CharterFolk X, Vol 18 – Christopher Mayes, “Getting It” in Ways that Advance our Entire Movement

Today it is our pleasure to recognize Christopher Mayes, Superintendent of Beatrice Mayes Institute in Houston Texas, as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.

Like example after example of other leaders recognized as CharterFolk Extraordinaire, Christopher comes from a long line of educators committed to improving educational opportunity for the kids and communities who need it most. The organization that operates Beatrice Mayes Institute was created by Christopher’s parents in 1966, and it has become the longest lasting African-American-led education organization in Houston.

As the Texas Public Charter Schools Association wrote in a recent article, Chris’s mother’s vision from the very beginning was to help improve educational opportunity for students who were not being well served by the schools in their community.

50 years later, Christopher accompanied his mother into the anniversary celebration for the organization.

Five years before that, after having attended the school himself, after having gone on to graduate from Prairie View A&M, and after having served as an engineer at NASA where he contributed to several missions including ones related to the International Space Station, Christopher realized that his personal mission was to return home and become Superintendent of the organization his family had started.

How does anyone step into a leadership role of an organization with such a storied history?

By beginning with the first three words that Christopher offers in the video below.

I get it.

Christopher gets the history of his family’s commitment.

He gets the value and the uniqueness of the educational experience the school offers to its students.

But more than that, he gets many of the things that are becoming even more important for our movement to get as we prepare to embark upon the fourth decade of the national charter school story.

He gets how important it is that the next chapter of our work feature many more organizations founded by people from the communities that we serve taking ever more responsibility for movement-wide leadership.

He gets the importance of creating organizations that are well tuned to the cultural needs of the communities we serve.

He gets how to build a tradition of academic excellence in all fields including STEM …

He also gets the importance of being able to take on grave adult challenges like the COVID pandemic while always retaining a deep sense of child-centeredness.

I mean, have you ever seen a funner …

… more informative …

… “tone-righter” video …

… than the one BMI produced showing their mascot Alex the Alligator teaching their entire school community …

…about the importance of everyone following COVID protocols?

Finally, Christopher is a leader who understands that our future success depends upon our movement building advocacy strength, and that requires that all of us get involved at deeper levels. It is why he has long played a critical role supporting advocacy efforts, like when he helped articulate the argument for expansion of the federal Charter School Program

It is also why he has become the most recent leader in Texas to become a board member of the Texas Public Charter Schools Association.

As Starlee Coleman, CEO of the Association, puts it …

In terms of someone who brings both a deep understanding of the history behind the drive to improve educational opportunity in our society for those who need it most, as well as a deep commitment to help build the advocacy strength the charter school movement will need to succeed far into the future, you are simply not going to find a more compelling leader than Christopher Mayes.

In other words, Christopher is a person who gets it, and his example is one that is helping our entire movement get it, too.

It’s why it is our honor today to recognize Christopher Mayes as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.