Gratitude for Nina Rees, Our Lead CharterFolk Who Overcame Immense Challenge to Elevate Us All

Weekend greetings CharterFolk.

It is difficult from my remote location to craft a full post, but I did not want to let the occasion pass without offering proper recognition of Nina Rees for her amazing service at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 

As most of you know by now, Nina announced last week that she will be departing the Alliance at the end of the year. We all owe Nina an immense debt of gratitude for the contribution she made to a critical organization at a critical moment in time.

I joined the Board of the Alliance during my third year at CCSA not realizing that the organization was about to go through a leadership transition. As luck would have it, the board asked me to serve on the CEO search committee, and over a period of months working closely with Deborah McGriff, Mashea Ashton and Chris Nelson, we came to the conclusion that Nina was clearly the strongest candidate for the job, and we were delighted that the Board accepted our recommendation. And so Nina’s service to the National Alliance began.

Looking back on it now, I recognize that having played a role in the successful recruiting of Nina Rees to become the CEO of the National Alliance was among the most important contributions I have made to the movement during all my years in charterland.

Few remember it now, but there was a period when many doubted whether the Alliance would even continue to exist as an organization, such had been the Alliance’s struggles in the years before Nina started her service as CEO.

But under Nina’s leadership the Alliance experienced a period of profound renaissance. The organization focused on federal advocacy and communications. The staff got stronger. The Board got stronger. The organization’s standing in DC grew significantly. Confidence was restored among key leaders in the movement. New philanthropy was secured.  A C4 and a national PAC were established. And the policy wins mounted, including many years of increased Charter School Program funding, which has nearly doubled under Nina’s leadership.

All this occurred during a period of immense leadership challenge. The 2016 election threatened to rip the movement apart along red-blue lines. By 2018, Democrats at a national level were trending away from support for charter schools. And then the pandemic hit. Through it all, Nina’s steady hand helped the movement navigate obstacle after obstacle, actually building organizational and movement momentum amid a broader landscape where so much of rest of the public education was seen to be struggling and sadly off track.

Perhaps Nina’s finest hour was the spring of 2022 when she led the Alliance’s successful response to the Biden Administration’s effort to advance changes in regulations to the federal Charter School Program that would have had negative impact on the movement for decades to come. Instead, under Nina’s leadership, the Alliance rallied state associations and other advocacy partners nationwide to bring more than a thousand charter school parents and other supporters to march on the White House on May 11th. Even before the formal program got started in Lafayette Park, the administration began tweeting out its retreat, and when the final revised regulations were released a few months later, it was clear: Nina’s leadership had helped steer the national movement successfully through one of the greatest challenges it had ever faced.

For these and so many other reasons, I wanted to be sure to recognize Nina today for the extraordinary service she has offered to our movement during her years leading the National Alliance. Having served as our most visible CharterFolk at a national level for more than a decade, she elevated the work of all CharterFolk to heights never seen before, and she has poised us to achieve even more in the years and decades to come. What more could we ask of someone entrusted to a leadership position of such profound importance to the charter school movement?

And so it is with a deep sense of gratitude and respect for all that Nina has done, that I extend to her on behalf of all of us here at CharterFolk our deepest thanks and our best wishes for all her future endeavors.