Tonight is Fight for Children’s Fight Night 2016

Tonight is Fight for Children’s Fight Night fundraiser and I’m extremely fortunate that I will once again be in attendance.  By tradition the blog post on this day talks about the life and legacy of Joseph E. Robert, Jr. who founded Fight for Children twenty six years ago and created this event.  But today I want to write about someone else.

At the end of this year Fight for Children’s president and chief executive officer Michela English is stepping down from her role.  After a decade of leading this organization she will transition to becoming a member of its board of directors.  I have observed Ms. English’s work for years and I must say that she may be one of the most impressive individuals I have ever met. Here are some of her observations contained in a press release announcing the change:

“During my 10 years with Fight for Children, the organization has successfully transitioned from a founder-driven organization to a sustainable, independent nonprofit with a highly skilled and professional staff, and a strong, diverse group of business and civic leaders who serve on our Board of Directors.  Our annual revenues have increased nearly 80% and Fight Night continues to grow each year behind strong support and ongoing commitment from presenting sponsor, Under Armour.  We have also diversified and continue to grow our funding base with contributions from foundations, corporations, individual philanthropists, and government organizations.”

The paragraph does not remotely approach doing justice to what Ms. English has accomplished.  When Mr. Robert passed away at the end of 2011 Fight for Children could have celebrated its contributions and then closed up shop and shut the doors.  Instead, Ms. English, in keeping with the fierce determination and positive spirit of Mr. Robert, refocused Fight for Children’s mission to emphasize strengthening early childhood education and health, and aligned its giving to support this goal.  Her nine member staff attains results other groups would need three times the number of employees to achieve.  When you go to an event hosted by Fight for Children you can be categorically certain that it will exemplify class, kindness, and professionalism.  Moreover, Ms. English has been especially gracious to me personally.

Fight for Children has raised and leveraged over $450 million for education and healthcare programs for low-income children in Washington D.C.  Fight for Children’s fundraising events and other initiatives have directly raised $100 million. It has also been a catalyst in helping the District of Columbia obtain an additional $350 million in federal funding for local education programs.

She has reached all of these milestones in a quiet dignified way that does not hint for even a second of the bare energy of Mr. Robert.  But powerful she has been, whether we are talking about assisting in the development of DCPS’s Impact teacher evaluation system, creating Joe’s Champs to train educators to teach young scholars, providing Quality School Awards to encourage the replication of best practices in the classroom, or as a member of the selection committee for the new DCPS chancellor.

The reins of Fight for Children are being left in the highly capable and energetic hands of chief operating officer Keith Gordon, who was recruited a year ago to play this role.  Mr. Raul Fernandez has led the board of directors since 2012.

Ms. English does not consider her move a retirement.  She will continue to contribute as a board member on numerous nonprofits and to advise businesses.  For instance, she mentions in the press release that she is serving as “a strategic advisor and mentor for growing organizations, such as the ed tech startup Planet 3.”

Here’s to a job well done.  I hope to share a congratulatory toast with Ms. English at this year’s sold-out Fight Night Gala.

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