New 2010 Class of Fellows Named for Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Program

March 4, 2010

For More Information:

Julie Petersen
Communications Director, NewSchools Venture Fund

Jeffrey Harris
Public Affairs Coordinator, Aspen Institute

Aspen Institute – NewSchools program recognizes leaders ready to embrace the challenge of improving public education

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – March 3, 2010 – The Aspen Institute and NewSchools Venture Fund today announced the selection of the third cohort of the prestigious Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellowship Program. These 24 accomplished leaders will join with fellows from the first two cohorts as participants in the program, which is designed to recognize and support exceptional entrepreneurial leaders who are committed to transforming public education.

Entrepreneurial leaders in education are crucial change agents. They bring to public education reform a sense of urgency, a dedication to meritocratic and performance-based cultures, an action orientation, a dogged optimism that ambitious goals are achievable, and a tenacious dedication to the work of transforming public education so that it serves all students well. As a group, the Aspen-NewSchools Fellows represent impressive and diverse experience from across the public, private and nonprofit sectors – a powerful combination that is necessary to dramatically improve American public schools.

“The social entrepreneur movement in education has reached a critical moment. They have proven that public schools can consistently prepare low-income students of color to succeed in college and life, and their significant achievements have contributed to dramatic public policy changes designed to apply at large scale the kinds of high-quality, performance-driven practices and tools entrepreneurs have used at a smaller scale,” said Kim Smith, Executive Director of the program and senior advisor to NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit venture philanthropy firm she founded in 1998 to support education entrepreneurs. “These policy changes create a need – and an opportunity – to reach a greater scale and greater number of high-need students, but also a need for a new wave of innovation. As such, it is vital that we invest in sustaining and diversifying our current cadre of change agents, and identifying and developing the next generation of these entrepreneurial leaders.”

In collaboration with the Aspen Institute, Smith launched the fellowship program in 2007 in order to provide these entrepreneurial leaders with the opportunity to sustain and advance their work through cohort-based leadership development. Each cohort includes a diverse array of forward-thinking education leaders who gather in Aspen, CO for seminars that include thought-provoking reading and discussions about leadership, diversity, and important issues in public education and social change. When they complete the program, fellows become part of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, which now includes 1000 entrepreneurial leaders from 43 countries. For more information about the program and its first two cohorts of exceptional leaders, click here.

The 2010 Fellows in the Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Program are:

  • Mashea Ashton, Chief Executive Officer, Newark Charter School Fund (NCSF)

  • Aaron Brenner, Head of Primary Schools, KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Houston and Founder, KIPP SHINE Prep

  • Jean-Claude Brizard, Superintendent of Schools, Rochester City School District in New York

  • Marcus Castain, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Infrastructure Academy

  • Darryl Cobb, Chief Executive Officer, Academy of Communications and Technology (ACT) Charter Schools

  • Kelly Garrett, Executive Director, The Rainwater Charitable Foundation

  • Scott Gordon, Chief Executive Officer, Mastery Charter Schools

  • Leah Hamilton, Program Officer, Urban Education, Carnegie Foundation of New York

  • Jason Kamras, Director of Human Capital Strategy for Teachers, District of Columbia Public Schools

  • Leslie Kerner, Vice President, Professional Services, Wireless Generation

  • Gloria Lee, Bay Area Superintendent, Aspire Public Schools

  • Aaron Lieberman, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Acelero Learning

  • Tia Elena Martinez, Strategic Advisor, Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education

  • Scott Morgan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Education Pioneers

  • Jennifer Niles, Founder and Head of School, E.L. Haynes Public Charter School

  • Karla Oakley, Vice President, Teacher Quality Innovations, The New Teacher Project

  • Kira Orange Jones, Executive Director, Teach for America

  • Lata Reddy, Managing Director, Robertson Foundation

  • Evan Rudall, Chief Executive Officer, Uncommon Schools

  • J.B. Schramm, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, College Summit

  • Andrew Smarick, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

  • Preston Smith, Co-Founder and Chief Achievement Officer, Rocketship Education

  • Corri Tate Ravare, President, ICEF (Inner City Education Foundation) Public Schools

  • Carmita Vaughn, Chief Strategy Officer, America’s Promise Alliance

To download bios and photos of the third cohort of fellows, click here.

