We Promise That the Work Will Be Long, and Hard, and Good

Founding Schools That Transform Lives

A Rigorous Four-Year Process

Fellowship Overview

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Through the BES Fellowship, high-capacity individuals deeply committed to transforming education embark on a four-year process to design, found, and lead an excellent public school. Click here to read what’s new about the 2021 selection process and Fellowship experience.

Year One: Training Year

Fellows take part in one of three tracks, depending on their region:

Build Track: the “traditional” Fellowship track focused on founding fresh-start public charter schools
Growth Track: Fellows found and lead the replication or expansion of an existing charter school
Autonomous School Track: Fellows found and lead a high-quality, autonomous in-district school

Fellows participate in 75+ training days, study 40+ exemplar schools nationwide, complete a minimum of two residencies at high-performing schools, write and submit their charter application, and build a founding board.
Upon completion of the training year, Fellows partner with a dedicated BES coach, who works closely with leaders in years 2-4. This coaching program, called Follow On Support, ensures that schools start strong and stay strong.

Year Two: Planning Year

Leaders become strong project managers, develop leadership skills where they have gaps, gain content knowledge, hire their founding team, recruit their founding students, move from lead founder to school leader, and crystallize their vision for the school.
Note that the planning year may look different for Fellows taking part in the Growth Track and Autonomous School Track, depending on the needs of the region, school, and community.

Year Three: Year 1 of Operation

Leaders actualize their vision when they welcome their inaugural class of students, become strong teacher-coaches, use data to intentionally move academic results, manage and cultivate talent, and implement personal organization systems that allow them to effectively deliver on their core responsibilities.

Year Four: Year 2 of Operation

Leaders champion and uphold their vision as the school size doubles, sharpen the academic focus, attract and manage talent in a competitive market, develop leaders for future school growth, and manage their role to empower others.


Selection Criteria

The Fellowship selection process is extremely rigorous, designed to truly understand who you are as a leader and what your vision is for a high-achieving school.

BES Fellows represent a vast range of professional experience in such fields as education, business, nonprofit management, law, and public policy.

Classroom experience is not a prerequisite for participation in the program. However, most successful applicants have three or more years of experience in the classroom. Additionally, all successful applicants to the BES Fellowship have had at least four years of professional experience.

What all BES Fellows have in common is that they are steady leaders who are committed to transforming education in the communities they serve. BES leaders are:

  • strategic thinkers
  • visionaries
  • entrepreneurs
  • strong communicators
  • highly flexible
  • persistent
  • demanding of themselves and others
  • always willing to learn




Year One

Training Year

BES Fellows will:

  • Build and lead founding board
  • Write charter application based on school design observed in exemplar schools and the needs of the community
  • Submit charter application with board of directors
  • Mobilize community support for the school

BES will provide:

  • 75+ days of practice-based training, leadership coaching, and professional development
  • 40+ school studies at exemplar schools nationwide
  • Board governance training on selecting and growing founding board members
  • Charter application feedback and support in navigating the local authorization process
  • Community engagement training and support

Year Two

Planning Year

BES Fellows will:

  • Shift founding board to governing board
  • Transition from Fellow to School Leader
  • Recruit and hire mission-aligned staff
  • Enroll students through robust community outreach
  • Develop curriculum and assessments
  • Secure facility for start-up years of school
  • Create a plan to ensure that students, families, and staff embrace school design

BES will provide support on:

  • Board transition retreat
  • Budget reviews
  • Student recruitment planning
  • Curriculum and assessment planning
  • Staff and student orientation planning
  • Networking with BES school leaders

Year Three

Year 1 of Operation

BES Fellows will:

  • Welcome founding cohort of students
  • Lead students on the path to academic excellence
  • Maintain sound governance through active work with board members
  • Continue to hire staff, recruit students, and write curriculum in preparation for future years


BES will provide support on:

  • Staff recruitment
  • School culture, instruction, and operations
  • Leadership development
  • Assessment and long-term curricular planning
  • Data analysis, action-planning, and closing gaps

Year Four

Year 2 of Operation

BES Fellows will:

  • Continue to lead staff, students, and families on the path to academic excellence
  • Sharpen academic focus, operational systems, and school culture
  • Develop a leadership bench for future school growth

BES will provide support on:

  • Staff retention and development
  • School culture, instruction, and operations
  • Assessment and long-term curricular planning
  • Development of leadership bench
Calendar Key


We’ve developed three distinct Fellowship tracks to serve more schools and more leaders in ways that are even more responsive to community need – the Build Track focused on founding fresh-start public charter schools; the Growth Track, where Fellows found and lead the replication or expansion of an existing charter school; and the Autonomous School Track, where Fellows found and lead a high-quality, autonomous in-district school. Click here to read about more changes to the 2021 selection and Fellowship experience.

No. While experience and expertise in the classroom is common among successful Fellowship applicants, there is so much more involved in designing and building an excellent school. BES seeks candidates who have depth of experience in a variety of areas including education, organizing, public policy, law, non-profit leadership, project management, and strategic planning. The BES Fellowship focuses on three essential components of the school founding process: developing a comprehensive educational program that drives student achievement, building a founding board and garnering support for the school through community engagement, and founding a viable nonprofit organization. Deep knowledge in each of these three areas is helpful, but it is also rare. Successful Fellowship candidates typically have a breadth of experience in one discipline; the Fellowship curriculum provides training and support to build capacity in the other two.

