Author Archives: Mary K. Wells

Welcoming Our New Senior Advisers

It’s a great privilege to work with my colleagues every day. Individually and collectively, the people at Bellwether offer remarkable ideas, skills, and talents to help build the education field in a way that delivers superior solutions and results.

Our team is made up of experienced education leaders with decades of hands-on experience. Three-quarters of our staff have worked in the classroom, some as teachers, others as school operators, and some in both roles. This direct experience gives us an understanding of the work “on the ground” in schools, districts, and education organizations.

Members of our team have also served as founders, policymakers, government officials, nonprofit and district executives, executive search professionals, organizational development and coaching practitioners, and strategy consultants in top-tier management consulting firms such as Bain & Company, The Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company, and Deloitte.

Regardless of where we’ve been, all of us at Bellwether are united by a common passion and purpose. Bellwether is a mission-driven nonprofit, and we do this work because we know that when education organizations set and meet lofty goals for students, more kids receive an education that puts them on track for a life of choices and self-determination. And today, I’m thrilled to announce that our team is expanding with the addition of two new leaders who share that commitment to ensuring every child has access to a high-quality education: senior advisers Gwen Baker and Bill Durbin.

Gwen BakerGwen Baker brings over 15 years of experience in education reform, specializing in the use of technology to advance ambitious goals. Before joining Bellwether, Gwen brings direct organizational leadership experience as the co-founder of CoreSpring, Inc., whose mission is to provide the field with access to high-quality formative assessment content and digital authoring tools. Gwen built the organization from an idea into a successful nonprofit, managing all aspects of product development, fundraising, business development and talent management. Prior to her work at CoreSpring, Gwen worked at NewSchools Venture Fund, New Visions for Public Schools, and Teachscape. She began her career consulting at Accenture.

Bill DurbinBill Durbin has worked in education over the past 18 years, focusing on school leader development and management, school performance management, and network growth strategy. At Bellwether, Bill will help school systems define their academic strategies and build the scalable systems to support strong academic performance. For the past two years, Bill served as the chief of schools at DSST Public Schools in Denver, Colorado. In this role, he was responsible for 12 schools and 5,000 students, leadership pipeline management, leader development programming, and the yearly school planning processes. Before DSST, Bill served as YES Prep Public Schools’ head of schools.

Gwen and Bill join Bellwether’s Strategic Advising team, which advises leaders and organizations on their most pressing strategic and operational issues. The Strategic Advising team’s work ranges from supporting entrepreneurs through business plan development, to partnering with established organizations on growth and performance improvement, to assessing new opportunities for impact as the field evolves. I look forward to our work around education technology and academic strategy deepening with Gwen and Bill’s leadership.

Please join me in welcoming our new teammates!

New Year, New Look

Bellwether was founded in 2009 with the vision of a world in which race, ethnicity, and income no longer predict life outcomes for students. There were four of us here at the beginning, education leaders with expertise in strategy, policy, and talent. We wanted to bring those skills to help education organizations in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors dramatically accelerate results for underserved students.

We believed then — as we do now — that the only way to ensure that all children have access to high-quality schools is to take a holistic approach to education’s most pressing challenges. And we sought to build a nonprofit where we’d all be proud to work.

Fast forward eight years to 2017: Our staff has grown from four to over fifty, and we’ve served over 325 clients and counting! While a lot has happened in that time, what hasn’t changed are our core values and commitment to quality, cutting-edge solutions to the most longstanding and complicated problems facing the education sector.

Bellwether has grown in people power, experience, and sophistication, and we wanted that to show on the outside, too. To mark our eighth year — and to honor our founding vision — we’ve refreshed our brand. See for yourself:





You might be asking yourself, why bellwether? Here’s a definition:

\‘BEL-‚weth- r\ noun; A leader of a movement or activity; also, a leading indicator of future trends.

Our new logo is just that: a leading indicator, with a compass dial symbolizing our work as trailblazers, guides, and trusted advisers. We’re moving the needle forward.

We’re excited to debut this new look for the new year, and look forward to rolling up our sleeves with so many inspiring organizations who share our commitment to serving students — in 2017 and beyond.

Election Reflections

Plenty is being said about what the presidential election means and what it says about America’s values. At Bellwether, we deeply value inclusion, equity, and tolerance alongside other democratic values, including liberty and freedom. For us, the election did not change our deep commitment to these values, which is as strong today as it was prior to Election Day.

Something else that hasn’t changed since November 8th? Across America, children are getting up each morning and going to school. They’re still counting on their schools to help them learn and cultivate the knowledge and skills they need to navigate adulthood and lead a happy, fulfilled life full of choices and opportunities. Some of their schools go above and beyond in delivering on this promise. Too many others fall far short especially for students in underserved communities. Addressing these deep and persistent inequities is at the core of what we do at Bellwether.

The election matters, of course, but leaders at the state and local level are still rolling up their sleeves and ready to continue doing the challenging work of expanding education equity. They’re trying to sort out the opportunities and challenges the Every Student Succeeds Act creates and continuing or launching their own initiatives to improve schooling.

Helping them is a primary reason Bellwether exists. And students need our support now more than ever. That’s why we’re staying focused on continuing our work with and alongside state and local organizations and agencies on the ground working for kids. Across our strategy, talent, and policy teams, we offer more than 50 professionals committed to the vision of a world in which race and income are no longer predictors of life outcomes for students. We all work towards an American education system that affords every individual the opportunity to determine their own path and to lead a productive and fulfilling life.

If your work aligns with these values and we can support what you do, we’d like to hear from you. Please contact us.

Movers & Shakers at Bellwether

The people here at Bellwether are brought together by passion and a common purpose. We do this work because we know that when our clients succeed, more kids receive an education that puts them on track for a life of choices and self-determination.

Our team is made up of experienced education leaders with decades of hands-on experience as teachers, founders, nonprofit and district executives, strategy consultants, executive search professionals, and organizational development and coaching practitioners. Individually and collectively, the people at Bellwether offer remarkable ideas, skills, and talents to help build the education field in a way that delivers superior solutions and results. It’s a great privilege to work with my colleagues every day.

This year has been a big year of transition and continued growth across all of our teams, and this season we have a number of people who earned promotions to senior positions. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize their great leadership within Bellwether, and the field, and thank them for their contributions. I congratulate them, and invite you to celebrate with them:

I’m also thrilled to announce two new senior team members who are joining Bellwether:

  • Angela Cobb, Senior Adviser, Talent Advising
  • Lora Cover, Principal, Talent Advising

Angela and Lora are both joining Bellwether’s Talent Services team, which finds and develops exceptional talent through executive search services, and helps ensure that organizations have the systems, culture, and capacity to cultivate diverse teams of leaders who can transform the lives of students. From their new leadership positions, Angela and Lora will help Bellwether further build out our talent advising practice, with a particular focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion work.

Please join me in congratulating our team for their extraordinary work for kids, and help us welcome our new teammates aboard!