Author Archives: Alyssa Schwenk

Bellwether Partner Sara Mead to Serve as Assistant Superintendent for Early Learning in DC

Longtime Bellwether Partner and noted early-childhood education expert Sara Mead will leave the organization at the end of this month to become the next Assistant Superintendent for Early Learning in DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).

Staff pictures for Bellwether Education, in Washington, DC, 10-27-2015. Photo by Toby Jorrin.Mead has been a part of Bellwether from its beginning, joining in 2010 as the third official employee. As a partner and the head of our Policy practice, she has advised hundreds of clients and authored dozens of papers examining the impact of various policy levers. 

At OSSE, Mead will help shape the development of the early childhood sector in the city she calls home. Her last day at Bellwether will be July 29th. She begins her new role on August 3rd.

“This is an exciting opportunity for me to directly benefit DC’s youngest learners at a time when early childhood programs and families of young children face unprecedented challenges. My new role will build on work I’ve been doing for 10 years at Bellwether, helping improve outcomes for underserved children,” said Mead. “I’m grateful to have seen the team grow from six to sixty, and know that there are incredible leaders — including Andy Rotherham, Jennifer Schiess, Julie Squire, Allison Crean Davis, Jeff Schulz, and Rebecca Gifford Goldberg — to continue our work on behalf of clients and kids.” 

Partner and co-founder Andy Rotherham added: “Sara was instrumental in building Bellwether into what it is today and is part of its fabric. She’s a wonderful, generous, and caring colleague and while we’re all excited for her, she will be missed in big and small ways.”

Partner Jennifer Schiess will step into the role of practice lead for Bellwether’s policy and evaluation team. A six-year veteran of the team, she’ll oversee Bellwether’s work answering questions of policy. Looking forward, we’ll continue to iterate on how we grow and create impact across the P-20 spectrum as a firm. 

“We have always said that Bellwether is a great place to build a career, learn a lot, and carry that knowledge forward to other positions,” says Bellwether managing partner Mary Kroupa Wells. “While we’re going to miss her deeply, we are absolutely thrilled to see Sara support DC’s youngest residents in this critical role and cannot wait to see the impact she has.” 

For More Information

Alyssa Schwenk
Interim Communications Director, Bellwether Education Partners
alyssa.schwenk@bellwethereducation.org

Education Leaders and COVID-19 Crisis Communications

“Crisis communications” may evoke images of Olivia Pope in a power suit, but they are an essential skill for any school, nonprofit, or education agency. A natural disaster, a flub at a public hearing, or an altercation in your school cafeteria can all be a “crisis” situation even during ordinary times. And, of course, there can be a pandemic.

Education leaders nationwide are being asked to adapt to a fast-evolving public health crisis while serving students and families. Add deep economic uncertainty and, as a leader, you’ve got a complicated communications challenge. 

graphic of a broken heart on a smart phone screen

On Tuesday my colleagues discussed the importance of being strategic even in times of crisis. Today we’ll dig into three best practices for communicating those priorities:

Know your audience

You probably, in fact, have several audiences you have to reach. If you’re a school leader, you may have teachers, families of students, the district or your authorizer, and potentially the general public, all of whom need up-to-date information. A nonprofit leader has employees, the communities served, donors, and perhaps clients or other stakeholders.

Start by listing what information each of your audiences needs to know. Think through what barriers they may be facing — these may be technical (such as intermittent access to the internet), functional (you may not share a language), or relational (you may have to deliver some bad news). 

With those in mind, craft a message, select a medium, and choose a messenger. For instance, as a school leader, you may decide to have teachers make phone calls when sharing updates on closures

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COVID-19: Pro Bono Advising Available Now

Like many nonprofits, Bellwether’s operations are impacted by COVID-19. In particular, the academic advising, strategic planning, and evaluation work we do inside schools is paused, and we’ve shut down team member travel.

Short term, this means we have unexpected surplus capacity which we’d like to make available, pro bono, to school districts and charter school networks that are figuring out how to address a variety of issues related to operations, strategy and decision-making, state and federal policy guidance, curriculum and instruction, and financial planning.

Across our team of more than 60 full-time professionals, we have former school leaders, nonprofit leaders, media professionals, and experienced strategy consultants. Our team members have worked at the Department of Education, The White House, top-tier management consulting firms, and state education agencies around the country. Three-quarters of our staff have worked in the classroom, and some still teach part-time now.

To learn more, please tell us about your district or network and what you need. We cannot service all requests but will take on as many as possible and farm others out to peers as we are able.

If you’d like to share this news with someone in your network, we also posted this update on LinkedIn.