Building on the model of its renowned Henry Crown Fellowship Program, the Aspen Institute has partnered with NewSchools to offer this groundbreaking Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education program, which is supported by the Robertson Foundation, Bezos Family Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, James Irvine Foundation (sponsoring fellows working in California), CityBridge Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Mitchell Kapor Foundation, and several individual donors.

“The Aspen Institute has developed a network of programs to recognize and cultivate accomplished, community-minded, and entrepreneurial leaders around the world through our Aspen Global Leadership Network,” said Peter Reiling, Executive Vice President for Leadership and Seminar Programs at the Aspen Institute. “We are pleased to continue our partnership with NewSchools Venture Fund to recognize and support these important leaders and change agents within the field of U.S. public education.”

Each year, the Aspen Institute – NewSchools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education program selects approximately 24 exceptional leaders from across the country with backgrounds and skills from both urban and rural communities and from across the nonprofit, foundation, charter school, and traditional school district sectors. The Fellowship gives these extraordinary leaders the opportunity to work together to further develop their own leadership capacity, and to think across traditional sector boundaries in order to expand their collective impact. During regular seminars over the course of two years, as well as in between sessions, fellows have the unusual opportunity to step back from their demanding daily work to learn and reflect with a group of extraordinary peers on their individual goals and their efforts to transform public education.

Reflections from Fellows in the first two cohorts of fellows show they found the program valuable to themselves as developing leaders, and to the movement of public education reform:

  • “By bringing people working in different entrepreneurial capacities together, we are able to learn from each other, build on strengths, and call upon the fellows for help in our own work and the work of the larger effort. We push each other’s thinking in a safe environment, allowing us to test our theories, find holes, and ultimately strengthen our work.”

  • “By rooting the program in the Aspen Institute’s dialogue regarding what constitutes a good society, the seminar created a special place for educational innovators to enter into fellowship. A new national network that spans the silos of reform will emerge from this and it will do so in an authentic way, steeped in the best traditions of reflection, engagement, and mutual respect.”

  • “I have walked into all three of my seminars tired, a little ‘stuck,’ and sometimes even a little demoralized about public education reform. I have walked away from my Aspen experiences energized, creative, and ready to do battle.”

  • “The opportunity to read and reflect on both the classics and readings that are relevant to our field helped me to reconnect with my own values as a leader and inspired me to make a transition this past year to lead my own organization.”

In addition to their own leadership development, Fellows also take on individual or group projects aimed at accelerating the ability of the entrepreneurial education movement to provide high-quality public school education to underserved communities across the country. Fellows design the projects together, often working across sectors, organizations, and communities. Working on the projects also helps fellows establish stronger collaborative bonds. Examples of recent projects include: creating new approaches to mobilize policy entrepreneurs in the Midwest, creating a new mentoring program to support young leaders of color in Los Angeles in order to strengthen the movement’s ability to engage allies from the communities we seek to serve, and creating a peer consultancy forum methodology for advising each other on strategic decisions – an approach that has been adopted by several organizations as an effective way to provide support and feedback.

About NewSchools Venture Fund
NewSchools Venture Fund is a national nonprofit that is working to transform public education through powerful ideas and passionate entrepreneurs so that all children – especially those in underserved communities – have the opportunity to succeed. Founded in 1998, NewSchools has since raised nearly $150 million and invested in a portfolio of more than 30 entrepreneurial organizations. In each of its funds, NewSchools has focused its investments in key leverage areas where social entrepreneurs can have a meaningful impact on some of the toughest challenges facing public education. NewSchools is currently developing its fourth fund, which will continue to drive innovation in public education by investing in early-stage organizations to close the achievement gap and prepare students for college and life success. For more information on NewSchools Venture Fund, visit

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