Great charter schools need great charter school boards.
That’s what we do.
"We always know if the board we are meeting with is a CBP board. They ask thoughtful questions, bring a sense of professionalism to the table, and are focused on student outcomes. CBP boards understand their responsibility, as stewards of taxpayer dollars, for ensuring that the students at their schools are getting a high-quality education. We can spot a CBP board a mile away, and it’s a sign of an increasingly accountable and responsible charter school sector."
— Naomi Rubin DeVeaux
Deputy Director, DC Public Charter School Board
Board Member Spotlights
Andrea Sparks Brown
Cydney Peyton Walton
Sr. Director, Health IT and Clinical Informatics
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
DC Bilingual PCS
Nadia Ramey is a board member at DC Bilingual Public Charter School. She is also a parent at the school; her son is in fourth grade and her daughter in PK3. Being a parent helps Nadia bring a different, important, and valued perspective to the board.
“I feel like I have insider information that other board members don’t because I’m at the school every day during the week and I participate in a lot of events,” she says. “I’m also aware of what other parents think, so I’m able to bring that perspective, too.”
Nadia is enjoying her board service, and feels valued that the board values her perspective. “I feel like everyone listens to what I have to say,” she says. “I can ask the same tough questions that everybody else gets to ask and they get answered. I don’t feel that (the other board member who is also a parent at the school and I) have been marginalized.”
Nadia says she was a little shy when she first joined the board, but has found her voice and feels comfortable—and that it is her responsibility— to speak up and express her opinions.
“Asking the tough questions—that’s our job,” she says. “They may not like this and this may be a little bit uncomfortable, but this is what I’m supposed to do. Because our goal is not to make everyone happy and comfortable—our goal is to make sure the students have everything they need to be successful.”
She suggests stepping up to do your own research at times. School leadership provides a lot of really good information, she says. Sometimes a board member can help leadership by doing a little extra research—for example, she recently did some research on how much it costs and how long it takes to do a survey of land, as her board is exploring building options.
Nadia found the CBP Governance Academy she recently attended to be very helpful in affirming some of her board’s practices. For example, she said her board chair and fellow board members are clear that in a school with a staff of many, they are only responsible for one—the head of school. And, she said, DC Bilingual’s board has the right committees in place, including the one she serves on: the Governance Committee.
Nadia says the experience has been rewarding and more fun than she thought it would be “It’s really exciting,” she says. “I love what we do on the board. I really wanted to contribute--and it is very rewarding.”
Washington Leadership Academy
Andrea Sparks Brown
Andrea Sparks Brown has 28 years of experience as an educator. She’s been a principal, assistant principal, science teacher, and educational consultant. She’s worked in rural, urban, and suburban schools.
Until recently, she hadn’t done much with public charter schools, and she decided to learn more. Through the Charter Board Partners process and a connection with a current board member, she was interviewed and invited to join the board at Washington Leadership Academy. Soon after, she attended CBP’s Governance Academy.
“I was always interested in how the charter school system worked,” she says. “Being on a board really gives you an opportunity to have impact on how students are going to do in the future. I didn’t realize until today just how much responsibility a board has because I’ve always worked in a traditional public school setting.” In that setting, she says, the policy and accountability come from afar, and are filtered, or “buffered,” through the principal or superintendent.
“A charter school board looks directly at everything and says: ‘I need accountability. I need to understand why you’re doing those things,’ ” she says. “If you have a passion for that, this is a great opportunity for someone to go in and to have an impact on what’s happening with children in the city.”
Even with her years of experience in schools in DC and elsewhere, Andrea was surprised by what she learned about educational inequity in the District during the Governance Academy presentation by Carrie Irvin, CBP’s CEO and Co-Founder. She says: “I went to school at Howard, in one part of the city. When you look at the information and data about wards 7 and 8, the vast differences...it concerns me. I was surprised to hear it was such a drastic difference from one side of the city to another.”
