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Charter Board Partners

Barry Caldwell: Diving In

November 05, 2018 | by David Connerty-Marin

“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.”

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