CharterFolk Chat #7 – Nella Garcia Urban, Challenging the Charter School Movement to Sponsor a New Generation of Latino Leadership

Good morning CharterFolk.

Today I am excited to release our latest CharterFolk Chat, this one with Nella Garcia Urban, Chief Program Officer for Yes Prep Public Schools.

As CharterFolk will remember, Nella joined three other Latino Contributors to pen a great column to kick off the New Year.

CharterFolk Contributor Column – The Missing Charter Leaders: ¿Dónde están los Latinos y las Latinas?

Ever since CharterFolk Board Chair Emilio Pack and I began talking about the possibility of publishing a post on this topic, we have recognized the need to avoid “one and done” thinking, and to find ways to continue and deepen the discussion. I am very pleased that Nella was willing to help us do just that, offering many important observations and suggestions for how to grow additional Latino leadership within the national charter school movement. I hope you all have a chance to view the interview in its entirety, but for those of you wanting to jump to highlights, I provide a guide below.

  • At the 3:45 mark, Nella shares the story of her origins growing up in the Rio Grande River, attending Rice University and then deciding to pursue a law degree, only to come into contact with Yes Prep, where she saw a culture of learning supporting absolutely all kids so compelling that she decided to become an educator. That set her on her remarkable trajectory within Yes where she has taken on ever higher levels of leadership responsibility.
  • At the 8:25 mark, Nella does a great job of grounding the whole discussion in an awareness that public education for Latino students in this country simply must improve. She also presents a very compelling case that Latino educators bringing the “fullness of their experience and the knowledge and context of our culture” are a vital catalyst for improving educational opportunity for Latino students.
  • At 12 minutes, Nella talks about the importance of being on top of the data as it relates to both Latino educational achievement as well as the representation of Latino educators in the charter school movement.
  • At 17 minutes, Nella recounts a story about how important it is that organizations make diversity and equity matters a top priority, and she reports that Yes Prep is an organization whose leadership fully embraces the importance of DEI.
  • At 22:10, Nella shares how her experience leading Yes Prep’s teacher credentialing program has helped her understand the importance of providing support networks to early career teachers. She also reports that offering mentoring programs is not enough, but that in fact, organizations must commit to sponsoring the rise of future Latino leaders.
  • At 27:30, Nella talks about how important it is to have diverse leadership within our advocacy organizations if they hope to be able to give voice to the communities we serve. And when we actually empower Latino parents and other parents within our advocacy organizations, we are going to see emerge “a force far greater than we can even imagine.”
  • At 33 minutes, Nella puts in perspective the challenge of the equity work we are taking on as a movement. “We are trying to change and access systems that were not designed for us.”
  • At 39:20, Nella talks about the need for places like CharterFolk to elevate the stories of Latino leaders and other leaders of color within the movement.
  • At 42:45. Nella underscores the importance of African American and Latinx leaders bridging toward greater relationship and alliance. That then grows into a broader exchange about how the charter school movement has shown itself able to overcome shortcomings in the past, but we have only done so when we have been intentional about the problems we have faced. Similar intentionality is required now to grow more diverse leadership in charter schools.
  • At 48 minutes, Nella shares thoughts on some of the themes we have been exploring at CharterFolk including her belief that it is very important that we communicate how charter schools are public schools, and we demonstrate through what we model what we want for all of public education.
  • Finally, Nella closes making the case for everyone in our movement doing all we can to help grow the next generation of diverse leadership we will need to succeed in the years ahead.

I would like to thank Nella for being part of a great CharterFolk Chat. I really learned a lot from Nella’s insights and hope many CharterFolk viewers will as well.