Renaissance Schools Fund Meeting

It's a busy day in Chicago school reform circles, what with the CTU delegates meeting taking place (see below) and the Renaissance Schools Fund Symposium going on as well.

The symposium event took place downtown at the Mid-America Club and was titled "Free To Choose, Free To Succeed." It featured panels on going to scale, facilities issues, turnarounds, roles for private funders, and more. Click below for program details, or click here to see the website.

Feel free to tell us how it went if you were there. Or even if you're there now. We know you read this blog. We won't hold it against you.

UPDATE: Sorry -- this was yesterday, not today.

Full program:

Going to Scale: Strategically Growing High Performing Networks

Networks are common in the charter sphere as a means of achieving

scale and efficiency, but Chicago is building upon the charter network

model to also cultivate networks of contract and performance schools.

This session will focus on how to grow strong school operators into

high performing school networks. Operators, district partners and

education venture philanthropists will share the challenges and best

practices of successful growth plans for emerging and growing school



  • Robert Hughes, President, New Visions for Public Schools
  • Tim Knowles, Executive Director, University of Chicago Charter School
  • Ben Lindquist, Partner, Charter School Growth Fund
  • Evan Rudall, Chief Operating Officer, Uncommon Schools

Moderator: Jim Peyser, Partner, NewSchools Venture Fund

The Role of the Private Sector in the New Market of Education

The session will focus on the unique strategy RSF has used to engage

the corporate community in the new school movement and the innovative,

high performing schools that have been created as a result of these

partnerships. Private sector champions, foundation leaders and school

operators will share how they have worked together to create high

quality schools for underserved communities and how these partnerships

contribute to the school environment. Attendees will leave the panel

with an understanding of best practices and strategies used in Chicago

to engage the private sector in transforming the market of education

through new schools.


  • Ron Manderschied, President, Northwestern University Settlement Association
  • Steve Solomon, Director of Corporate Relations, Exelon Corporation
  • Errol Stone, Partner, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal
  • Eileen Sweeney, Director of Corporate & Foundation Philanthropic Relations, Motorola Foundation

Moderator: Phyllis Lockett, President and CEO, Renaissance Schools Fund

Innovative Answers to a Tight Facilities Market

A tight facilities market and limited financing options create a

roadblock that limits the proliferation of new school development in

many major districts around the country. The panel session will begin

with a case study of the New York City facilities market. NYC

Department of Education provides a model of how the district can work

strategically with partners to create an open and accessible facilities

market for new school developers. The second part of the panel will be

devoted to strategies being pursued in Chicago and elsewhere to provide

opportunities and access to buildings and financing for new school

developers in a challenging market. Panelists will provide best

practices for pursuing public facilities and private market leasing

options, renovations, and purchases.


  • Andrew Alt, Vice President of Operations, UNO
  • Michael Duffy, NYC Department of Charter Schools
  • Michael Ostermeyer, Partner, Quarles & Brady LLP
  • David Umansky, Civic Builders

Moderator: Jill Levine, Director of School Services, Illinois Facilities Fund

Turnaround Schools

The turnaround strategy is gaining national attention as urban

districts search for ways to address chronically under-performing

schools. In an effort to raise the performance of the lowest performing

schools in Chicago, the district has committed to one of the most

aggressive turnaround strategies in the country. This panel will

explore the elements critical in a turnaround model, the challenges

associated with this strategy, and the feasibility of its success.


  • Lionel Allen, Principal, Sherman Elementary School
  • Barbara Eason-Watkins, Chief Education Officer, Chicago Public Schools
  • Beth Purvis, Executive Director, Chicago International Charter Schools
  • Meghan O'Keefe, Project Director, School Turnaround Strategies, Mass Insight Education & Research Institute

Moderator: Jordan Meranus, Partner, NewSchools Venture Fund

Replicating District Success

This discussion will cover two unique programs developed to

replicate high performing public schools. The Performance Pipeline

Program was created by The Renaissance Schools Fund to replicate high

performing Chicago Public Schools through Ren10. Replications, Inc.

has a similar program on a much larger scale in NY and Baltimore. The

discussion will cover all aspects of the replication process from

school selection, to expert supports required, through proposal

development and school launch. This conversation will provide leaders

from Chicago and across the country with a variety of strategies to

consider as districts plan replication projects in an effort to provide

more quality school options.