No. For the current year’s Fellowship application, candidates must be interested in opening a high-performing school in one of the designated cities. New regions are added as available. Applicants interested in regions other than those listed are encouraged to fill out this form to express interest or share available information on support that they have already garnered for founding or opening a school in any of the three Fellowship tracks.

No. The BES Fellowship only supports Fellows who are interested in launching schools in the United States.

Applying for the BES Fellowship is a five-step process that includes a phone call with a BES recruiter, an online application, a video interview, and a series of virtual interviews. Learn more here.

Yes. Learn about the BES approach to leadership development through the Summer Leaders Institute. Attend an intensive on-site training in Boston followed by an eye-opening residency at a Fellow-founded charter school. At the end of the program, BES may extend Fellowship offers to qualified individuals.

Nominations are an excellent way for us to discover great candidates for the Fellowship. If the person you nominate successfully enrolls in the program, you’ll receive a generous finder’s fee. Nominate a Fellow here.

Yes, the BES Fellowship is a full-time commitment. During the training year, Fellows receive a stipend that allows them to focus on the Fellowship as their sole professional engagement to design and develop their school. Joining the Fellowship is a four-year commitment composed of a training year, a planning year, a foundational year, and an operational year. Following the Fellowship, it is expected that leaders continue working toward the mission of their school, ensuring the school reaches a point of sustainability.

No. The Fellowship is a national program that requires Fellows to live in the city where they are proposing a school. During the Fellowship training year, BES covers travel and housing costs associated with Fellowship training and school study.

Fellows spend 75+ days training and studying schools across the country. Fellows can spend up to two weeks per month outside of their communities. All BES Fellows spend ample time in their respective communities building essential local support.

Both. The Fellowship incorporates a mix of independent and group work. Through independent work, each Fellow follows a tailored program that helps fill in the gaps in his or her own learning, skill set, or experience. As a group, Fellows pore over the curriculum, discuss and dissect ideas and themes, participate in trainings, and share their developing ideas and work.

Fellows complete month-long residencies at high-performing schools in the winter and the summer of the Fellowship training year. Residency sites are chosen based on the strength of their academic and organizational records, their relevance to a Fellow’s school design plans, and their ability to embrace the skills and experiences a newly-trained Fellow can offer. Over the course of the residency, Fellows complete projects that support the work of their host school, leverage their individual skill sets, and work toward their larger goal of developing an excellent school.

By the end of the Fellowship training year, the Fellow has successfully built a board of directors / trustees and submitted a charter application to the charter authorizer. Upon authorization of the school, Fellows move into the planning year, during which they work to hire staff, secure a facility, build curriculum, and enroll students. Once a charter is approved, Fellows are eligible to apply for external grants to support their work during the planning year.

Upon completion of the training year, BES continues to work closely with leaders through Follow On Support, to ensure that schools start strong and stay strong. Follow On Support addresses hands-on practical skills, strategic planning, fund development, board development, curriculum, evaluation, and much more.

Fellows are not employees of BES and receive Form 1099 for the tax years in which the Fellowship training year falls.

No, however BES will pay for an individual medical insurance plan, up to a certain amount, with costs paid directly to the Fellow’s health insurance provider. All Fellows are required to demonstrate proof of medical coverage during the Fellowship.

A native of the Charlotte, NC area, Paul Barnhardt (he/him/his) has spent the last decade serving as a school and nonprofit leader in the region. In this time, he has interacted with countless families who are seeking stronger educational options for their children. “Our current educational landscape has left students from low-income families out of the equation for success. We must do better as a Charlotte community. Our school will be a part of the answer.”

Having grown up mainly interacting with families similar to his own, it wasn’t until college that Paul was confronted with the inequities that existed for his fellow students from different backgrounds. This inspired him to join Teach For America, where he started on his path to leadership, working to close the opportunity gap for the students in his schools. Through the BES Fellowship, Paul seeks to found a school that focuses on students’ worth and potential as tomorrow’s leaders. This starts with rigorous academics and a focus on character education, meeting students’ needs through support around nutrition and health care, and cultivating strong school-family partnerships. “Families are an integral part of a student’s long-term success. We plan to utilize the multiple opportunities that the Charlotte community has to offer to provide various wrap-around supports. Relationships and alignment between the school and families will allow students to rise to their full potential.”

Most recently, Paul served as the chief operating officer at Freedom School Partners in Charlotte. Previously, he has held a variety of leadership roles, including executive director of New Leaders, recruitment director at Teach For America, and a principal in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the Greenwood Public School District in Greenwood, MS. Paul holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and elementary education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s in educational leadership from Delta State University.

Robert Acosta believes that “with high levels of rigor provided in a nurturing and safe space, students not only feel comfortable, but excited to be a part of their school. Students in my school will believe that the high expectations we hold for them are realistic, achievable, and most important of all, they will know that the school community is there to support them every step of the way.”

As an English language learner himself and an ELL teacher through Teach For America, Robert has experienced educational disparities firsthand. “Not only are we failing these future generations by not providing them with the opportunities to succeed, we are also negatively impacting our society by depriving it of the talents and contributions from these same students. I am compelled to take action and break new ground in pedagogy, transforming the perceived language barrier handicap into an asset.”

Robert worked as an Assistant Principal in Dallas before turning around an IDEA school in Austin as Principal. Most recently, he has been Principal of a 90% ELL school in Florida, where he led the campus from a ‘C’ rating to an ‘A.’ He holds a Bachelor’s from the University of Phoenix, a Master’s of Education Administration from the University of Texas, and a Master’s in Leadership from Southern Methodist University.

“I am driven to create a school that will contribute positively to education in my community. Data-driven decision making, family and community partnerships, high standards, and a hard-work mindset will allow me to create an efficient, informed, connected, and dedicated school.”

Joseph Bolduc envisions a school that thoroughly prepares students for college by setting a high academic bar and supporting teachers, students, and the community. He knows that “for a school to be successful, all stakeholders must hold the unwavering belief that all scholars and adults can and will achieve at the highest level.”

Joseph’s work experience proves that he can successfully create such a school for Memphis. Aftering serving as a Teach For America corps member, he worked as a first and second grade teacher before joining the Democracy Prep team, where he held roles from grade level chair to Family Engagement Leadership Fellow (through the Flamboyan Foundation) to the Elementary Representative on the Culture Planning team. Following his time as a Leader U Resident, he became Assistant Campus Director of Democracy Prep Congress Heights.

Joseph holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Find Your Place

Start A School In One Of These Cities


In 2019, just 22% of West Contra Costa Unified students met state assessment standards in ELA, with just 14% meeting standards in math.
THE BAY AREA NEEDS YOU. ~ See data source


What Leaders Are Saying

Ambrosia Johnson

“I am passionate about the children of my city because I see myself in them every day. However, I’ve learned that passion without technique and intentionality often results in failure. BES ensured that I was equipped with both so that I could open and lead the school that my community had been longing for.”

Ambrosia Johnson
2017 BES Fellow, Founder and Head of School, Ivy Hill Prep, NY

Shara Hegde

“The BES Fellowship helped me see everything that went into running an excellent school. When I was on the ground in my community, I knew exactly what I needed to do – the questions I needed to ask, the level of preparedness I needed to bring, and the level of work I needed to put into making a vision a reality. I’m grateful to have had an experience that showed me what it took to do the work successfully before actually doing the work.”

Shara Hegde
2008 BES Fellow, Chief Schools Officer, Alpha Public Schools, CA

Maurice Thomas

“Working with BES was a transformative experience. I was pushed to deeply understand my values and my unique role in K-12 education. The exceptional programming led me to build the #1 rated school in my hometown. As BES continues to grow and evolve, I would encourage those interested in leading their own high-performing school to take part in the BES Fellowship.”

Maurice Thomas
2014 BES Fellow, Founder and CEO, Milwaukee Excellence, WI

Robert Acosta

“The BES Fellowship served as a bridge between my dream of creating an innovative school and the obstacles that many educators encounter on the way. I could not have asked for a better program to gain the skills necessary to become the leader that I aspired to be. The coaching I received prepared me to work with an accelerated timeline in partnership with an existing district to create a school that would truly meet the needs of the community.”

Robert Acosta
2019 BES Fellow: Autonomous School Track, Founder and Executive Principal, Springfield Lyceum College Prep, MA

Ignacio Prado

“Coming from the classroom and anchored in having a strong passion and vision in instruction and community building, I only know of one way to take the leap and learn the operational, technical, financial, and leadership skills to found an excellent school to match that vision: the BES Fellowship.”

Ignacio Prado
2015 BES Fellow, Founder and Executive Director, Futuro Academy, NV

Ben Samuels-Kalow

“The BES Fellowship showed me that while there is no one way to run an excellent school, all excellent schools start with a clear plan. I’m grateful for the ongoing coaching, practice, school visits, and residencies in BES schools, all of which remind me that everything is still possible for kids, even when the work is hard.”

Ben Samuels-Kalow
2017 BES Fellow, Founder and Head of School, Creo College Prep, NY

Hrag Hamalian

“BES is the only leadership and school development training that functions like a national incubator for charter schools destined to close the opportunity gap. Through expert guidance, counseling, and training, leaders are imbued with purpose and tools to enact their desired outcomes.”

Hrag Hamalian
2007 BES Fellow, Executive Director, Valor Academy (part of Bright Star Schools)

Doug Lemov

“If there is one organization that has done the most to seed underserved communities across the country with distinctive, homegrown schools characterized by excellence and high expectations, it’s BES. Their work is a gift and their schools have consistently been the source of key insights and improvements that make all schools better.”

Doug Lemov
Author of Teach Like a Champion and Practice Perfect

Nina Rees

“Developing leaders that can get charter schools off to a great start from day one is the best way to ensure students will achieve. No one does this better than BES. It is hard work, but critical to the success of the movement.”

Nina Rees
President & CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools