Eric Schwarz is the CEO and Co-Founder of Citizen Schools.
I am excited and proud to share the news that Larry Summers, the President Emeritus of Harvard University and former Treasury Secretary, has agreed to become our next board chair. Please check out the story from this morning's Boston Globe. Yesterday morning Larry spoke at a Citizen Schools breakfast event in Boston with prospective and current supporters. Larry began his talk by sharing, “I’m here because I care about equality of opportunity.” I have met Larry six times now over the last nine months and have been consistently impressed by his deep commitment to education, his intellect, and his desire to make a difference. Larry described inequality of opportunity based on family income in America as “unacceptable.” He said rethinking our educational system in order to close this gap is an urgent national challenge. I couldn't agree more.
During his talk, Larry recalled a story from his time as Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. The event has, in his words, “haunted” him ever since. In his role, Larry would often visit cities across the country to meet with the local Treasury departments and finance leaders. On every trip he insisted on stopping by a public school in the city. Sometimes he would teach a short class on economics or speak to members of teaching staff, always trying to learn more and share more.
It was a trip to an inner-city school in Oakland that still sticks with him today.He had just finished giving the students a speech about the importance of education and was feeling very good about it, when he was approached by a teacher. She congratulated him on the speech, but then asked how her students were supposed to believe him when the school's walls were completely chipped away and hadn't been painted in 18 years. She asked him how the students could believe him when they got nauseous during dissections in science class because the ventilation system was broken. He didn't have an answer for her.
We are not the whole answer to the question of how low-income students in under-resourced schools can have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. But I believe that Citizen Schools can be a very important part of the answer And I know Larry Summers does too.
I am lucky to have partnered deeply with a great founding chair -- Marsha Feinberg -- who was then joined by a terrific co-chair in the early years, Shashi Rajpal. Over the last 13 years Sherif Nada and then Andrew Balson have been terrific partners as board leaders as we have established ourselves as national leaders in education reform. I believe Larry Summers will bring a wealth of connections and insight and a deep commitment to education as a driver of shared economic prosperity. With all of our partnership, he can help lead us to an ever-greater position of influence and impact on behalf of low-income children across the country.
Please see the list of our current board members below.In his talk, Larry shared the “unacceptable” fact that by the time they reach middle school, children from middle and upper income families have received 6,000 more hours of learning time than their low-income peers. This time comes from things like more summer programs, more time with parents, more out-of-school enrichment and additional access to pre-school programs.
Larry, one of the country’s most brilliant economic minds, noted that this opportunity gap and consequent achievement gap, is not just a social justice issue – it is an economic issue that threatens the continued prosperity of every citizen. In America today, for both the affluent and the impoverished, parental wealth now predicts adult success more than at any point in over 100 years. Larry believes that Citizen Schools can help reverse this dangerous trendline and he is excited to help us work towards our vision of closing opportunity and achievement gaps. I am honored that he is joining us in this mission.
Over the past 18 years we've grown from an after-school program in Boston, to a nationally respected expanded learning day model in twelve districts in seven states. Now we are trying to take the next step and turn a growing set of proof points into a definitive case for how to transform low-income middle schools. Larry is in a unique position to help guide and support us as we make our case.
We have an opportunity to present the country with a model that can transform a low-income, poor-performing public middle school into a high-performing, high-opportunity change agent. That's a powerful opportunity. With continued dedication and our growing community of champions, which now includes Larry Summers, I believe we can seize it.
Current board members:
- Andrew Balson (Board chair) - Managing Director, Bain Capital
- Larry Summers (Board chair-elect) - Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus, Harvard University
- Rob Dickey - Executive Vice President, Leggat McCall Properties
- Peter Gorman – Senior Vice President, Amplify Education
- Tripp Jones – Managing Director, New Profit Inc.
- Sherif Nada (Past board chair) – Retired President, Fidelity Investments
- Rosemary Reilly (Clerk, non-voting member) - Partner, WilmerHale
- Ned Rimer (Citizen Schools Co-founder) – Co-Founder & CEO, Ithaka, LLC
- Steven Schwartz – Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Cognizant Technology Solutions
- Eric Schwarz – Co-founder & CEO, Citizen Schools
- Susan Siebert (incoming board member) – Partner, Jones Day
- Edward Skloot – Former Director, Center for Strategic Philanthropy of Duke University
- Sanjeev Verma – Co-founder and Executive Vice President, Airvana
- Omar Wasow – Assistant Professor, Princeton University
- Lynn Wiatrowski – Executive Vice President, Bank of America Merrill Lynch