An Open Letter to Herb Tillery and Barbara Nophlin:
Herb and Barbara, congratulations on your confirmation yesterday and on joining the PCSB. As I conclude my six years of service on the Board – having had the privilege of serving as Chair for three of those years – I can say without equivocation that you are joining one of the finest education organizations in the nation. Your appointment completes the composition of the Board and places you in a position to lead what I believe to be the most talented staff of any charter school authorizer in America. As you take your seats on the Board, I hope you won’t think me presumptuous to offer just a few thoughts about the work that lies ahead – observations I would love to have received when I joined the Board in 2007.
First, you are joining a board that has maintained a remarkable consensus in favor of accountability for our schools. It’s been confronted with countless difficult decisions in recent years – from decisions about what charters to approve, to questions of when and how to authorize charter growth, to wrenching decisions to close low performers – and has always met those challenges with a laser-like focus on the interests of students and families.
Second, you are now leading a sector that is strong and growing because of the independence of our schools and of the PCSB itself. While oversight and accountability are as essential to the Board’s work as they are to our schools’ work, your insistence upon demanding the right balance between those principles and the Board’s essential independence is critical to the sector’s continued success.
Third, as you both know well, DC is a unique and special place. There is extraordinary energy and ingenuity here. But we don’t have all the answers. This is a thrilling time to work in education because student-centered innovation is occurring at a rapid pace all over the country. The student experience is being customized and improved, and many charter operators outside of DC are demonstrating breathtaking successes. Embrace that innovation and work to ensure that DC remains an attractive place for successful charter operators across the country.
Finally, never lose sight of the Board’s ultimate stakeholders – the students and families our schools serve. In your Board service, empower students and families with more and better information about our schools – including what true “quality” looks like – and with an ever more dynamic and diverse array of options.
I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little envious of you both. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the growing charter sector here in the District. It has been among the great privileges of my life to serve with my – now your – devoted colleagues on the Board and to work with Scott Pearson, the extraordinary staff he leads, and the committed leaders of our schools. So have fun; visit schools early and often; and, if you can find the time, drop me a line every now and then.
Brian Jones served on the PCSB Board from 2007 to Jan 2013.
*The D.C. Council also approved Sara Mead to serve a second term on the Board.