principals Academy Fellowship and Paul Bambrick’s Leverage Leadership Institute, and she travels the country to deliver professional development and coach leaders in other high-performing networks. Her outreach helps spread the success of Kauffman staff and students, as well as the movement for reform in Kansas City. In 2015, Ms. Lofthus was inducted into the Mid-America Education Hall of Fame. Before founding EMKS, Ms. Lofthus was a founding member at Leadership Preparatory Charter School, part of the Uncommon Schools Network. She is a 2007 Teach for America New York City corps member, and is now deeply connected to the alumni movement in Kansas City. Ms. Lofthus received her B.S. from University of Missouri-Kansas City, a Master of Science in Teaching from Pace University, and a Master in Educational Leadership from National Luis University.
    • Amethod Public Schools (Oakland, CA)
      CEO: Jorge Lopez
      Amethod Public Schools CEO Jorge Lopez head shot
      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 Rybka, RePublic Schools CEO head shot
      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. Before founding EMKS, Ms. Lofthus was a founding member at Leadership Preparatory Charter School, part of the Uncommon Schools Network. She is a 2007 Teach for America New York City corps member, and is now deeply connected to the alumni movement in Kansas City. Ms. Lofthus received her B.S. from University of Missouri-Kansas City, a Master of Science in Teaching from Pace University, and a Master in Educational Leadership from National Luis University.
    • Henderson Collegiate (Henderson, NC)
      CEO: Eric Sanchez
      Eric Sanchez, Henderson Collegiate CEO headshot
      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, Neighborhood House Charter School, CEO head shot
      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, Navigator Schools CEO head shot
      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, Envision Education CEO head shot
      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.
  • Cohort 3

    • 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
  • Cohort 2

    • 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
  • Cohort 1

    • 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

Join Us!

Are you interested in taking part in the Charter Network Accelerator? Please reach out to Laina Vlasnik Yip at for more information on how to apply for our next cohort.