Welcoming Our 2020 Cohort of Leaders

Educators have faced unprecedented challenges this year. The opportunity gap appears starker than ever, and we are left with more questions than answers around equity, access, and achievement. 

As the state of education continues to shift, BES is helping leaders adapt to these changes and remain focused on the bigger picture: we need equity-minded leaders, families, and organizations to ensure that the learning loss we are encountering now does not have generational impact. 

To that end, we are moving full steam ahead with the important work of developing and supporting leaders across the U.S. We have shifted our training to take place virtually through the fall, supported our leaders remotely as they navigate reopening plans, and have officially welcomed our newest cohorts of leaders this summer. 

Our 2020 cohort includes 12 aspiring school founders taking part in the BES Fellowship, and 37 new and emerging leaders participating in the Leaders for Emerging Networks of Schools (LENS) program. 


The BES Fellowship

Jabari Peddie, a BES Director of Leadership Development and the newest member of our Fellowship team, reflected on the start of the training year this way:

The collection of experiences that exist across this cohort is amazing. It is inspiring to see how much this group of leaders has accomplished already. There is so much two-way learning that is happening – while our team is providing coaching, the Fellows are pouring back into us with their insights and perspectives. I feel fortunate to join them on this journey to help bring their visions for transformational schools to life.” 

Over a multi-year process, BES Fellows prepare to found and lead high-performing schools that reflect and respond to the needs of their communities. Eleven of our 2020 Fellows will take part in our Build Track, which follows the traditional four-year pathway to found and lead a fresh-start public charter school. These Fellows are working to found and lead new schools in California, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, and Texas.

One Fellow – veteran educator Hayden Lyons – is following our Autonomous School Track to lead an autonomous in-district school. 

Fast facts about the 2020 Fellowship cohort:

  • 83% of Fellows identify as leaders of color.
  • Our Fellows have previously served as school leaders in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, and Texas. One Fellow – Adewale Oduye – has taken a non-traditional path to the BES Fellowship, having served as an attorney for the past 12 years.
  • 42% of our Fellows will return to their home city or state to found and lead a school, including Paul Barnhardt, who grew up in Charlotte, NC, and is our first BES Fellow based in the Tar Heel State.
  • This year, our Fellows will receive training in incorporating character education models into their school designs. We’ve also implemented training focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion to better recognize and address implicit bias so that Fellows will found schools that serve as anti-racist educational spaces in response to the needs of their communities. Read more about our commitment to being an anti-racist organization here.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our Fellows will participate in fully remote training for approximately 12 hours per week through at least December 2020, including conducting virtual school visits and learning from current school leaders.

2020 Fellows and the BES Fellowship team after completing virtual orientation.

Click here to read more about each of the 2020 BES Fellows.


“This program allows me to guide new leaders through their toughest leadership moments. I’m forever humbled by the selfless determination of LENS leaders to better themselves on behalf of the students they educate.” – Jill Dunchick, Senior Director of LENS

LENS leaders study the best practices of successful schools from across the nation and develop their leadership voice and mindset through hands-on coaching. The program’s participants have been recently elevated to leadership, or are considered to be on track for school leadership in one to two years. 

Fast facts about our 2020 LENS cohort: 

  • 49% of LENS participants identify as leaders of color.
  • This cohort represents 22 schools, 17 of which are sending leaders through the LENS program for the first time, and eight of which were founded outside of BES.
  • LENS leaders are in roles ranging from grade-level chair and operations manager to school director. 
  • We’re supporting schools in various stages of growth, from University Prep in Denver, which opened in 2011 and is in its fifth year of sending leaders through LENS, to Primary Hall in Buffalo, NY, which is set to open in the fall of 2021.

Our 2020 LENS leaders represent 17 cities and 11 states:

Given restrictions on travel this summer, LENS leaders took part in three-hour virtual content sessions delivered over nine days, which included training on leading for equity, which helped leaders understand the ways in which systemic injustice impacts learning and schooling and how they can design to interrupt that injustice.

As schools formulate and finalize their plans to reopen this fall, the cohort will conduct virtual school visits in November 2020, with possible in-person school visits in March 2021, and will receive an on-site visit from their BES coach when it is safe to do so. They also will complete five projects on components of effective school leadership that will coincide with the work they are doing at their schools.

Follow along on Instagram for updates on our 2020 leadership training.