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Charter Board Partners

Climbing High in Denver

October 10, 2017 | by Debbie Lister

Years ago, Charter Board Partners began talking with key leaders and stakeholders in Denver about charter school boards in the city. Denver was already well on its way to becoming a leader in education innovation, with a robust charter sector, innovative district initiatives, a vibrant community that is supportive of reform, and highly respected education leaders focused on quality and equity. Key organizations in the city wanted to go a step further. They wanted to make sure that charter school boards have the people and the training they need to function well and provide strong and strategic board leadership, and to hold themselves and their schools accountable for results.

“At the Donnell-Kay Foundation we believe that there can be no great schools without strong and effective boards – it is the foundation for quality, stability and results.  All students deserve exceptional schools.  All exceptional schools require skillful and talented leadership and governance.”  

--Tony Lewis, Executive Director, Donnell-Kay Foundation


We were fortunate to develop strong partnerships with a number of organizations and individuals in the education ecosystem, and in 2016 we first launched a pilot of our work to support strong charter school boards. Less than a year later, CBP and our local partners have matched 15 well-trained new board members to the boards of nine charter schools. 

Evans Mensah

Evans Mensah, the Executive Director of Value Cycle, joined the board at Omar D. Blair Public Charter School and brought his experience in corporate operations, procurement, and processes at a time when that was just what the school needed. He wanted to find a way to support the community, especially through education:

“As a father of three young boys, education is foremost on my mind. I feel my own education is what led me to the global experiences and success I’ve had. I am passionate about giving back to the community and couldn’t be more thrilled that CBP was able to match my skills and experience to a charter school.”

We recruited 40 terrific board candidates in Denver; seventy-five percent of them are people of color, and 49 percent are women. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was the primary supporter of this work.

Debbie Lister

With additional support from the Walton Family Foundation, and in partnership with other local groups, we have launched a series of events, trainings, and conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion on charter school boards. We know, and research has shown, that diverse boards make better decisions, are more innovative, and are more likely to effectively handle issues related to race and equity in their schools. CBP helps boards explore these issues and how to address them through courageous conversations, developing a culture of inclusivity, and shining a spotlight on effective practices.

We’ve only just begun our work in Denver. There is a steady demand for diverse talent for boards, as well as for support to be more effective in governing and oversight. We will soon launch a second round of recruiting, training, and matching for Denver charter school boards. We look forward to being part of the robust, quality-focused ecosystem around public education in Denver and working to support the development and growth of effective boards for quality schools.


Debbie Lister is Charter Board Partners’ Chief Governance and Program Operations Officer and has spearheaded CBP’s Denver initiative.

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