Incoming CharterFolk Board Chair Kristen McCaw Offers a Contributor Column: CharterFolk – United in Ingenuity

Good morning, CharterFolk.

Today we are pleased to share a Contributor Column from Kristen McCaw, incoming Board Chair of CharterFolk and Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Seminar.

We provide a bio for Kristen below.

Kristen is the Co-Founder/Co-CEO of Seminar, an always-on professional learning community. Kristen experienced the opportunities and challenges of leadership firsthand when leading charter networks. With Seminar, Kristen and her co-founder, Jen Davis Wickens, are providing current and future charter leaders with the tools, training, and community they wished they had as senior-level leaders and founders.

Kristen co-founded and served as the CFO/COO of Impact Public Schools, a network of public charter schools serving over 1,300 students. Notably, Impact’s academic performance put it in the top 5% of charter schools nationally on multiple measures. Impact also won a national award for its COVID-19 response. Kristen led and built the systems for the finance, operations, talent, human resources, data, and technology functions of the organization. 

Kristen has also served as the COO/Chief Diversity Officer for Summit Public Schools, where she supported out-of-state expansion and the launch of 5 schools. Kristen coached teams to successfully launch 24 schools at the California Charter Schools Association. She started her career in special education and assessments at Success Academies. Kristen is a Pahara Fellow and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

CharterFolk – United in Ingenuity

Receiving the Baton

As the incoming board chair, I am thrilled to build on the success of Emilio Pack, who has worked closely with Jed Wallace and stewarded CharterFolk from inception to a powerful movement with thousands of readers. Serving in this role is personally significant to me as a longtime charter school leader. My journey in education began from a desire to create schools that would have better served my Black, immigrant family and others like us. I have worked in large networks, small schools, and co-founded a network of schools. Throughout this work, the most significant obstacle I have seen is protectionist politics that distract (and in some cases, prevent) leaders from doing good work for children and families. This underscores the critical need for robust advocacy across our nation—a mission that CharterFolk continues to spearhead, inspire, and shape. I am honored to take the baton from Emilio and work alongside Jed, as we continue this vital relay race towards advancing greatly more public schools. 

A Shared Passion Project

CharterFolk is a collective passion project, mirroring the spirit of the charter school movement itself. This is illustrated by our numerous contributors, the nominations for CharterFolk X, and the unwavering commitment of our board members. Each of these contributions has co-created a community where charter leaders can reflect, hear a different perspective, be inspired, be challenged, and grow. 

Innovating Through Our Challenges

As a sector, the obstacles before us are great. But, frankly, they have always been great. As I reflected with a group of charter school leaders on one of our more recent collective challenges – running schools during the pandemic – the heartache in the room was palpable. But as we look back at the moment, there is also inspiration to be uncovered. The charter sector responded the way it always does to great adversity: with innovation. And as we approach a new obstacle – enrollment challenges coupled with the end of ESSER funding while demands on schools increase – the leaders I know aren’t putting their heads in their hands. Instead, they are asking, if I have few resources and greater demands, how can advances in AI and automation help us do our work more efficiently? What can I learn from my peers? They are seeing a challenge and responding not only with resilience, but with ingenuity and unity. 

Your Invitation to Contribute

The desire to learn from and connect with other leaders is one I hear all the time – and doing so strengthens our sector. So consider this your personal invitation to share your insights, solutions, and experiences with the CharterFolk community. CharterFolk exists because of you—the heart and soul of the charter school movement.

Thank you for entrusting me with the role of board chair. I am incredibly excited about what we can achieve together. In the labyrinth of adversity, charter school leaders don’t just search for the exit; we create new paths.