Following the release of BES’s three-year strategic plan in summer 2020, we launched the BES Community Advisory Council to bring more community voices into our work and support us to meet our ambitious goals in the plan, including to support at least 300 leaders each year. Many of our Fellows choose to launch Advisory Councils for their schools, knowing the value of creating an extension of the Board of Directors without the primary responsibility of making decisions on behalf of the school.
Community voices must take priority as we are designing and leading schools. Schools must look different in different communities, as the needs are not the same across the country or across neighborhoods within a city. Building partnerships with local families, stakeholders, and organizations helps to ensure the school is sustainable in the community. It is only then that education can be truly transformational.
To ensure our work and priorities in regions across the country remain truly reflective of the needs in these communities, we invited parents, business leaders, civic leaders, educators, philanthropists, activists, and others committed to education equity to join our Community Advisory Council.
“From taking part in the BES Fellowship to, in turn, coaching BES leaders in the Bay Area, I’m thrilled about this new way of supporting BES’s mission of transforming education for students,” says Shara Hegde, 2008 BES Fellow, CEO of Alpha Public Schools, and member of BES’s Bay Area Community Advisory Council. “I’m looking forward to sharing my insight as a school founder, and more importantly, a longtime member of this community.”
The 10-15 Fellows we support in each cohort found schools in anywhere between 7-10 cities each year. In total, BES Fellows have founded schools in 46 cities across 21 states (and counting!), since 2003. Given our reach, we look to individuals and organizations based in the communities where we work to guide our strategy and support us to build connections to ensure schools founded by BES leaders sustain excellence over time.
The members represent select regions across the country and join us for conversations with our CEO and strategy team to provide feedback on our work and offer local insights on the unique education challenges and opportunities in their region. “Our Community Advisory Council members share their expertise and unique perspectives with us, ensuring we support our leaders to design and lead equitable, locally responsive schools that meet the needs in the community,” says CEO Aasimah Navlakhi.
The BES Community Advisory Council currently has three regional chapters and one national chapter. The regional chapters are in Atlanta, the Bay Area, and Charlotte. We selected these regions for one of two key reasons. First, the region is one where there is a significant number of BES-trained leaders (e.g., the Bay Area and Atlanta) so we can continue to offer curated supports for these schools to excel and sustain strong results. The other reason for BES launching a regional chapter is the region is fairly new for BES (e.g., Charlotte), so members support BES to broaden our network of funders and partnerships with existing organizations in the education ecosystem as we deepen our understanding of the community’s needs so we can deliver the leadership development supports that would be most relevant.
We plan to launch 1-2 more regional chapters in the second half of 2021 as we announce new regions for the Fellowship and our other leadership development programs. Every two years, we will rotate the cities where we have regional chapters to the Community Advisory Council as new opportunities arise for BES to support school leaders and founders in more communities across the country.
BES (build. excel. sustain.) rebranded from our former “Building Excellent Schools,” to mark the important shifts the organization had made to not just identify leaders to design and found new charter schools, but also to support school leaders at all stages of their career through an expanded suite of leadership development programs and services to ensure public schools can excel and sustain strong results over time. As part of the rebrand, BES also established itself as an anti-racist organization committed to supporting leaders to lead anti-racist schools, and announced an important shift away from the “no excuses” model and toward training leaders to design and found schools with models that reflect the unique needs of their community.