Press Release: August 2, 2012

New Pahara Institute Created to Support Reform Leaders for Public Education

National nonprofit organization announces new class of entrepreneurial leaders for its Pahara-Aspen Education Fellows Program

SAN FRANCISCO (August 2, 2012) – A new national nonprofit organization – the Pahara Institute – that is focused on supporting the sustainability, diversity, and quality of leadership for education reform, is launching today. Kim Smith, former CEO of Bellwether Education Partners, will serve as President and CEO.

The guiding principle of the Pahara Institute is that bold transformational leaders are needed to reform public education so that every child in America has access to an excellent public school. A strong cadre of entrepreneurial leaders is needed to push for innovative solutions, new policies, and practices that create equitable and high quality educational opportunities for all children – especially those from low-income and underserved communities.

“In order to achieve educational equity and excellence at the same time, we must make bold improvements to our public school system, so that every child has an equal shot at receiving an excellent education,” said Kim Smith, Pahara Institute founder and CEO. “We are creating the Pahara Institute to help sustain and develop the transformational leaders we need to accomplish this important goal, and to create an opportunity for these reform leaders to work together to strengthen and deepen the reform movement itself.”

The Pahara Institute’s flagship program is the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship, formerly the Aspen- New Schools Fellowship. The two-year, cohort-based program is modeled after the renowned Henry Crown Fellowship at the Aspen Institute, and its goals are to identify transformational leaders in education reform, facilitate their dynamic growth, and strengthen their collective efforts to dramatically improve public education.

Today, the Pahara Institute announces its new class of Pahara-Aspen Education Fellows. These seasoned, entrepreneurial leaders were nominated by recognized leaders in the field and have been selected from a very competitive pool of hundreds of candidates. They will join a prestigious network of exceptional leadership Fellows, which includes leaders from the nonprofit, foundation, charter school, and traditional school district sectors. The 24 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellows who will begin in the fall of 2012 are:

  • Norman Atkins, Co-Founder and President, Relay Graduate School of Education
  • Robert Avossa, Superintendent, Fulton County Schools (GA)
  • Rhonda Broussard, Founder and President, St. Louis Language Immersion Schools
  • Judy Burton, President and Chief Executive Officer, Alliance College-Public Schools
  • Angela Cobb, Director, Return on Inspiration Labs
  • Ben Daley, Chief Academic Officer and Chief Operating Officer, High Tech High
  • Alex Hernandez, Partner, Charter School Growth Fund
  • Jennifer Hines, Senior Vice President for People and Program, YES Prep Public Schools
  • Peter Kannam, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, America Achieves
  • Chastity Lord, Chief External Officer, Achievement First Public Charter Schools
  • Frances McLaughlin, Chief Operating Officer, Education Pioneers
  • James Merriman, Chief Executive Officer, New York City Charter School Center
  • Julie Mikuta, Partner, NewSchools Venture Fund
  • Delia Pompa, Senior Vice President, Programs, National Council of La Raza
  • Alice Ray, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ripple Effects
  • Caroline Roemer, Executive Director, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools
  • Jarvis Sanford, Managing Director, Academy for Urban School Leadership
  • Eric Scroggins, Executive Vice President, Growth Strategy and Development, Teach For America
  • Derwin Sisnett, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Gestalt Community Schools
  • Elisabeth Stock, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, CFY
  • Rajiv Vinnakota, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Seed Foundation
  • Mary Wells, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Bellwether Education Partners
  • Joe Williams, Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform
  • De’Shawn Wright, Deputy Mayor for Education, Washington, DC

“Pahara-Aspen Fellows are an extraordinary group of men and women who are creating transformational change to help our public schools better serve low income students and communities,” said Peter Reiling, Executive Vice President, Leadership and Seminar Programs at the Aspen Institute. “We are delighted to welcome them into the Aspen Global Leadership Network where they will join 1500 other entrepreneurial Fellows from 45 countries who are bringing the passion, tenacity, and out-of-the-box thinking necessary to help drive the dramatic improvements the world needs to address the many challenges that surround us — from education to the environment, political civility to rural poverty, and more.”

The Pahara-Aspen Fellowship provides exceptional leaders the unusual opportunity to step back from their demanding daily work to reflect with peers on their collective and individual impact as leaders and change agents. Fellows challenge each other to think beyond traditional silos and sector boundaries to collectively develop strategies that enhance their effectiveness as leaders, address leadership challenges in public education, and accelerate the improvements needed to provide high quality learning opportunities for all of our nation’s children.

To access bios and photos of the Pahara-Aspen Fellows, click here.

For More Information:
Saamra Mekuria-Grillo, Deputy Director, Pahara Institute (510) 984-2513,

About the Pahara Institute

The Pahara Institute is a national nonprofit organization focused on supporting and developing transformational leaders for education reform. Its programs, including the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship, are designed to identify seasoned leaders in education reform, and through a time-tested dialogue approach, strengthen and sustain their efforts to bring about transformational improvements to our public schools. Pahara’s work strives to overcome inequalities in our society by accelerating innovations and reforms that increase access to high-quality education for all children, particularly those in low-income and underserved communities. For more information, please visit

About the Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also maintains offices in New York City and has an international network of partners.

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