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Charter Board Partners

Strengthening and diversifying public charter school boards in Los Angeles

October 05, 2018 | by Anita Landecker, Carrie C. Irvin

Anita Landecker is President & CEO of ExED, a nonprofit charter school support organization in Los Angeles. Carrie Irvin is Co-Founder and CEO of Charter Board Partners

An exciting pilot project is wrapping up this month involving the governing boards of 11 public charter schools across Los Angeles. Through this program, these public schools will welcome approximately two dozen new board members. Charter Board Partners and ExED partnered to make this program a reality, based on our shared belief that boards matter for students.

Across the country, we see evidence every day that strong, diverse, engaged boards improve academic performance for students and ensure that public charter schools are well-run, sustainable organizations focused on what’s best for their students. We also know from research on both nonprofit and corporate boards that boards that are both diverse and inclusive make better decisions, are more innovative, and create stronger organizations.

The Program

We had two overarching goals for this pilot project in Los Angeles:

  • Help public charter schools find new board members who bring relevant skills, deep expertise, leadership experience, and diversity; and train both new and current board members in how to be effective.
  • Help charter school boards govern more effectively, holding schools accountable for quality and equity, providing strategic oversight, and focusing on improving student outcomes.

Our program in Los Angeles had three elements:

  • We recruited a diverse pipeline of prospective charter school board members with relevant experience and strong leadership potential.
  • We trained these recruits in how to be effective board members and why strong boards matter for strong schools, and we trained the board members of our participating schools, most of whom had never had high quality governance training and lacked understand of their roles and responsibilities.
  • We matched board candidates to participating schools based on the schools’ goals, the skill sets of existing board members, and the experience of the board recruits.

The Results

We are delighted with the success of this pilot program.

Recruiting. We built a pipeline of 38 prospective board members. These new members bring a wide variety of experience and expertise. They are lawyers, accountants, educators, psychologists, bankers, executives, and community leaders. 
While nationwide, 84 percent of nonprofit board members are white, our pipeline is diverse—73 percent are people of color. Our recruited network members are: 41 percent Black; 16 percent Latinx; 8 percent Asian; 8 percent multiracial; and 27 percent White. 

We welcomed almost 50 people to recruiting events to learn more about charter schools and the opportunity to serve on their boards. We collaborated with a number of partner organizations across Los Angeles. Our partners shared this opportunity with their networks, offered us space to hold events, and helped us develop relevant and powerful programming. Our partners included: African American Board Leadership Institute; Coro Fellows; Teach For America; California Charter School Association; The California Endowment; California Community Foundation; Homeboy Industries; Community Partners; and Valley Economic Alliance.

Training. Forty people attended the first-ever Charter School Governance Academy in Los Angeles that focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, academic outcomes for students, and accountability at the board level. Overwhelmingly, participants reported they have a better understanding of charter schools and the education landscape, why governance matters, how they can help drive improvement as board members, that they are better prepared to be effective board members, that the training was highly effective, and that they would recommend the training to others.

“The Standards for Effective Charter School Governance was particularly helpful,” according to one Governance Academy participant. Another added: “I appreciated the exercises that made us think from another person’s perspective. “

Matching. To date, 13 new board recruits have joined charter school boards, and we expect to have at least 20 new board members matched by the end of the pilot. The response has been incredibly positive. The board recruits are talented, motivated, and qualified. They bring diversity, leadership experience, and relevant expertise. 

“All of us at Equitas want to thank you profusely for your services and for finding us Nyanza and Tyler,” according to Olympia Ammon, Advisor to the CEO at Equitas Academy. “They are both outstanding candidates and we are so excited to welcome them to the Equitas family.“

The pilot program met and exceeded our goals and expectations. We are currently seeking philanthropic support to continue our partnership and this program.

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