U.S. public schools suffer from a leadership crisis, stemming from high turnover of state education commissioners and local school superintendents. More than 30 states today have a different Chief than when the 2014-15 school year began. What’s more, while more than half of all U.S. public school students are students of color, the people who oversee their education systems do not reflect that diversity.
As a way to address both issues, Chiefs for Change today introduced its inaugural class of Future Chiefs – bold and innovative state and district education leaders who are transforming our nation’s schools and are ready to prepare for even larger roles in our education system.
The eight leaders in the first Future Chiefs cohort were introduced at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. They will participate in a year-long program of coaching, mentorship, and collective learning, with the support of some of the nation’s most successful state and local Chiefs.
U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., praised the new program.
“Cultivating the next generation of state and local education leaders is critical to ensuring that all students have the opportunities they deserve,” King said. “Chiefs for Change’s new program, Future Chiefs, will help better prepare a diverse group to step up and lead schools, districts, and states so that we continue to improve both equity and excellence for students.”
“Virtually all successful state and district education Chiefs point to a mentor or senior colleague who encouraged them and helped them grow into leaders,” said Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee. “Future Chiefs will create a robust pipeline of experienced, capable and diverse state and local school superintendents who are ready for the next level. Transformational and lasting leadership is best acquired and unleashed through coaching, mentorship, and collective learning.”
“As I look back at my path toward becoming a state education Chief, it’s clear to me that the guidance of my mentors has been the biggest influence on my career,” John White, CFC Board Chair and Louisiana State Superintendent of Education said. “Chiefs for Change members are deeply committed to mentoring and helping to prepare the next generation of state and district education leaders.”
Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education, also praised Chiefs for Change’s Future Chiefs program.
“It’s inspiring to see these up-and-coming education leaders taking the next step in their development,” Duncan said. “Their intelligence, drive, and ability tell me that our public school systems will be in good hands for years to come. I congratulate them and thank Chiefs for Change for developing this mentorship program.”
“The Chiefs for Change Future Chiefs program will help us develop the next generation of district and state schools Chiefs who will have shared experiences with the students they serve and close the demographic gap between students and leaders,” said Deborah McGriff, Managing Partner of New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF), speaking at today’s news conference. NSVF has placed significant focus on diversifying education leadership.
FUTURE CHIEFS, COHORT 1:
Vanessa Rodriguez: Chief of Talent + Leadership, Citizens of the World Charter Schools; formerly Newark Public Schools
Jack Elsey: Chief Schools Officer, Education Achievement Authority of Michigan
Kunjan Narechania: Chief Operating Officer, Louisiana Department of Education
Angelica Infante-Green: Deputy Commissioner, New York State Department of Education
Christopher Ruszkowski: Deputy Secretary, Policy + Program, New Mexico Public Education Department
Andrea Castaneda: Independent Consultant; formerly Rhode Island Department of Education
De’Shawn Wright: Chief of Staff, Newark Public Schools
Talia Shaull: Chief Talent Officer, Tulsa Public Schools
EDUCATION LEADERS FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY PRAISED THE FUTURE CHIEFS PROGRAM:
Amanda Fernandez, CEO, Latinos for Education, said: “As CEO of the first Latino-founded and led national organization solely dedicated to building a pipeline of Latino education leaders and advocates, I know how important it is to identify and nurture talent. Chiefs for Change is doing it right with Future Chiefs and this impressive inaugural class. I cannot wait for the talent pipeline to be bursting with education leaders ready to take our systems to new and great places.”
Chris Minnich, Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), said: “School leaders face a multitude of challenges. This program aims to prepare future education leaders to face those challenges, and equip aspiring Chiefs with the skills to be successful for kids. The Council of Chief State School Officers works with state Chiefs to ensure all students receive a high-quality education. It’s my hope that a strong bench of aspiring Chiefs ready to step into important educational leadership roles will only further the pursuit of student success.”
Christopher D. Cerf, Superintendent, Newark Public Schools, former New Jersey Education Commissioner, said: “Running a state or local school system is a challenge. I’ve done both and know first-hand that the future of public education depends on the vision and effectiveness of the next generation of leaders. When I look at this group of Future Chiefs, I see passionate and smart educators who will be up to the task of balancing policy and politics so that children can win.”
Veronica Conforme, Chancellor, Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, said: “Throughout my career in public and urban education, I have always benefited from more-senior leaders who took the time to share wisdom and help me develop some of my own. That’s why I’m proud to support Future Chiefs and see my colleague Jack Elsey in the inaugural class. I know someday he will pay it forward too.”
Deborah A. Gist, Superintendent, Tulsa Public Schools, former Rhode Island Education Commissioner, said: “America’s students and teachers deserve the best, and excellent leaders, like Talia Shaull from Tulsa Public Schools, need opportunities to expand their knowledge and experience. By supporting the growth of Future Chiefs, we can increase the pool of diverse, mission-driven and exceptionally talented system leaders. I am excited to play a role in mentoring these Future Chiefs and launching such an important effort for the country.”
Mark Murphy, Former Delaware Secretary of Education, said: “In a world with evolving challenges, our children need and deserve the best educational opportunities. Investing in the future of our children means investing in the future of leadership. Once again, Chiefs for Change steps forward to meet the need of leadership development with a timely and wisely conceived approach.”
Hanna Skandera, New Mexico Secretary of Education, said: “In today’s education landscape, leadership at the state and local levels is a significant factor in helping all of our kids reach their full potential, and building a pipeline of skilled and qualified future education Chiefs is more important now than ever before. These Future Chiefs have a great opportunity to continue to develop, grow, and help build a brighter future for school children across America.”