In 2017, I was elected to my local school board. Like most people who run for school board, I was compelled to give back to my community and believe education is the key to unlocking a better future. But I also ran because I knew we were failing too many kids and that those kids were too often kids of color, kids from poverty, and other kids our current system usually leaves behind. I ran to change things.
As a parent and former teacher with a career leading national education issues — I arrived feeling prepared. I was wrong.
Driving the change that can close the opportunity gap is hard work, and there isn’t a road map. When I looked around for policy support, a network and allies, I realized that little existed for board members like me. And surely others felt the same way.
And with that – the birth of School Board Partners: a network for education leaders - with a focus on leaders of color - who want to lead dramatic improvement from their seat on school board. We all know that if we want to make things better for kids — ALL kids — we need to cut through the red tape, support each other, and create and share the tools for change.
To help connect, inspire and support diverse school board members to be bold leaders for change in cities across the country by putting kids first in policy decisions.
Creating systems of great schools is the best way to grow more high-quality schools year after year.
Systems of great schools will be more successful with more people of color in leadership positions who understand the needs and perspectives of their students and are willing to build relationships across the communities they serve.
Elected leaders need resources, tools, training and a community of aligned peers for fellowship and support.
School boards with informed, educated and supported trustees have the power to ensure that every child has access to a great school, regardless of zip code or background.
One or two influential and supported school board members can be the catalyst that helps build a majority on the board to influence sustainable change.
Across the country, our public education system is failing too many kids. We aren’t adequately preparing enough of our students for a rapidly changing future. Opportunity and achievement gaps between students of color, kids from poverty and their white counterparts are growing. Addressing these realities requires policy change that must be led or supported by the school board.
School board members are a critical and underserved group in public education. Trustees make life-changing policy and resource decisions, and yet they are usually volunteers without a staff or the time and resources necessary to thoughtfully research and plan for substantial change. SBP is designed to address that gap in our ecosystem and support leaders to be successful in a complex board environment. By connecting elected leaders directly with mentors, resources and a network of peers, we are equipping change agents to more effectively drive and implement new policies that will help the kids in their community.
Our goal is to help elected leaders build the skills they need to accomplish their goals. Specifically, we know that in order to make that change, we must support more leaders of color who represent the communities they serve. We believe that boards will be more successful if they understand the perspectives and needs of their students, and have the insights required to develop creative solutions.
School Board Partners is looking to create a community for school board members with a growth mindset, a willingness to be bold and buck the status quo, put kids at the heart of every decision, and focus on equity and push for change. If that sounds like you or someone you would like to nominate, please contact us!
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“Kids depend on school board members to make decisions that ensure every student has access to a great school. School Board Partners grew out of a desire to support school board members making tough decisions on behalf of all kids.”
“The future of our communities is only as bright as the opportunities we provide for our youth. School Board Partners empower school board members throughout the country with the tools to provide our youth with the very best, which, in turn, creates the brightest future possible for our nation.”
“When I was elected I had no idea what I was getting into. This national network of support is unique, needed and meaningful in the work to make public education put kids first.”
Nate Easley, Denver
“I ran because I couldn’t sit on the sidelines of my failing district any longer. But as an elected driving change, I felt so alone. Mentorship to connect school members to something bigger, to help check for blind spots and to effectively legislate is much needed. I am excited to help others learn from my path.”
Carl Zaragoza, Phoenix
“There is a gaping hole in our current ecosystem supporting the push for increased equity and quality in public education: elected school boards. I am honored to be included in this important work.”
Carrie Irvin, D.C.
Coaches and Mentors
“I had the good fortune of having several mentors when I served on my local school board. Serving as a trustee is a completely unique experience. Having someone who has been there to work through strategy, issues and board dynamics was critical to my service and I want to be able to provide that for others.”
Anna Eastman, Houston
“As a City Councilwoman, I watched my district fail our students and it inspired me to set out on a journey to improve the quality of education for urban students in my community. Serving on the school board was one of the most important and impactful stops on this journey and continues to be one of the most impactful roles in our country. Helping others find their voice and power is the next step.”
Cokethea Hill, Kansas City
“You simply must invest at the board level to assure sustainable efforts and make real, lasting change - and I see this work as a personal investment in my community.”
Michael O’Connor, Indianapolis
“The majority of students in the US will be educated in public schools run in some way by districts for the foreseeable future. Think-tanks develop great ideas but it is school boards that must buy-in and and drive real reform. Connection to like-minded individuals is such an important foundation in this work.”
Mary Ann Sullivan, Indianapolis
“School boards are a lever for meaningful lasting change — and making real change happen requires critical skills that can be taught. This is not mission impossible, simply a difficult mission that can be accomplished through mentorship and support.”
Dianne Johnson, Houston
"Joining the school board was the most direct way I could engage with democracy on behalf of children who live at the margins of society because public systems have failed them. The experience was rewarding, but troubling. I saw firsthand how the politics of education create chaos for students and families. That problem can only be solved by preparing and supporting engaged citizens to bring competence and good governance to their local boards of education."
Chris Stewart, Minneapolis
“While effective teachers are the single most important factor in student achievement, our school board members across this country are the single most important body setting policy, making funding decisions, and determining the priorities of our public education system. We must support courageous school board members who are unapologetic about putting students first and those who make every policy, budget and governance decision based on what is best for them. School board members have the ability to change the life trajectory of the students they serve. It is my mission to make sure our leaders have the support and resources they need to do just that.”
Alisha Thomas Cromartie