Congratulations on your recent confirmation as our CEO. What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure as CEO?
Thank you. Under my leadership, YES Prep will continue to be a major force of educational reform in Houston. At Kickhalf in January, I announced our ambitious goal to quadruple the number of YES Prep college-ready graduates by 2020 – an initiative that I’m calling 4X. Much of my focus this semester has been working with teammates to determine how we will measure 4X and starting to consider what programmatic changes will be necessary to achieve this major milestone. I love the 4X goal because the only way to achieve it is to improve our results with our current students while also continuing to grow to serve more children who deserve a YES Prep education.
Will YES Prep expand outside of Houston as a part of the 4X initiative?
Our vision is that one day soon every child in Houston will have equitable access to a rigorous, college-prep education, and there are currently over 30,000 students on the charter school waitlists who desire this access. This shows me that there is a tremendous need for school choice in this city alone. For the next three to five years, we will not consider expanding outside of Houston and will instead focus on strengthening our current schools and opening four new schools by 2020 to help us achieve the 4X goal. Given our recommitment to focusing on Houston, we are in the process of considering a number of exciting initiatives for the coming years, and I hope to have much more to share about these by the start of the new school year.
How will YES be different and the same under your leadership?
Our mission to increase the number of students from underserved communities who graduate from college prepared to lead will remain the same. As long as I’m around, that mission will never, ever change. We will improve how we prepare ALL students by exploring alternatives for students with behavioral challenges and those who struggle to keep up academically with their peers. We will continue to build enduring partnerships with other organizations that believe in the potential of all kids. We will continue building out our Commit to 5 strategy, exploring ways to bring diversity into every corner of YES Prep, making major investments in technology, and creating a 3-5 year plan to eliminate our need for annual fundraising for ongoing operations. All of these initiatives and others that we are actively exploring will be directly tied to our long-term vision for equitable access and our short-term 4X goal.
How will you spend the last few weeks of this school year?
My mom and dad are both about to retire in May—my mom as an elementary school principal and my dad as a college art professor. They’ve been thinking a lot about their legacy in their educational careers, and so I’ve been doing some soul searching as well. My early thinking is that I want three words to be my legacy at YES Prep—excellence, diversity, and sustainability. Over the next month and a half, I’ll be spending a lot of time thinking about those three words and how I can turn them from ideas into realities for YES Prep. To that end, I’ll be spending quite a bit of time with the executive leadership team diving into our results from this year, determining what our official initiatives will be for the coming year, and figuring out ways to deeply align our system-wide, Home Office, and campus goals. I’m also traveling to other charter schools and inviting other educational leaders to visit YES Prep to help me think through the organizational structure that will best support our short and long-term goals. In May, in order to gather broad input internally, I’ll be visiting every campus to meet with every School Director and every campus leadership team. Then I’ll take a giant, deep breath and start getting excited about next year where we are going to accomplish some truly amazing things together. I’m certain of it.