Last year around this time, I took a brief sabbatical. The idea was to take some time away from the daily responsibilities of being Executive Director and consider how the world, and Washington Heights, was changing. More important, it was time to reflect upon how Operation Exodus was serving the families in the neighborhood, in light of those changes.
My journey with Exodus began 23 years ago. The world of education has changed a great deal in that time. The onset of the charter school model, research regarding low-income students and their needs, and the implementation of the common core assessments have been just a few of the shifts that have taken place.
I returned from the sabbatical with a suggestion. Handling operations and management, and all of the executive responsibilities, including fundraising, vision casting and financial management, I felt had become an organizational “bottleneck,” with never enough time, it seemed, to handle all of the details in all of those areas with the attention they deserved.
I proposed to the Exodus Board of Directors that my role be split. On one track would be programming and operations, and on another track, a director would oversee fundraising, financial management and other executive responsibilities.
Based on my own strengths, I realized I was best suited for the Chief Program Officer role, and asked that the Board begin a search for a Chief Executive Officer.
Many outside of Exodus suggested that the search could be long and arduous. Thankfully, God had other plans, and we are excited to announce that Dr. Mark Gonzalez will be joining us as our new Chief Executive Officer on April 3rd, less than 9 months after we began our search.
Despite all the external changes in education over the years, one thing remains stubbornly the same. Not many of the incremental improvements in the achievement gap for youth from low-income backgrounds have been in Washington Heights, or for many Latino English language learners. These students are still struggling mightily to achieve on par with their middle class peers.
My new role will allow me to focus even more diligently on the quality of services we provide to the students and families engaged with Exodus. Our mission will stay very much the same; helping Exodus elementary students gain admission into the highest performing middle and high schools so that they will be on track to graduate high school and be ready for college.
We will also continue to be a consistent, loving presence as they enter middle and high school, by inviting them in for clubs and activities that they can share with mentors, so that will get faith-based guidance during this time of social, emotional and spiritual growth.
I am overjoyed to be working alongside Mark to further the work that God began so long ago, “transforming hearts, educating minds,” and empowering kids to “reach new heights.” especially college and career readiness. Thanks to you, and your long-standing support, Exodus is poised and ready for this new chapter, excited to see what God has in store.
If you have the time, do consider reaching out. I would love to hear what you’ve been up to as well!