Gloucester, Massachusetts, United States
Bay State Reading Institute
As the founder and director of a non-profit organization, the most satisfying thing is having people tell you you’ve made a difference. When I hear teachers tell me they are seeing their students accomplish things they never imagined were possible, I swell with pride.
I started Bay Sate Reading Institute in 2005. We are a non-profit that partners with 33 Massachusetts elementary schools to improve education, in particular reading levels. We employ 22 people, most of them part-time and have an annual budget of $2.5 million.
I am very proud that we were selected for the prestigious Invest in Innovation Award by the US Department of Education and my business partner and I are both Purpose Prize Fellows.
I have a PhD in Economics and worked both as a college professor and as an economic policy analyst. I enjoyed my work, but my passion for education reform is what ultimately made me decide to start a non-profit organization. When I was unable to convince Massachusetts state officials to set up programs that I thought would be successful, I decided that maybe it was time to try and set up a program myself.
It’s so great to be in a job that is really worthwhile. We're making major changes in the way teachers teach and principals lead. We often hear teachers say that their students are performing at levels well beyond anything the teachers ever thought possible.
In addition to supporting schools, we also have to persuade legislators, state officials and school superintendents to support us. I’ve had to find the “sweet spot” of satisfying officials, making sure employees are happy and reaching our program goals.
For the most part, my job is about motivating people. I am also very proud of the incredibly talented and dedicated staff that we’ve put together. As a project, we are successful only if we can change the behavior of teachers and principals. So we think a lot about what motivates them.
My own personal challenge is to figure out what makes the difference between good schools and outstanding schools - and what changes we need to make (both in our own organization and in our partner schools) to become outstanding. This quest has been very, very interesting - and I think we're onto some changes that will make a big difference.
I know a lot about non-profit leadership and because our project is about education reform, I now know quite a bit about good pedagogy and good educational leadership. I have also learned a lot about how to manage an organization full of talented, happy and productive employees. I can teach you how to set up an organization like ours with practical ideas about how to recruit, retain and motivate staff, how to present to potential clients and funders and if you’re in education, how to work with principals, superintendents and teachers.
We’re also experts in running an efficient organization. Our administrative overhead is less than 10%.