  • Bogdana Chkoumbova, Principal, Walt Disney II
  • Michael Guinan, Vice President of Operations and Academics, Replications, Inc.
  • Kathleen Hagstrom, Principal, Walt Disney Magnet School
  • Jeff Wilson, School Support Specialist, Renaissance Schools Fund

Moderator: Josh Edelman, Executive Director, Office of New Schools, Chicago Public Schools

Building an Entrepreneurial Pipeline

The school leader is critical to the success of a new school. This

challenging position requires a rare mix of entrepreneurial drive,

operational experience and instructional expertise. The panelists will

identify the unique characteristics, qualifications, and traits that

they have found to be essential in successful new school leaders. Each

panelist will share the strategies their organization uses to train new

school leaders and enhance the pipeline of quality candidates. The

session will conclude with an assessment of the leadership needs in

urban districts and an analysis of best strategies to use on a larger

scale to ensure new schools will have high quality leaders in the



  • Chris Clemons, Deputy Executive Director, Building Excellent Schools
  • April Ervin, Executive Director, New Leaders for New Schools
  • Michael Milkie, Superintendent & COO, Noble Network of Charter Schools
  • Kelly Wright, Director of School Leader Development, KIPP Foundation

Moderator: Jason Cascarino, The Chicago Public Education Fund

Creating a Quality Supply: The Competitive Authorization Process

Panelists will highlight the key components of Chicago’s strong

selection process. Leaders from CPS and RSF will discuss how they

worked together to create a rigorous quality rubric, a multi-staged

review process based on these high standards and the critical roles

played by national experts, business leaders and the community.


  • Connie McHugh, Chief Operating Officer, Renaissance Schools Fund
  • Jeanne Nowaczewski, Senior Director of Recruitment, Office of New Schools, Chicago Public Schools
  • Jim Ford, Charter Schools Programs Director, Raza Development Fund
  • William Gerstein, Principal, Austin Polytechnical Academy

Moderator: Margaret Lin, Of Counsel, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

The Parental and Political Infrastructure to Drive Change

The panel will highlight how parents, political leaders, and

activists can collaborate to drive school reform. Leaders in education

policy will provide strategies for engaging multiple stakeholders in

the fight for choice based education reform. A particular focus will

be placed on engaging parents in the new school movement and mobilizing

this group as a powerful stakeholder in the fight for quality schools.


  • Kim Ambrose-Davis, Liaison, Parents for School Choice
  • Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr., City of Chicago, 27th Ward
  • Elizabeth Evans, Executive Director, Illinois Network of Charter Schools
  • Joe Williams, Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform

Moderator: Lawrence Patrick, Past President & CEO, Black Alliance for Educational Options

Measuring the Progress of the New School Movement

Since the introduction of No Child Left Behind, schools, districts

and states have faced an environment of increased accountability. Due

to data limitations inherent to the start-up of new schools, national

and local evaluators are challenged to effectively measure the progress

of the new schools movement. Panelists will describe the tools being

developed to evaluate new schools and will summarize the findings from

national studies conducted to date. They will specifically address

Ren10 evaluation methods, early achievement and best practice findings.

The discussion will also cover how accountability practices are being

used to drive improvement at both the local and national level.


  • Eric Chan, Grants Manager, Renaissance Schools Fund
  • Kathleen Weaver, Deputy Director, Office of New Schools, Chicago Public Schools
  • Robin Lake, Associate Director, Center on Reinventing Public Education
  • Paul Zavitkovsky, Instructor and Program Coach, College of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago

Moderator: Macke Raymond, CREDO at Stanford University

High School Transformation

This panel will highlight approaches to one of the most critical

issues facing public education today - the underperformance of urban

high schools. Leaders in the three largest urban districts in the

country, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles, will share key

strategies being used to transform high school performance. The

panelists will also discuss the metrics they use to measure success and

their key learnings to date.


  • Allan Alson, Executive Director, Office of High School Transformation, Chicago Public Schools
  • Robert Hughes, President, New Visions for Public Schools
  • Marco Pertruzzi, President and Chief Operating Officer, Green Dot Public Schools

Moderator: Carmita Vaughan, Chief of Staff, Office of High School Programs, Chicago Public Schools

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