Open Position: Chief Operating Officer


The Pahara Institute is dedicated to identifying, strengthening, sustaining and connecting diverse, high-integrity, seasoned leaders who are reimagining public education. Pahara’s programs are aimed at improving leadership in education at a crucial point in our country’s history when our goal of a more equitable democratic society as well as our changing economy demand dramatically more from our public schools. Today there is a growing community of education leaders and entrepreneurs who are spearheading innovative approaches to better serve all students, especially those in low-income communities.



Located in Napa, California, The Pahara Institute is a partially virtual organization with a small and dynamic team of 19. The Institute was launched in 2012, building upon its flagship program, the Pahara-Aspen Fellowship, which was originally created as the Aspen-NewSchools Fellowship in 2006. Today, Pahara’s core programs include the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship, the Pahara NextGen Fellowship, as well as regional and topical convenings for our existing alumni network.

The Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship is a two-year cohort-based leadership program modeled after the renowned Henry Crown Fellowship at the Aspen Institute. It is focused on increasing both the strength and diversity of leadership for the educational excellence and equity movement by bringing together senior entrepreneurial leaders in education who have been nominated by recognized leaders within the field, and providing them with an opportunity to step back from their demanding daily work to reflect with peers on their collective and individual work as leaders and change agents.

The Pahara NextGen Fellowship is a 12-month leadership development program focused on supporting emerging senior leaders who bring a diversity of underrepresented perspectives and have the potential to strengthen and shape the future of the educational excellence and equity movement. By identifying individuals who can amplify underrepresented voices, and providing them with high-level leadership development and networking opportunities, this program encourages and supports those who will become senior leaders in the field and helps strengthen the educational equity and excellence movement by engaging more diverse perspectives.


The Chief Operating Officer (COO) will serve as a member of Pahara’s executive team, working closely with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Program Officer (CPO) to oversee the achievement of Pahara’s annual goals.  She/he/they will have a primary focus of overseeing Pahara’s internal operations, including finance, donor development and donor relations, human resources and talent, strategic and annual planning, communications, technology and systems, and facilities. The COO will also have some chief of staff responsibilities, including partnering closely with the CEO in working with Pahara’s Board of Directors.

Specific duties include, but are not limited to:

Financial Management

  • Lead annual budgeting process with executive team, and managers for each department
  • Monitor org-wide financial health and address concerns proactively, consulting with CPO and CEO as necessary, including monitoring cash flow, revenue, and expense targets, proactively managing cash and investments, and identifying and addressing revenue shortfalls and expense overages
  • Create shared understanding across team of budget priorities and performance, supervise Manager of Operations in providing quarterly updates to each department, and half-yearly updates to board at scheduled meetings
  • Oversee clean annual audit and timely high quality tax filings

Donor Development and Donor Relations

  • Leverage the CEO, the Board, and the team to secure $5.5-6M in funds for Pahara per year and maintain strong donor relationships – supervise team and manage CEO’s time on donor cultivation and solicitation, and manage Senior Manager of Development in completing all required reporting, and executing on high quality stewardship plans for donors
  • Ensure clarity for leadership team on fundraising activity/progress at regular intervals
  • Refine 3 year fundraising strategy to maintain financial sustainability
  • Manage team to ensure excellent fundraising knowledge management

Human Resources and Talent Management

  • Lead hiring org-wide and oversee high quality, flexible, org-wide onboarding process for all new hires
  • Lead compensation and benefits processes including selection and management of PEO and managing compensation benchmarking and calibration processes
  • Lead org-wide culture initiatives including annual team retreat, and foster ongoing team connection opportunities
  • Oversee organization-wide performance management process that ensures timely and actionable feedback and ongoing learning for all team members
  • Oversee process and budget for staff to seek relevant, timely and high quality org-wide PD in partnership with managers

Strategic and Annual Planning

Strategic Planning:

  • In partnership with CEO and CPO, develop 3-5 year strategic plan for Pahara that is aligned with Pahara’s mission and Theory of Action
  • Manage one or more consultants to assess strategic opportunities and surface insights in support of strategic planning process

Annual Planning:

  • Build organization-wide clarity on, and ownership of annual planning process and annual goals
  • Coordinate across management team to ensure annual plan is sustainable, and that all annual planning outcomes and deadlines are met

Tools, Systems & Facilities

  • Oversee all org-wide tech and knowledge systems (i.e. Google Drive, Salesforce, etc), including implementation and periodic updates
  • Provide thought partnership and collaborate as needed with program teams on design of program-related tech systems, and supervise implementation of systems by Data Systems Specialist
  • Oversee the Manager of Operations in ensuring Pahara has professional and welcoming facilities for internal team in Napa

Network and External Communications

  • Partner with CPO and external consultants to develop  a relationship-focused Pahara communications strategy
  • Oversee implementation of communications strategy in partnership with CPO based on Pahara’s Theory of Action and program goals
  • Ensure that Pahara’s website and all other collateral accurately reflect Pahara communications strategy and Theory of Action
  • Oversee External Relations Coordinator in execution of network and external communications efforts

