This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting BES Fellows. Click here to learn more about how the BES Fellowship trains leaders to design, found, and lead excellent schools around the country.
“One of my principals used to say, ‘You are the weather in the room.’ And what that means to me is, you create the climate of your school’s culture. Every move that you make needs to be modeling the culture you want in your building.”
Current BES Fellow Mera Dougherty started college on the path to becoming a neuroscientist. But after volunteering with local high schoolers, many of whom hadn’t received the academic preparation needed to fill out a college application, much less succeed in higher education, she decided to pursue teaching.
After working in local schools in Brooklyn, New York, and Austin, Texas, Dougherty earned a spot in the BES Fellowship, where she is now partnering with Compass Rose Academy to propose a new K-12 charter school in the Austin area. She’s particularly inspired by the proposed campus’s name — Compass Rose: Destiny.
“We chose the name because destiny is truly determined by the path you choose,” she says. “Our school believes that we are helping kids realize their true destiny, those things that they dream of when they fall asleep or didn’t even know were possible. We’re not here to save families, we are here to open the door for students to achieve greatness.”
Compass Rose: Destiny will focus on computer science, a booming but non diverse field in which Black and Latinx workers have been historically underrepresented, according to a 2013 American Community Survey Report which noted that in STEM fields, just 6% were Black and 7% were Latinx. Dougherty hopes to push back against this status quo by helping her students, 70% to 90% of whom will be people of color and more than four-fifths of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch, cultivate life-changing skills and realize their potential.
Compass Rose: Destiny will also be centered on the belief that students’ individual identities make the fabric of the community more beautiful and will focus on individual student growth through an intentional use of data. Students will be able to talk about their goals, why they matter, and what they’re personally working on.
As she prepares to lead a brand-new school, Dougherty often reflects on setting the “weather” of the building, modeling the behaviors that she wants to see in her staff. She is setting out to model her school’s vision of service to the community with a focus on relationships. She is pushing her staff to reflect on whether they are doing everything they can to build relationships with students and their families. Mera says that if they are truly investing themselves in the community, then nothing can stop them.
What has been her biggest a-ha moment from the Fellowship so far?
Mera says, “The training has truly humbled me. To be able to get this right for 500 students, that is very hard work. Having a body
of leaders surrounding me who are just as dedicated
fills me with a huge level of gratitude.”