Through the BES Fellowship, 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. Scroll down for a current list of 2021 Fellowship regions.
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 0-2. 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 and non-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.
Fellowship Selection Competencies
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, locally responsive school. The following are the competencies we look for during the selection process.
BES believes that an excellent leader builds, equips, and inspires a diverse, mission-driven team. BES Fellows are strong communicators and entrepreneurial thinkers who have a track record of leading teams towards ambitious results for all students. They do this through strong adult management and relationship-building practices that enable them to navigate complex political landscapes and work collaboratively with stakeholders to actualize their vision in service of students and communities.
BES believes that excellent leaders approach every challenge as an opportunity to learn. BES Fellows persevere through challenges and are eager to take, give, and implement feedback with humility and resilience. They are committed to personal and professional development for themselves and their team.
BES believes that an excellent school leader demonstrates knowledge of and respect for the communities they serve. BES Fellows actively seek out and incorporate community input into the school’s design and operation, implementing practices that reflect and respond to community need. They are not only invested in ongoing listening and engagement to found a locally responsive school, but demonstrate a long-term personal and professional investment in the success and sustainability of the school and its surrounding community.
BES believes that an excellent leader demonstrates an ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. BES Fellows are dedicated to founding and leading schools that are actively anti-racist spaces and work to ensure equitable and robust support for learners of all backgrounds, needs, and abilities. They have a history of working equitably across lines of difference among families and staff to achieve common goals.
BES believes that excellent leaders have a clear vision for the school they hope to found. Their vision is grounded in the belief that all students can, must, and will achieve at high levels, if held to high expectations and provided with the academic and social supports to master rigorous, culturally relevant content. BES Fellows hold themselves and their team accountable for academic and non-academic results in order to prepare students for success in college, career, and life.
BES TRAINING & SUPPORT
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
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
Student recruitment planning
Curriculum and assessment planning
Staff and student orientation planning
Networking with BES school leaders
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:
School culture, instruction, and operations
Assessment and long-term curricular planning
Data analysis, action-planning, and closing gaps
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
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 Trackfocused 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.
There are many factors we analyze when determining regions for the BES Fellowship. These include, but are not limited to, (in no particular order):
Authorization landscape – This includes the state of the overall market, demonstrated need, and state and local politics that may be barriers to authorization, including charter caps for the Build Track and Growth Track, as well as school and leader autonomies for the Autonomous School Track.
Talent landscape – Access to a diverse talent base to identify Fellows and once authorized, a landscape in which our Fellows will be more likely to have success recruiting and retaining teachers, leaders, and staff that reflect the surrounding community.
Community relationships, support, and local funding – We ultimately want our Fellows to be successful in designing and founding a locally responsive school and recognize they will need education champions as well as funding for the Fellowship, school start-up, and launch. We analyze these factors to be able to assess opportunities and risk towards this goal in the geography’s education ecosystem. Variables that are considered include the presence of education advocacy groups, family champions, and philanthropic support for the Fellowship and for the school.
This list is dynamic and is considered alongside other factors which may be uniquely local or regional. For example, turnaround plans or new initiatives at the state level due to an influx of CSP funding may create opportunities to support school leaders with fewer barriers to entry.
We are excited about supporting strong leaders to found and open schools across the country through the three tracks of the Fellowship! We assess and identify regions on an ongoing basis. This year, in addition to applying for regions that are open, interested candidates can apply for regions we are still exploring (designated with an asterisk) in order for us to identify strong talent as early as possible. While we are currently accepting initial applications from candidates interested in founding schools in these communities, application processing may take longer than the timeline outlined on the website for confirmed Fellowship regions. Depending on the factors outlined above, a region may open at any time during the recruitment cycle, though they are likely to open by June to ensure that candidates have enough time to prepare for the start of the Fellowship in August. If your region of interest does not open during the recruitment cycle, we will defer your application to the following recruitment cycle.
If you have questions through the application process or status, please reach out to your recruiter and they will be happy to answer any questions.
Absolutely! We recognize that there are strong leaders in other parts of the country with the demonstrated competencies to successfully found or open a school. We encourage applicants interested in regions other than those listed to reach out to the recruitment team to express interest and share any available information on any support that they have already garnered for founding or opening a school in any of the three Fellowship tracks. Depending on fit, they will direct you to complete an initial application. In addition to leaders interested in the Build Track, we encourage current school founders or executive leaders interested in the Growth Track, and district staff interested in learning more about the Autonomous School Track, to reach out to our recruitment team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
Don’t see your region of interest? Tell us more about the community you’d like to serve.
What Leaders Are Saying
“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.”
2017 BES Fellow, Founder and Head of School, Ivy Hill Prep, NY
“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.”
2008 BES Fellow, Chief Schools Officer, Alpha Public Schools, CA
“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.”
2014 BES Fellow, Founder and CEO, Milwaukee Excellence, WI
“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.”
2019 BES Fellow: Autonomous School Track, Founder and Executive Principal, Springfield Lyceum College Prep, MA
“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.”
2015 BES Fellow, Founder and Executive Director, Futuro Academy, NV
“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.”
2017 BES Fellow, Founder and Head of School, Creo College Prep, NY
“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.”
2007 BES Fellow, Executive Director, Valor Academy (part of Bright Star Schools)
“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.”
Author of Teach Like a Champion and Practice Perfect
“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.”
President & CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools