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 school.

Year One: Training Year

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.

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.

Additional Opportunities:
Not quite ready for the Fellowship? Consider the Summer Leaders Institute.
Interested in joining a founding charter school board? Click here to contact us.

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
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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. If you are interested in an area outside of the listed cities, please fill out the form here to keep in touch.

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, a series of phone interviews, and an in-person interview. 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.

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As of 2019, just 32% of Denver’s fourth graders showed proficiency in reading with 35% proficiency in math. Only 29% of eighth graders were considered proficient in reading and math.


What Leaders Are Saying

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)

Ravi Gupta

“I don’t know where I or RePublic would be without BES. It continues to be the best school leader selection, training, and support organization in the country and is getting better every year. When I look at the map of jaw-droppingly awesome BES schools across the country, I am proud to be a member of this community.”

Ravi Gupta
2010 BES Fellow, Co-Founder, RePublic Schools

Lester Long

“When I began crafting Classical Charter Schools, my vision was to build a first-class educational experience for kids who deserve it. The BES Fellowship provided me with the critical knowledge and experience to make that vision more crisp, actionable, and attainable. The entire program revolves around seeing and learning the best practices in school creation and leadership. While the Fellowship lasts one year, the lessons continue to prove useful to me, over 10 years later. There is no other such program at this quality level.”

Lester Long
2004 BES Fellow, Founder and Executive Director, Classical Charter Schools, NY

Rosalind DaCruz

“The BES team really modeled for us what leaders should look like. They constantly reminded us of the expectation and the schools that came from this expectation. All leaders who enter the Fellowship will walk away with those high expectations instilled in them.”

Rosalind DaCruz
2013 BES Fellow, Founder and Head of School, RISE Prep, RI

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

Vanessa Jackson

“I’m grateful to be part of a community of school leaders who work together to build one another’s capacity and thereby the collective capacity of our schools.”

Vanessa Jackson
2013 BES Fellow, Executive Director, Collegiate Charter High School of Los Angeles

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