She echoes CBP’s mantra about “asking questions” when describing her first few meetings on her new board: “In looking at programs that come before the board or that the school is interested in, I’m looking at how things truly impact the kids and how it’s going to benefit them. Every time we’ve had to vote on something, they all look at me and laugh because that’s (always) my first question: ‘How are you assessing this? What is the expectation and how will this cost support the advancement of your students? What’s the goal of using this particular program? Why are we going in this direction?’ How is this helping students and how is this going to be something you can maintain long term? Those kinds of critical questions help boards really have an impact on the quality of education in the school.
Wroxton Civic Ventures
Washington Latin Public Charter School
“Education is a place where I’ve wanted to give back,” says Barry Caldwell, who recently joined the board of Washington Latin Public Charter School, a high-performing Tier 1 middle school and high school focused on providing a classical education. “I’ve been a spectator for a very long time, but now I’m on the field playing, getting my fingers dirty on some of the issues charter schools have to deal with. I want to support education for underserved populations and see what kind of impact I can have.”
He joined the board of Washington Latin at a time when the school is in high demand and is looking at how to grow to meet that demand. He says he has dealt with growth in the corporate setting and is excited to apply those skills to a completely different area. Barry has spent nearly two decades working in corporate settings, a good portion of that time in leadership positions at Waste Management, headquartered in Houston, TX. He has also served on the boards of other nonprofit organizations, but not in education.
Barry has attended a CBP Candidate Breakfast and Governance Academy, and the information resonated with him from past experience. “Frankly, the board has to own (the mission) as much as the school leadership has to own it,” he says, “so that you’re both working collectively and achieving the mission of the school.
A big part of the appeal for Barry is that he doesn’t know a lot about education policy. He sees board membership as an opportunity to bring what he knows—corporate leadership and how to grow an organization—to education. He asked so much about academics that he is now on Washington Latin’s Academic Committee, along with a number of people with education experience.
“So I’ve got to do some homework on my own, get smarter on the issues myself, talk to other people myself,” he says. “But I’m able to ask the school leadership questions and poke and prod to make sure we’re getting a good collective decision on where we’re trying to go.”
Why does he want to focus on education? “As an African American male and seeing what has beset young African American males societally, I’ve got to give back,” he says. “I’ve got to engage and participate… And f for me in particular, for underserved middle schoolers and high schoolers, they have an opportunity to continue to grow and education is integral to that. It’s a place that I just feel in my being I have to help.”
Dastrup Creative Group
Chair, Development Committee
“I have no doubt that good things are to come for schools in this city,” says Crissy Dastrup, who serves on the board of Académie Lafayette, a K-8 charter school in Kansas City, Missouri. “That’s my main drive for getting involved in education. I’m passionate about seeing things work better for our city… Good schools drive good cities.”
On the board of Académie Lafayette, where three of her four children attend (her 3-year-old is too young), she chairs the Development Committee and also serves on the Governance Committee. The school is expanding; enrollment is increasing and the school has plans to open a high school. The board is evolving as well: recent board accomplishments include updating the school’s bylaws, adopting a new strategic plan, purchasing a building to accommodate growth and expansion, and more. “We have a very busy board,” she says.
Dastrup is pleased about what she sees as growing collaboration among schools and between the city’s charter schools and traditional district schools.
“Charter schools help families in the city that are looking for schools that are performing well,” she says. “Education is not a zero-sum game. If you think like that, I’m not sure whose interests you have in mind,” Dastrup says. She credits SchoolSmartKC as a “game-changer.” Launched in 2017, the organization underwrites significant initiatives to support high-performing school options for students, including through a partnership with Charter Board Partners to recruit and train charter school board members in effective governance. Dastrup hopes to see future partnerships and collaborative efforts between the district and charters, similar to cities like Indianapolis, Baltimore, and Houston where they are making progress on similar complex educational issues.
Dastrup attended CBP’s Governance Academy twice, as well as all the other CBP trainings offered in Kansas City. “CBP is by far the best training I have ever received as a school board member,” she says. “This stuff isn’t always obvious.”
One session she particularly appreciated focused on gauging school culture, a critical component of school success. “CBP went over ways we can be accountable for school culture without getting into the weeds and micromanaging our school administrator,” she says.
Associate Director of Social Investments
Center City Public Charter Schools
Nasir Qadree has a long history as a social entrepreneur, as evidenced most recently when the Washington Business Journal named him one of their 2018 40 under 40. So when we asked him what kind of charter school board he might be interested in joining, it wasn’t a huge surprise when he said he’s not interested in joining the board of a school that is already highly successful. “I wanted to be on the board of a school that was experiencing some challenges,” he told us. “It was important to me that I had played a role in helping leadership execute on key turnaround strategies.”
That’s consistent with Nasir’s approach to all of his professional and social change from supporting ed reform while working at the Connecticut Department of Education, directing investment in the education sector for a social venture capital firm, or his current work leading AT&T’s social investments in educational technology.
Since joining the board of Center City Public Charter Schools through CBP in 2016, Nasir has been involved in the “whirlwind, frustrating, but incredibly worth it” challenges of making improvements at the charter network’s Trinidad school for example. “It’s been refreshing to see the progress being made there,” he says. “I have been motivated to continue helping our CEO execute on providing the right resources for school leaders.”
Nasir is grateful for the role CBP played in helping him find a charter school board where his experience and expertise can make a meaningful difference for students, and provided him with the training, information, and support to be a great board member. He participated in CBP’s Governance Academy and other trainings and convenings, and believes that CBP plays a role not just in connecting high quality people to charter school boards, but in focusing on accountability at the school level from the board, and providing the right support systems for school leaders.
“How do we build highly effective boards that create a comfortable space for the school leader to make decisions, with the support of their boards?” he says. “Without CBP and that overall foundation, many boards would be operating on a wing.”
“We think we have a pretty good board,” says Jack Metz, a member of the school board at LLT Academy charter school in Hillsborough County, Florida. “But we can do some things better. For example, we don’t break down into committees, we tend to do everything as a full board. But the board could devote more structured time to the administration if we would create committees.”
That’s one of the things that Jack learned at a training led by Charter Board Partners in Tampa, in collaboration with the county’s charter school authorizer, Hillsborough County Public Schools.
Jack joined the board of LLT Academy, which serves student in grades K-8, in 2007, shortly after he retired from a corporate job. Jack’s grandson was a student at the school at the time. His primary role as a board member is to work with the school’s chief financial officer to review, analyze, and approve the budget, in addition to monitoring school finances during the year.
The training, presented by Debbie Lister, CBP’s Chief Governance and Program Operations Officer, was a welcome addition, says Jack, giving him a deeper dive into best practices than he has received in other trainings.
The county launched the program in fall 2017, when the Florida Department of Education decided to use some of its federal Charter School Program funds to support and strengthen governance, starting with a pilot in Hillsborough County. CBP is training board members and recruiting new ones to strengthen boards and give them the tools to effectively hold their schools accountable and improve quality. The project also allows participants to connect with board members from other nearby schools.
“We just received the Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School Award; it’s quite an award,” Jack says. “A Lighthouse School deserves a Lighthouse board. These resources and support from CBP should help us become a more effective and better board.”
Executive Director, Head of Information Products
Chase Merchant Services
Hillsborough and Pasco Counties, Florida
Eric Deraspe had been thinking for years about volunteering to serve on a charter school board. He was interested in education and doing something to support children, and he saw it as an opportunity to learn about a new area of interest.
Through Charter Board Partners, Eric joined the board of Pepin Academies, a charter school network with two schools in Hillsborough County, Florida, and one in nearby Pasco County. He serves as chair of the Finance Committee.
“It’s a very good match,” Eric says. “I like the culture of the board. People are working hard to make it successful. And I bring something to the board, as well. I took on the Finance Committee and it’s nice to be recognized for bringing value.”
One of the most challenging things to learn as a board member was the state’s Sunshine Laws, which strictly define open meetings and open records requirements. Eric has had to adjust to limiting emailing regarding board business to stay in compliance, reserving most board discussions for meetings that have been announced in accordance with these laws.
After attending CBP’s Governance Academy, Eric came to his first Pepin board meeting with questions that led to measurable changes in the way the board operates. “I asked about the committee structure, but we didn’t really have a finance committee,” he says. “I asked to see the bylaws, but they were outdated. Now the board has are committees and updated bylaws.”
The most important job of a board member?
“To be a bit critical of what’s going on,” Eric says. “To make sure that you ask the right questions. I’m not there to micromanage—or even to manage at all. Board members have to let the principals and administrators do that. But it is our role to ask the right questions, and make sure the school is going in the right direction.”
Kansas City Art Institute
Crossroads Charter Schools
Ron Cattelino is retired from the Kansas City Art Institute, where he served as Executive Vice President for Administration. He has been on the board of Crossroads Charter Schools in Kansas City, Missouri, for four years and currently serves on the finance committee. Crossroads was established in 2012 with a K-8 school, added another K-8 school in 2016, and is establishing a high school this year.
What he especially took from a Charter Board Partners training he attended was learning about the Standards for Effective Governance.
"We’re already implementing two things from the six standards," he said, just a few months after the training. "One is a document for all board members to sign—what their duties and responsibilities are. We’ve done some cutting and pasting (from samples at the Governance Academy). The other is an annual board calendar with a detailed list of items by the month that has to be approved, and also a list of information items to provide the board every month."
The Crossroads board runs rather well, Ron says, but they have also learned from the training about best practices and areas where his board could make progress: delegating is one example.
"We go to board meetings—and all boards do this—sometimes we spend too much time on things we shouldn’t," Ron says. "We should delegate to committees to really dive into the details and bring that to the board so the board can really stay focused on our core values—excellence and the goals we’re trying to accomplish."
His advice? Don't get into the weeds. "We have an executive director who has his senior staff. Board members have to be very careful not to get into the details or the weeds unless a staff member comes to a board member with expertise in an area. We hire the executive director and he reports to the board. He and his senior leadership team hire and supervise the rest of the staff.
Teach To Lead
Digital Pioneers Academy and Rocketship DC
Shayna Hammond is founder and CEO of Teach To Lead, a leadership development organization for education leaders, teachers, and other social sector leaders, based in Washington, DC. She has seen school governance from multiple perspectives: as an award-winning teacher and school leader in Baltimore, where she explained academics to her board members and educated them on what they should be looking for as board members; as founder and CEO of Teach To Lead, an organization with an advisory board; and as a board member for two different charter schools in Washington, DC: Digital Pioneers Academy, set to open in fall 2018, and Rocketship DC.
“Being on the startup is exciting; I get to use the entrepreneurial side of me,” Shayna says. “Everything has to be created—from ‘we need to find a facility’ to the ever-changing school design. I like the uncertainty around it: there’s a certain level of energy and commitment. I feel a heightened sense of commitment because so much has to get done in a short period of time.
“And it’s also been good to see on Rocketship DC’s board what it’s like to come in as a new board member to an already established board. They have their systems for how they run very much in place.”
Shayna says having diverse representation on a school board is critical.
When you’re governing a school you are governing, basically, a mini-city, so it’s important to have diverse perspectives at the table,” she says. “It’s important for everyone to have a different way of looking at what it means to have a schooling experience—because school is more than even teaching and learning and results. It’s an experience—for students and teachers and parents…The more diverse mindsets and approaches we can apply to getting the best out of people, the better our schools are going to be.”
It’s critical, she says, that the board include people who share the experience of the school’s families and students. She says that it’s important that “boards are as representative as possible of the communities they serve…and that the people who make the ultimate decisions about how the community is going to be served are made by a representative group of people who live, work, play in the community and have a shared experience with them.”
As someone who has engaged in governance structures from many perspectives, Shayna says CBP’s all-day Governance Academy is a valuable experience.
