Now more than ever, BES is working alongside local partners and identifying diverse leaders with a strong vision for schooling who place community input at the center of their work.

Founding Locally Responsive, Equitable Schools

A Rigorous Four-Year Process

Fellowship Overview

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.

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 300+ training hours, study 20-30 exemplar schools nationwide, complete a minimum of two residencies at excellent and equitable 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.

Click here to read what’s new about the selection process and Fellowship experience.

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. To be considered for the Build Track of the BES Fellowship, all applicants must have at least four years of full-time professional experience, at least two years of experience leading and managing adults, and be aligned with BES’s beliefs about equitable and anti-racist schools. In addition to these minimum requirements, the following competencies are assessed during the selection process.

Please note that additional minimum criteria may exist for Growth and Autonomous track opportunities contingent on partner requirements. 




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
  • 30+ 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


As a student, Katie Hahn (she/her/hers) benefited from a school community that encouraged her to think critically, explore her passions, and take ownership over her learning. “Although I experienced strong educational opportunities, as a biracial student I often felt othered within a largely homogenous student body. I want to found an intentionally integrated school that will stimulate students intellectually while celebrating their unique identities and supporting them to find their sense of purpose in our increasingly diverse society.”

Throughout her career, Katie has learned that educational experiences like those she benefited from are rare for all students, and particularly for students of color. Many schools she’s worked in have primarily focused on basic skills for students deemed “at risk” or “high need,” which she sees as an equity issue. “Our school will combine high-level academic content and skills education with a focus on purpose finding, identity development, and community building. This type of environment will equip students to navigate the current workforce and build a better future,” Katie says. Using her background in social work and community schools, Katie and her team will work closely with families and community partners to provide essential wraparound support to students. Katie is partnering with her husband on designing the school, where he will serve as co-director.

Katie recently completed the New School Creation Fellowship with High Tech High Graduate School of Education while earning a master’s in educational leadership. Previously, she served as a program manager in the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Community Schools, and a founding community school director at a sixth through twelfth-grade school in Brooklyn. Katie holds a bachelor’s in social studies from Harvard University and received a master’s in social work from New York University.

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.

As part of the Build Track, BES is seeking leaders who are particularly interested in founding schools that will be deeply rooted in character and committed to equity. While we are open to these leaders founding schools in geographies across the country, we are prioritizing leaders who want to found schools in AL, AZ, TN, or TX.
ALABAMA NEEDS YOU. ~ About Character Fellows


What Leaders Are Saying

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

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)

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