Welcoming Our 2021 Cohort of Leaders

What’s new at BES this summer? We recently announced how we’re growing our program team, and we’ve been sharing highlights from our leadership training on social media and in monthly newsletters.

This month, we’re pleased to “introduce” the leaders in our 2021 Fellowship and LENS programs. These cohorts include 12 aspiring school founders taking part in the BES Fellowship, and 54 leaders participating in the LENS program for new and emerging leaders. 


The 2021 BES Fellowship

Our 2021 Fellows are designing a diverse set of schools, including models focused on the arts, STEM, medical careers, and character and identity formation, as well as a Montessori school. Ten of our 2021 Fellows will take part in the Build Track, which follows the traditional four-year pathway to found and lead a fresh-start public charter school. Two Fellows, Mamie Howard of Denver, CO and Nilesh Patel of St. Louis, MO, will take part in the Growth Track, founding and leading new campuses of existing public charter school networks. Click here to read more about each 2021 Fellow.

Two Fellows, Dr. Brenda Jones and Dr. Josh Pinto Taylor, are taking part in Community Co-Design Fellowships, where each will spend two years co-designing their school alongside a design team made up of local stakeholders. The Community Co-Design Fellowship includes an extra year of community engagement, training, and coaching to ensure the school is truly locally-responsive and has a strong foundation for success in the community. Dr. Pinto Taylor began his Fellowship in 2020 and currently works with a design team of eight community members in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Jones will be co-designing a school in her hometown of Nashville, TN.

The BES Fellowship is led by two senior co-directors of the BES Fellowship: Erin Walsh-Hagan, who has most recently served as assistant director of the Fellowship, and Dawn Griffin, who joined BES in August.

“Though each Fellow is unique in their background, experiences, and vision for their proposed school, they are united in their belief that students across the US deserve high-quality schools, “ says Griffin. “I could not be more excited to work with and learn from each of these leaders as they embark on this journey, many of whom are proposing schools in their home cities or states to serve their own communities.”

Fast facts about the 2021 Fellowship cohort:

  • Our Fellows have previously served as school leaders in 10 states across the US, from California to Maryland.
  • 83% of Fellows identify as leaders of color.
  • Alana Jenkins is the first-ever BES Fellow to propose a school in the state of South Carolina, where she has familial and ancestral roots. She will work alongside families and stakeholders in Beaufort County, SC to found and lead a community-centered school.
  • Nilesh Patel, Richard Sherin, and Charles Stanley, Jr. are currently entrepreneurs-in-residence with The Opportunity Trust in St. Louis, MO. This program is a two-year incubator that supports future school founders as they design and launch a new school in St. Louis.

Fellows will participate in fully remote training for approximately 12 hours per week throughout the fall and will participate in a four-week residency with existing schools this winter. In the spring, Fellows will finalize their charter applications (where applicable), and participate in a second four-week residency, along with virtual and in-person training and school study.


This year marks our largest LENS cohort in the program’s history. These new and emerging leaders are split into two cohorts, allowing participants to receive training and conduct virtual school visits in smaller groups for more individualized learning. 

In addition, LENS is now led by two coaches, increasing the program’s capacity to support more leaders. We recently announced Aidin Carey and Jabari Peddie as our co-senior directors of LENS. Over the past several years, Aidin has provided Follow On Support to BES leaders and led our public and private Leadership Intensives. Jabari joined the team in 2020 to support our Fellows to design and found schools across the US. 

“In addition to operational shifts, this year more than ever before, LENS coaches will center equity in their practice, and push those whom they coach to do the same in their respective roles. This allows leaders to be more intentional in their work to close the educational gap in their communities,” say Carey and Peddie.

Fast facts about our 2021-22 LENS leaders:

  • The cohort represents 36 schools across 16 states. Fifteen of these schools were founded outside of BES, including three schools in traditional public school districts and a parochial school. Twenty schools are sending leaders to LENS for the first time.
  • 59% of LENS participants identify as leaders of color.

LENS leaders are in roles at their schools ranging from lead teacher and content specialist to founding principal. 

LENS leaders took part in Leading for Equity training led by Onward. Leaders learned about the specific ways in which systemic injustice impacts learning and schooling, and how to interrupt that injustice.

The cohort will conduct a variety of virtual school observations and site visits with their coach throughout the year. Coaches hope to be able to provide on-site school visits for schools that opt in during the spring semester, or when safe to do so. LENS leaders will also complete four projects on components of effective school leadership that will coincide with the work they are doing at their schools.

BES offers a variety of programs aimed at supporting leaders and schools at every stage of their journey. Click here to learn more.