"It made me go back to my days as a school leader, and I was thinking: ‘I wish my board had had this.’ I remember being a school leader and reporting out to my board and reporting out to people who were mostly not familiar with the education landscape, and I remember spending quite a bit of time contextualizing and framing the information to make sure that everyone around the table could digest it. So I loved the fact that the beginning of the [Governance Academy] day they talked all about the charter landscape, and really gave a primer for anyone who’s not in education, so they’re armed with the very basic questions around what’s important, what metrics we should be looking at, and why.”
Director of Programs and Outreach
Advocates for Justice and Education
Kingsman Academy Public Charter School
When she was in private practice as a legal advocate working with special education students, Maria spent much of her professional time in an adversarial role with schools, advocating for the needs of her student clients. While she felt her work was important, she was also frustrated by her limited ability to help change the problems in the system that were at the root of the issue.
“One of the hard things about doing individual advocacy and litigation is that you’re only fixing it for one kid. After 10 years I saw that when I fixed it for one kid there were 10 more kids just like him, right behind. I wanted to be part of a space where I could work on a system to serve all of those kids. That’s really why I joined the Kingsman board.”
In addition to a specific and relevant skill set and experience, Maria says the most important thing a board member brings to a school board is a “belief and understanding that all kids have a civil and human right to education.” And that belief makes the work both easier and more meaningful, she says. “Spreadsheets are boring, but spreadsheets in service of a human right are kind of amazing.”
Associate Director of Training
Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University
Creative Minds International Public Charter School
Eric Reese helps governments use data to inform their work and improve results for the people they serve. Originally from Indiana, he brought his data analysis, training, and project management skills to his role serving on the board of Creative Minds International, joining the board in November 2016. Less than a year later he was elected Vice Chair.
“I previously worked for the DC Public Education Fund and I was really interested in getting back involved in the education community and really having an impact on the ground for the school and the community where I live,” Eric says, adding that being able to see the impact of the school on students and families is especially meaningful. He makes a point of being in the school building at least twice a month to meet and speak with people.
He gives two pieces of advice to new school board members: “One, ask as many questions as you can while you can get away with being the new person. Second is to really dive in and meet and talk with different people at the school, from staff to parents, to students, and other board members. It’s really critical to dive in and get as much knowledge first-hand from people, as much as you can.”
Eric also advises board members to have an open and clear dialogue with the school's executive director. There's a lot for board members to pay attention to without also doing the job of the executive director, he says. "It's not hard to stay out of the weeds."
Program Evaluation Consultant
DC Bilingual PCS
Blanca says she was hesitant to join a board initially. “I don’t see myself as someone who brings in money and has connections” to people with money, she says. But then she learned that her experience with data was a valuable asset to a school board and now plays a leading role in digging into the school’s academic data, and asking tough questions.
“Being on the board is for people who are passionate about education and passionate about students and are willing to put in some work and take on the responsibility to hold the school accountable to do right by those students,” she says. “If you are afraid to ask difficult questions or afraid to have difficult discussions, then I wouldn't push you to be on the board.
Bilingual education is important to Blanca, who grew up in a bilingual family, sends her two young children to a bilingual school, and serves on the board of another.
“The value of bilingual education isn't just the language itself. The language is a vehicle to connect with other cultures. It's not just a communications issue; it truly is your connection to a whole different world. For people of Latino heritage it's also your connection to your history and to your family.”
Associate Director, Marketing & Proposals
DISYS in McLean, VA
Development and Communications Committee
DC Bilingual Public Charter School
Cydney Peyton Walton
CBP works hard to seek out leaders in the community with valuable skill sets that are missing in DC charter school boards. CBP’s Director of Board Recruiting and Diversity encouraged Cydney Peyton Walton to consider serving on a charter school board due to the critical need for her 10 years of experience in communications and business development.
Passionate about education, Cydney felt board service gave her the opportunity to marry her skill set with a social cause. She states “education is the most reliable path to social mobility and leadership equality in our society and I’m committed to creating opportunities for all students to have access to excellent educational experiences.”
Cydney felt that the education sector could benefit greatly from best practices that have proven successful for the private/corporate sector. As a member of the Development and Communications committee she is working to foster more formalized communication between parents and the board, developing integrated marketing strategies that leverage multiple distribution and access channels as well as building fundraising plans that combine traditional philanthropic philosophies with proven corporate business development approaches.
With Cydney’s help, DC Bilingual PCS will soon be launching a new school website – rooted in the belief that “two-way family communication is imperative to student success. This new website will go a long way towards increasing parent and prospective parent engagement, expanding dialogue and better informing parents of the full DC Bilingual experience their children are receiving.”
Cydney encourages those who are considering board service to understand that “your contribution is valuable, necessary and you’ll surely get more than you give. Few things are more rewarding than advocating for others and I can think of no more important advocacy than working to ensure educational excellence for our next generation of leaders."
Vice President, Programs & Education
Tiger Woods Foundation
Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy
Kathy Bihr has been involved in education for more than 20 years as a teacher, coach, and school administrator. Prior to joining the Tiger Woods Foundation, she was principal of Vista View Middle School in Fountain Valley, California. Under her leadership, the school received recognition by The Council for Special Education and was deemed a California Distinguished School. In 2010, Kathy joined the board of Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, which serves more than 1,400 students in grades 6-12 on four campuses in Wards 1, 6, and 7.
Kathy’s exemplary leadership has played a pivotal role in helping the Chavez board transition from a founding board to an effective and sustainable governing board. She first served as governance chair before moving into the board chair role. As governance chair, Kathy helped the board implement key policies, including establishing a formalized committee structure and setting guidelines for board participation to ensure members understand their responsibilities.
“Developing and providing training to the board so that we all understand our roles and responsibilities as board members – that alone has lead to a more stable system,” Kathy said.
Once Kathy assumed the role of board chair in February 2013, her talents in leadership and management fused with a relentless focus on academics to take the board and the organization to the next level. Now, the board sets annual goals by committee to help support the organization in meeting its annual goals. As board chair, Kathy also established an executive committee and led the development of a new performance evaluation process for the CEO. Additionally, the board brought on new members who provided needed expertise in education and finance.
When board members play their roles well, they make decisions that benefit students and strengthen school quality. The Chavez board recently saw the fruits of some of their labor when the Parkside Campus was rated Tier 1 on the Public Charter School Board’s 2014 Performance Management Framework. The board celebrated that accomplishment, but got right to work on its next goal: the organization’s new CEO leading a strategic planning process to make system-wide improvements that will lead to even stronger outcomes for students.
Some of Kathy’s biggest fans are her fellow board members. They appreciate the results of her leadership and hard work, which have had a profound effect on each board member’s experience. Several Chavez board members note how much they enjoy their board service under Kathy’s leadership.
“Kathy leads by example with her calm and thoughtful approach to making our schools the best that they can be, which quietly encourages all of us to be better board members,” said Chavez governance chair Sulee Clay.
Like many charter school boards, Chavez has had to make some tough decisions in the last few years. Under Kathy’s leadership, board members worked together to make decisions that are already paying off and will benefit the school in the long term. Kathy said she is very proud of the board’s leadership on behalf of the students attending Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools, and she is grateful for the opportunity to help ensure that they get the education they deserve.
Director of Instructional Practice
NewSchools Venture Fund
Achievement Prep Public Charter School, DC International School, Paul Public Charter School
Melissa Kim serves on three charter school boards across Washington, DC that offer very different and powerful models for supporting student success.
Melissa brings deep expertise in education to her board roles. After teaching and serving as a vice principal in DC and Arlington, VA, she served as principal of Alice Deal Middle School, where she managed the school’s expansion, raised academic standards, and led a major facilities renovation.
Melissa’s first-hand experience in schools helps her contribute to the charter school boards on which she serves. As a board member, she focuses on ensuring that board conversations connect to the school’s academic program and school quality. She helps her fellow board members understand academic data and discuss how to support the school leader in improving academic achievement and leading effectively.
