Location: Philadelphia, PA
Mastery Charter Schools is a nonprofit network of 24 public schools serving 14,500 students in Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ. Mastery is a unique charter network in that nearly all of their schools are neighborhood schools that were turnarounds of previously struggling district schools. Consequently, Mastery’s schools serve the highest poverty communities in our cities and a higher percentage of students with disabilities than their host districts. Mastery’s turnaround work has been recognized by US Department of Education and President Obama for dramatically increasing academic achievement and decreasing violence.
Mastery believes that educational inequity is the most pressing social problem facing our country. Their goal is to demonstrate a model urban school district that enables all students to develop the academic and personal skills they need to pursue their dreams. Their program model is rooted in a commitment to both high expectations and high support; to love and to breakthrough academic outcomes. Mastery is driven by an unwavering belief in their students and respect for the communities they serve.
This position represents a compelling opportunity to be part of a charter management organization (CMO) that is addressing the most difficult and important problem facing public education – the systemic failure of public-school districts to effectively serve high poverty communities of color
Mastery Charter School is seeking a Chief of External Strategy (CES) to support their mission and lead the creation and execution of strategies to manage Mastery’s external environment. Reporting to the CEO, the CES is a key member of the executive leadership team focused on building a high performing organization that serves as a model for school districts serving low-income communities of color. The CES will craft and execute a political strategy at the state, city, and school district level in both Philadelphia and Camden through leveraging personal relationships, coalition building, partnerships with local CDC and advocacy groups, public relations, and parent advocacy. Mastery has a 5-person organizing team that has nurtured and supported parent leadership groups at each of our 24 schools. The CES will manage the Sr. Director of the Parent Advocacy team that leads the organizing team and potentially the Development Director, focused on external engagement. This is a high impact position within the organization and a high-profile position to external constituencies. Accordingly, an exceptional strategic mind, outstanding relationship skills, successful political/advocacy experience, and grass roots organizing expertise are prerequisites for this role.
Develop & Execute External Strategy
The CES will develop and manage an overarching external relations strategy designed to engage key constituencies and policy makers to ensure state and local school district policies are supportive of Mastery’s work. Mastery’s Philadelphia charters are granted by the School District of Philadelphia, but much of the funding and charter policies originate at the state level. In Camden, Mastery is directly accountable to the NJ Department of Education, but also relies on the Camden School District and local school board for a variety of services. As a result, the web of relationships and power bases Mastery must navigate includes a wide and diverse range of state, district, and community leaders. This work will include:
Support & Coordinate Parent Advocacy
A primary driver of Mastery’s external strategy are their parent leaders. The CES will supervise a Senior Director of Parent Advocacy and their team of four organizers. The team supports parents working on issues in their communities and schools as well as broader public policies that impact Mastery’s mission. Mastery parent leaders are frequent visitors to state and local politicians’ offices.
Build & Nurture Diverse Web of Relationships & Partnerships
Both because of Mastery’s neighborhood school focus and the need for a broad range of allies, a key driver of Mastery’s external strategy is building a diverse and deep range of relationships with key individuals and institutions. This means building relationships with key power brokers at the state, city, and district levels as well as with local community leaders, non-profits, and faith organizations. Ideally, Mastery is building close relationships with organizations and individuals who support its work while opening lines of communication with those who don’t.
Mastery has a range of natural allies and partners in community development organizations and racial and social justice advocates. Through partnerships of mutual self-interests, the CES will build political coalitions that cross traditional anti- and pro-charter lines.
Leverage Money and Power
The CES will build and leverage relationships with local politicians, power brokers, and Mastery board members in service of its political strategy. The CES will also organize and leverage political contributions of board members and supporters to support our political strategy.
Public Relations and Communications
The CES will represent Mastery at public forums and proactively influence key stakeholders via a comprehensive communications strategy which positions Mastery as a national leader and innovator in creating a high performing public-school district that truly serve all students with the highest level of quality. Forums will include traditional media, social media, speaking engagements, and events. The CES will work closely with the Director of Communications and outside consultants to execute this work.
Qualifications and Skills
The CES will have a successful track record of managing external strategy and/or political campaigns. Experience in the education sector is not essential. This individual should have strengths in political strategy and grass roots organizing. Experience in policy development is a plus. This work is important and challenging. This individual must be passionate about quality public education for low-income students of color in order to sustain the effort this job will require.
The ideal candidate will have the following attributes:
- Politics, Power, and Influence Savvy — Can assess power and influence dynamics, assess key players’ motivations and perspectives. Knows how to navigate politics.
- Strategic Thinking — Can see the big picture, determine root causes and motivations, and figure out how to work towards an end goal.
- Relationship Builder — Can build relationships with a wide variety of political leaders, community leaders, and School Board members
- Effective Advocate – Able to distil complex issues into concise talking points.
- Communications Sophistication — Understands communications strategy, marketing, and public relations. Writes effectively.
- Team leader — Can effectively manage and develop team leaders to execute effectively.
- Organized, Effective, Project Leader – Manages multiple priorities and gets things done. Organized and detail oriented. Can teach others to do the same.
- Mission & Values Aligned — Deep mission conviction and alignment with Mastery’s values. Takes the high road. Humble – ego is in check.
- Minimum seven years of senior political or external strategy
- Experience leading grass roots organizing initiatives.
- A track record of success managing and developing teams.
- Marketing or communications in a large organization environment is highly desirable.
- Experience in an educational setting is a plus, but not required.
- Outstanding oral and written communication skills.
Mastery Charter Schools is an equal opportunity employer and actively encourages applications from people of all backgrounds. Compensation is competitive. Mastery offers a full benefits program and opportunities for professional growth.