For three years, Scott Morgan was the in-house legal counsel for Aspire Public Schools, a high-performing charter network in California. While there, he saw the power of team members who were passionate about creating amazing schools, and brought their education expertise and business know-how to the work. He also recognized a growing need for a generation of leaders who could use their diverse experience to compliment the work of and bring out the best in principals and teachers. He had the idea for a new type of education organization, one that would identify, develop and support education leaders outside of the classroom to help drive positive results for kids. That organization became Education Pioneers (EP) in 2003.
“The idea for Education Pioneers came from the recognition that we needed to create a system of diverse talented leaders that could build high-performing organizations that are able to attract great talent, build strong culture and implement systems to scale the number of great schools helping students reach their full potential,” says Scott.
EP helps talented people (Pioneers) with diverse backgrounds to secure short- and long-term leadership roles in more than 200 education organizations in 20 cities across the nation. Pioneers don’t just take jobs – they also join a supportive cohort of peers and take part in workshops on the issues, policies and politics that impact the education space. EP Fellowships focus on essential support functions like data analysis, operations, strategy and project management. To date, EP has placed almost 4,000 Pioneers in the nation’s largest school districts, charter groups and education support organizations.
Melvin Freeman is one example of EP alumni making an impact as a leader outside of the classroom. He earned his degree in physics and mechanical engineering and went on to work for a Wall Street bank, but did not feel fulfilled by his work. He connected with Education Pioneers at a critical career crossroads.
Melvin was placed at Next Steps Charter School in Washington, D.C., a school for “at-risk” youth who need different supports than those offered in traditional high schools. As an EP Fellow, Melvin built student information systems to help school leaders track student performance and identify areas for improvement at a quicker pace.
Today, Melvin is the director of data and strategy at KIPP DC, a high-performing network of charter schools serving 5,700 students at 16 schools. He believes in the mission of Education Pioneers to provide diverse, high-quality leaders outside of the classroom.
“Education support leaders and staff are the pipes and electricity,” he says. “They are necessary for teachers to teach and students to learn. EP identifies and develops people who are passionate and want to use the skills they learned outside of education towards a social good. Those people stay serving kids.”
Melvin’s experience is not unique. There are hundreds of Pioneers with similar stories. And the impact of EP is not just anecdotal.
The American Institutes for Research (AIR) recently found that EP is helping to keep diverse, quality talent in the education space, and the organization is making an impact at the leadership level. More than nine of every 10 EP alumni who worked in education in 2012 still worked in education in 2016.
The research also found that EP is helping to recruit, train and support a racially and ethnically diverse network of leaders. Of EP's network, 26% of all African American/Black alumni hold C-suite roles in education, including chief executive officer, chief operations officer and other senior roles. 26% of Hispanic/Latinx alumni and 32% of Asian/Pacific Islander alumni also hold C-suite roles in education.
“I believe the most important question that education organizations can ask is not ‘what,’ but ‘who,’” explains Scott. “That is the thrust of our work at EP – to provide a pipeline of excellent, diverse leaders for high-performing organizations that move the needle for kids. I’m pleased to see the research shows we are meeting our mission.”