As a member of DC International’s start up board, Melissa helped the board build a strong governing structure and prepare to launch a school that now serves students who are bilingual in three different languages—French, Spanish, and Chinese. At Achievement Prep, Melissa and her board colleagues are working on a facilities expansion that will allow the school to serve hundreds more students and add an elementary school to its successful middle school. And Melissa’s board service at Paul Public Charter School is enhanced by her experience as a school principal, where she launched an International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program; as a board member, she is supporting Paul’s launch of its International High School.
Melissa believes in the power of boards and enjoys seeing regular progress at the schools on whose boards she serves. “In our busy lives where we all have many priorities, I am so grateful to know that each of these schools has a board made up of people from across the community who leverage their experience and bring their ‘A’ game for the good of the school. When I look around the board table and I see members engaged and really leaning in—that is a beautiful thing.”
Melissa Kim is the Director of Instructional Practice at NewSchools Venture Fund and leads the DC Pilot for the DC Schools Fund. Previously, Melissa served in a number of education leadership roles as both an administrator and classroom teacher in DC and in Arlington, VA. She received her Ed.D from the University of Pennsylvania, where her dissertation focused on practices to integrate within schools to close the academic achievement gap as well as the social engagement gap.
Education Advisory Board
Creative Minds International Public Charter School
Melanie Bowen joined the Charter Board Partners network in October 2013. Shortly thereafter, she was matched to the board of Creative Minds International Public Charter School (CMI), a school located in Ward 1 in Washington, DC that, at capacity, will educate students in grades PK-3 through 5. Melanie was voted onto the board and was elected board chairperson just six months later.
To say that Melanie hit the ground running would be an understatement. “In a very short time, Melanie read all the school documents and familiarized herself with the DC Public Charter School Board’s policies, not only in the area of finance, but in every aspect of governing a public charter school, including academic accountability,” said CMI Founder and Head of School Golnar Abedin.
Melanie’s capacity for quickly assessing, adapting to, and impacting new environments has served her well. She joined the CMI board during its second year of operations, a pivotal moment as the board was beginning to transition from the startup to adolescent phase of growth. As the board chair, Melanie has drawn upon her experience as an entrepreneur, adviser, and independent school trustee to stabilize the board during a period of high turnover, bring structure to the planning and implementation of monthly board meetings, formalize the board’s relationships with outside stakeholders, and optimize the committee structure. She has also leveraged the considerable financial and real estate expertise she and other board members offer in order to lead the school through a lengthy and complicated lease negotiation process.
"Melanie brings her professionalism and enthusiasm for education to the Creative Minds board," said Sarah Spreitzer, CMI Vice Chair. "She's ably led the board through a major facilities negotiation and is helping the board strengthen its relationship with the school community. Most importantly, Melanie inspires our board and uses her enthusiasm to recruit critical new board members."
Melanie has found her experience on the board rewarding and the opportunities to apply her expertise and passion for education endless: “It is a privilege to partner with the talented team at CMI as we work to ensure our unique new school matures to serve an even larger group of school children across DC."
Melanie Bowen is an Executive Director at the Education Advisory Board. Before joining the firm, Melanie was based in New Delhi, India, where she focused on growing and strengthening social businesses, especially in the education space. Previously, she was the general manager of the consumer health website RevolutionHealth.com of Revolution Health Network, and a senior executive at Discovery Communications. Her experience spans Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and the U.S., including time with McKinsey & Company, the U.S. Department of State, and PriceWaterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers).
Latham & Watkins
Paul Public Charter School
As a member of the inaugural cohort of fellows within the Charter Board Partners Fellows Program, Rami Turayhi has had an outsized impact both as a charter school board fellow and within the CBP network itself. CBP Fellows are emerging leaders nominated by CBP's corporate partners to provide added capacity and support to local charter school boards. Rami, an Associate in the Investment Funds Practice Group at Latham & Watkins LLP, was nominated and accepted into the Fellows Program in 2012 and subsequently matched with Paul Public Charter School in the Brightwood neighborhood of northwest DC.
Rami is finding his experience providing ongoing legal expertise and support to Paul's board rewarding and worthwhile: "Serving as a CBP Fellow is a fantastic opportunity. It's been fascinating to learn how the local education system functions in DC—I feel as if I'm no longer simply an outside observer. Additionally, being able to play a part in supporting quality educational opportunities in DC is incredibly motivating, particularly because the work is local in nature. You can see your impact immediately in a very tangible way."
Rami utilized his legal background and skill set during the most recent school year to revise and update Paul's Charter Agreement with the DC Public Charter School Board. His hard work has also resulted in a more robust set of governing bylaws that should enable the Paul board to provide more effective support to the school and its management. "Rami has been a tremendous asset to Paul PCS," said Paul's Governance Chair Mannone Butler. "He has played instrumental roles on the Board's School Expansion and Governance Committees. His keen legal skills, coupled with his commitment to quality educational opportunities for our young people, have made his tenure invaluable."
In addition to providing general governance support to the board, Rami has also assisted the board in developing responses to financing, negotiating and structuring issues in respect of significant capital projects being carried out at Paul. During Rami's time at Paul, the school began the process of undertaking a significant physical and programmatic expansion project, including the building and creation of a new high school and the renovation of the existing historic building.
"Rami has impressed me with the proactive approach he has taken throughout his fellowship at Paul. He identifies areas where he can add value and works closely with Paul's leadership to move critical work forward," said Kate Essex, CBP's Managing Director of Programs.
Throughout his involvement with CBP and Paul, Rami has been instrumental in ensuring that CBP continuously connects smart, committed professionals to local school boards where they can have a real and lasting impact. To this end, Rami has taken on a leadership role within the new cohort of CBP Fellows this past school year. He has dedicated time and resources to assisting CBP in selecting and placing new fellows and continues to provide them with ongoing support. Rami has additionally been a leading advocate for increased charter board service at Latham, helping to engage an increasing number of his professional colleagues in the CBP network and doubling the number of Latham fellows year-on-year.
Rami Turayhi is an associate in the Washington, DC office of Latham & Watkins. His practice focuses on the representation of private equity funds in their formation, fundraising, tax, and organizational structuring and their acquisition and divestiture of portfolio companies. Prior to joining Latham, Rami was a Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State and an energy and power investment banker in New York.
The Carlyle Group
Governance Committee Chair
Meridian Public Charter School
Bryan Corbett joined the Charter Board Partners network as a charter school board candidate in 2011. That fall, CBP matched Bryan to the board of Meridian Public Charter School, a school located in the U Street corridor of Ward 1 serving students in grades PK3 through 8.
Bryan has helped the Meridian board add a number of new directors who bring increased capacity and capability, as well as valuable skills and experience. He has exercised steady and strategic leadership in his role as Governance Committee Chair, leading the effort to improve the overall effectiveness of the board. “Serving on the Meridian Board has been both more challenging and rewarding than I had expected,” Bryan observed. “While the board addresses difficult governance and strategic issues, you can see the meaningful positive impact that your decisions have on the students, parents, and community.”
During Bryan’s tenure, the school has seen major change. Meridian was able to secure, finance, and move into a new facility in October 2012; the school was awarded the former DCPS Harrison School building, completed renovations, and moved in its 500+ students by that time. In the summer of 2013, the school underwent a leadership change as the board hired a new head of school. While the school continues to face increasing competition for students as the number of nearby charter schools has grown, its board has turned many of these challenges into opportunities; this is in large part due to the board’s energy, initiative, and focus on execution.
Bryan has been an active and supportive member of the CBP network; he has spoken at several CBP trainings, drawn on our tools and advice, and helped many of our recruits fill vacancies on the Meridian board. Overall, Bryan and the entire Meridian board are committed to their school, strong governance, and the bottom line: providing the best possible education to all children.
Bryan Corbett is a Managing Director in Carlyle's Executive Group in Washington, DC. Prior to joining Carlyle, Bryan served in the Bush Administration as a Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and as Senior Advisor to Deputy Secretary Robert Kimmitt at the Treasury Department. He also served as Majority Counsel on the Senate Banking Committee.