CharterFolk X Vol 29, Dr. Blondean Davis – Taking Inspiration from Her Mother to Release Potential and Possibility in All Students

Good morning, CharterFolk.

Today it is our honor to recognize Dr. Blondean Davis, CEO of Southland College Preparatory Charter High School and Superintendent of Matteson School District 162 in Richton Park Illinois, as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.

At the ripe-old age of three, Dr. Davis declared that her life’s calling was to become an educator. She had been inspired to teach by her mother who often reminded her: “If you’re going to be a teacher, make sure you’re a good one.”

Talk about taking a mother’s words to heart!

From that point forward, Dr. Davis set about acquiring the education and the experience she would need to become one of the most respected educators in all of Chicago, the city she has called home her entire life. First stops were undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in education from Loyola University. She then set about amassing an amazing track record of effective teaching and increased leadership responsibility in public education, working as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and area superintendent in Chicago Public Schools, and in 2002 becoming the Superintendent of Matteson, a K-8 district located in the south Chicago suburbs.

Since then, Dr. Davis’s achievement and reputation have only further grown. In 2005, she was named one of ten “People’s Choice Candidates” for CEO of Chicago Public Schools …

… appearing on the docket …

… right above …

… Arne Duncan, no less.

Three years later, she was named Illinois Superintendent of the Year.

In her role as superintendent of a K-8 school district, Dr. Davis became aware of the unacceptably poor high school options that were available to her students and families. Her message was simple:

There has to be a change in the way we educate our children. High schools are failing.

So, while maintaining her position as Superintendent, Dr. Davis decided to spearhead the development of Southland College Preparatory Charter High School in 2010. The story of the school’s opening was a complicated one, with the local high school district denying Southland’s initial charter and throwing up many other roadblocks.

But that didn’t stop Dr. Davis, who led an appeal to the Illinois State Board of Education …

… which overturned the school district’s denial, providing Southland the authority it needed to open.

Southland College Prep has gone on to become a pinnacle of educational excellence in south Chicago, featuring a famously long school day (as described by Director of Operations Dr. Corey L. Levy) …

… an arts program unlike anything else in the region …

… and a history of ensuring that 100% of graduates gain admission to competitive colleges and universities.

Starting with its first graduating class in 2014, Southland students have secured tens of millions in scholarships every year …

… with students going on to attend to every Ivy League College and every Historically Black College and University in the nation. All told, as of last year, Southland students have secured an astounding $200M in scholarships!

It has made Southland College Prep one of the most respected public schools in all of Chicago.

Since its inception, Southland College Prep’s mission has been about potential and possibility.

Throughout her career, Dr. Davis has specialized in unleashing potential and possibility in others. That included building a whole educational experience for her school community around one family’s relative, who was among the group of remarkable women profiled in the recent movie “Hidden Figures.”

It has also included helping send many other students to HBCU’s by fundraising millions of dollars as the Chair of the Chicago United Negro College Fund, an accomplishment that ultimately resulted in Dr. Davis being named a Trustee of Tougaloo College.

Finally, it has included never forgetting the importance of blazing trails for women taking on ever higher levels of leadership in public education. Recently, Dr. Davis received the Women in Leadership Award from the national School Superintendents Association when she cited yet again the support and inspiration her mother had provided her.

I am a daughter, a daughter that had such a great role model, and even though my mother is no longer with me, she was the inspiration for me becoming a teacher. No matter what I might do, no matter what life may bring, I enjoy greatly what I do, but I always do remember that it is in the forefront of my mind and my heart and in my soul to teach, to lead and to give everything that I have to the children who are entrusted to me.

In taking to heart her mother’s encouragement to become a good educator, across Dr. Davis’s remarkable career she has become in fact an extraordinary one …

… one who inspires us all to do even more to release the potential and possibility in all students.

It is why we couldn’t be more honored today than to recognize Dr. Blondean Davis as a shining example of CharterFolk Extraordinaire.