Chief of Staff Responsibilities

CEO Support

  • Prioritize internal and external requests for CEO’s time and attention, in partnership with CEO’s executive assistant
  • Support CEO on special projects as needed

Board Management and Development

  • Lead creation of board meeting materials, partnering with CEO to ensure all Pahara board members are briefed appropriately at board meetings and in monthly updates on Pahara’s financial and organizational health
  • Support CEO in board development – refine board skills/experience matrix, source and vet new board members, and support CEO in new board member cultivation and onboarding
  • Manage board member relationships as requested by CEO

Team Management

  • Manage and develop four direct reports, and any others added over time, to ensure team members have the support and guidance they need to successfully complete their jobs
  • Partner with management team on ongoing management practices, with deeper support on promotion process and decisions, and with hiring managers on termination decisions and processes
  • Manage twice-monthly Pahara team meeting, including collection and prioritization of agenda items, facilitation of meeting, and oversight of scheduling by CEO’s Special Assistant


Reporting Relationships

The Chief Operating Officer will report directly to Kim Smith, Pahara’s Chief Executive Officer, and will serve as a member of the executive team.  The COO has five direct reports: the Manager of Operations (based in Napa) who is responsible for finance, HR systems, and facilities; the Senior Manager of Development (based in Houston) who is responsible for foundation relations and donor prospect management; the Data Systems Specialist (based in Oakland) who is responsible for technology and data systems; the External Relations Coordinator (based in Walnut Creek) who is responsible for fundraising support and external communications; in addition, the COO will have dotted line management responsibility for the CEO’s executive assistant.



We are a nimble, dynamic and partially virtual organization by design so that our professionals can work where they have built their lives. However, given the close nature of the partnership that the COO will have with the CEO, there is a preference for the COO to be based in the Bay Area. If the COO lives outside of the Bay Area, s/he/they will be expected to travel 33% of the time. Our preference is to hire a full-time permanent employee for this role, but we will consider applications for an interim position on a case-by-case basis.

Pahara is a strong fit for professionals who are resourceful, responsible, tenacious, independent, and self-confident and who possess strong personal drive and motivation, and demonstrate exemplary professional behavior and values.  In that context, we seek a thoughtful, entrepreneurial leader to enhance an already high-impact team and organization positioned to achieve ambitious goals.

Specifically, the successful candidate will have:



  • 15 or more years of professional work experience which includes senior-level contributions and impact in education, focused in organizational operations, strategy, and donor development;
  • leadership of one or more major organizational departments, including budgetary responsibility, and the ongoing professional development of staff at the manager-level and above;
  • demonstrable success in creating systems for improved efficiency and effectiveness;
  • deep knowledge of the US education reform landscape;
  • a track record of success in diverse, results-oriented and mission-driven organizations;
  • a Bachelor’s degree.


  • strong capacity to manage, assess, and communicate financial information to various internal and external audiences;
  • proficiency at assessing and screening for talent in hiring processes;
  • capability to lead on nuanced issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion;
  • demonstrated ability to synthesize large amounts of information in the development of strategic initiatives, and to communicate clearly and concisely through verbal and written means;
  • strong aptitude for creation of high-impact communication materials, particularly presentations, for executive audiences;
  • strong and nuanced judgment in navigating relationships and complex decisions;
  • the ability to balance day-to-day operations with strategic planning and execute against goals on time and to high standards.


  • the maturity to handle confidential information related to compensation, performance, and organizational change;
  • passion and personal commitment to education reform for public school children;
  • strong cultural competence across multiple vectors of difference;
  • an entrepreneurial spirit;
  • a high level of integrity, trust and accountability;
  • a collaborative style that fosters cross functional cooperation and collegiality;
  • the ability to learn quickly, be flexible and take an optimistic approach to work;
  • the ability to travel approximately 33% of the time.

Strongly preferred – but not required – qualifications are:

  • a Masters’ degree or other advanced degree in a relevant field;
  • experience as a Fellow in the Pahara-Aspen Fellowship or NextGen Fellowship.



Pahara provides competitive salaries and an attractive benefits package including full healthcare coverage for employees, and access to 401(k) accounts with a matching contribution policy.



We are a nimble and partially virtual organization by design so that our professionals can work where they have built their lives.  In-person meetings will be required; these will take place in Napa, California.

To Apply

Pahara is committed to providing equal opportunities. We serve diverse organizations and are committed to nondiscrimination. It is our policy to ensure that all individuals with whom we are in contact are treated equally without regard to age, race, disability, gender, marital status, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, expression, gender identity or veteran’s status.

The review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. Complete applications should consist of a cover letter with salary requirements, and a current resume. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Applications or inquiries about the position should be directed to the link below by clicking APPLY HERE:

Pahara Institute