May 2 2022

The Future of Education: Youth, Families and Communities as Educational Leaders

Grantmakers for Education


May 2, 2:00 pm ET

The Spencer Foundation has teamed up with Phi Delta Kappan to publish a series of thought pieces about the kinds of schools and learning opportunities it may be possible to create in the coming decades. Grantmakers for Education is organizing a series of conversations for our members around the themes being explored and implications for grantmaking. Join funders, researchers, educators, students and advocates in exploring what may be possible and how it could shape your work.

Session 5: Youth, Families and Communities as Educational Leaders

The American education system is experiencing unprecedented pressures, leading classroom educators, support personnel and educational leaders at all levels to leave the field in large numbers. What would happen if we looked beyond traditional education leadership to include youth, families and communities to help sustain the energy and capacity of public schools? What if we turned to the untapped potential of community leaders already residing in our school neighborhoods to help reimagine education systems? And to help create learning environments in which all young people can have access to equitable learning experiences and the kinds of relationships that promote overall well-being?

We gathered thought leaders from Portland, Maine who have been working to engage youth, families and communities in ways that tap into community wisdom and strengths to help support learners in new ways. They will share their experiences in seeking out previously unheard voices to help rethink what is meant by leadership, as well as new insights they’ve gained from their community on leading and learning in public education. We will also hear from Nellie Mae Education Foundation, who has been investing in this work over the long term, helping build the capacity of education leaders and community leaders to engage differently with each other and the work.

The Phi Delta Kappan article related to this session is Possible futures: Youth, families, and communities as educational leaders.

While others are welcome to attend, this event is intended for members and education grantmakers. The session will run for one hour.

There is no cost to attend this Grantmakers for Education program. Registration closes 15 minutes prior to the program time. Thank you for your patience; we review each registration in advance.

About the Presenters

More to come

Pious Ali

Pious Ali
Portland Empowered

Pious joined the Portland Empowered program in 2010 (11) since its inception at the City of Portland Refugee Service. When it relocated to the University of Southern Maine Cutler Institute in 2014, Pious followed.  He is focused on creating opportunities for unengaged members of our community to be heard through their own voices and empowering young people to speak up for themselves.  He is inspired by his work at PE because it gives a voice to all members of our community and provides a platform for students, families, and their school districts to engage each other and make education the best it can be for all students. He is committed to this work because it levels the playing field for students who have been left behind, and creates equity in a system that prepares young citizens from all backgrounds for participation in American democratic and public life.  Among other things, Pious likes to meet new people and talk about public and civic engagement over a cup of tea.

Mr. Ali is the first African-born Muslim American to be elected to a public office in Maine, becoming a member of the city’s elected Board of Public Education in 2013. He currently serves as an at-large member of the Portland (ME) City Council and chairs the Housing & Economic Development Committee.

Xavier Botana

Xavier Botana
Portland (ME) Public Schools

Xavier Botana has been the superintendent of the Portland Public Schools since July of 2016. During his tenure, Mr. Botana has spearheaded the development and implementation of the district’s strategic plan Comprehensive Plan: The Portland Promise. He has worked with the Board and staff to make closing the opportunity and achievement gaps across groups of students central to the district’s work.

Prior to coming to Portland, Mr. Botana served as Associate Superintendent of the Michigan City Area Schools in Indiana for six years. He held a variety of educational positions before that time, including serving as Chief Academic Officer for the Portland Public Schools in Oregon, and working as an administrator and teacher in the Chicago area.

Mr. Botana holds a Master’s degree in Educational Administration and completed his superintendent’s endorsement program at Northwestern University.

Alexis Harewood

Alexis Harewood
Program Officer
Nellie Mae Education Foundation

Alexis Harewood joined Nellie Mae Education Foundation in 2017. Previously, Alexis was a sixth, eighth, and tenth grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher in the Boston Public Schools (BPS), where she worked largely with English Language Learners and students with special needs. In addition to her teaching duties, Alexis also facilitated a number of after school programs. She was the Lead Debate Coach at Kennedy Academy, where she helped students prepare for monthly debate competitions across Boston, and was an instructor with a Saturday Scholars program and a Reader’s Circle program, where she helped to build students reading and writing skills.

Eager to see students across the city succeed, Alexis has also served as an instructor and coach at a number of other education programs outside of BPS. For the past three years, she has served an SAT/ACT Prep Instructor for A List Education, and as a TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) and Spanish Instructor at Showa Boston Institute for Language and Culture, where she taught Spanish I and II to native Japanese speakers, and prepared native Japanese speakers to pass the TOEIC exam. For the past two years, she also worked as a Dual Teacher with the Summer Advantage program where she taught reading and mathematics to K-2 students.

Alexis holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a Master of Education from the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Dr. Ann Ishimaru

Dr. Ann Ishimaru
Associate Professor, Educational Foundations, Leadership & Policy
University of Washington

Dr. Ishimaru’s scholarship focuses on the intersection of leadership, school-community relationships, and educational equity in P-12 systems. Her work focuses on improving educational leadership – both formal and family/community – to create equitable educational environments, with a particular focus on students, families, and communities who have been historically marginalized in education. Formal P-12 educational leadership plays a vital role in addressing persistent disparities in student learning, outcomes, and success, but the field continues to struggle with how to understand and engage in practices that will provide meaningful educational opportunities for non-dominant students. Moreover, parent and community leadership holds promise for improving educational systems, but equitable collaboration across educational and parent leadership is rare. Dr. Ishimaru engages in community-based research to build collaborative leadership capacity for improving educational systems and leveraging the expertise and priorities of the students, families, and communities who have been least well served in these systems.

Dr. Joshua Starr

Dr. Joshua Starr
Chief Executive Officer
Phi Delta Kappa International

Dr. Joshua P. Starr has been the Chief Executive Officer of PDK International since July 2015. Since then, PDK has relocated its headquarters to Arlington, VA and celebrated 50 years of the PDK Poll and 100 years of Kappan magazine. Under Dr. Starr, PDK has expanded Educators Rising across the nation, including launching Educators Rising Collegiate, increased foundation support for its programs, and renewed support for PDK members and other educator scholars. He is the author of numerous essays, book chapters and op-eds and writes a monthly column, “On Leadership,” for Kappan.

Prior to joining PDK, Dr. Starr was superintendent of schools in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland for nearly four years and previously superintendent of schools for Stamford, Conn., for six years. Dr. Starr began his career teaching special education in Brooklyn, N.Y. He became a central office leader in school districts in the NY metropolitan area and served in the New York City Department of Education.

Dr. Starr has a bachelor’s degree in English and History from the University of Wisconsin, a master’s degree in special education from Brooklyn College, and a doctorate in education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Dr. Starr and his wife have three children who have gone through public schools.


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