Emily Lawson stepping down as DC Prep PCS CEO

While my wife Michele and I were vacationing in London last month Emily Lawson, the founder and chief executive officer of DC Prep PCS, announced that she was stepping down as head of the school.   Towards the end of 2018 Laura Maestas will become the new CEO.  Ms. Maestas currently plays the role of Chief Talent Officer at the school.

Ms. Lawson states that Ms. Maetas is the right person for the job because:

She thinks about people first. Laura’s career has focused on talent – how to attract, develop and retain a diverse group of great people. Talent has been – and always will be – a huge priority for DC Prep. Laura’s talent expertise and lens will help us remain a great place to work on behalf of students.

She’s tremendously thoughtful. Okay, I’ll just say it: Laura’s really smart! When she considers an issue, she sees all angles, and asks questions until she knows she sees it in three dimensions. In a complex world, it’s essential for our CEO to have this view.

She is committed to high standards – for our students and for herself. Like all of us, Laura wants the best for our students, and she holds herself to a high standard in advancing that goal. She is a great model of growth mindset. And while she is creative and open-minded, she is also extremely persistent and determined. She will make sure that DC Prep continues to set the bar for excellence in education.”

My friend Michela English, the former president and CEO of Fight for Children, who is DC Prep’s chair of the board of directors, released the following statement regarding the selection of Ms. Maestas:

“I am thrilled that Laura Maestas will be DC Prep’s next CEO.

Our Board engaged in a comprehensive process to evaluate Laura as a candidate for this role.

  • Last fall we retained an experienced external consultant to seek input from Laura’s DC Prep colleagues and to assess her strengths and growth areas against the skills needed in the CEO role. We were greatly encouraged by this assessment and thus publicly announced her candidacy.
  • As a next step, we asked for the involvement of staff and parents in our stakeholder interviews.  The Board and I are very grateful to the 24 staff members and parents who answered this call.  Their reflections after interviewing Laura offered valuable insights that influenced our decision, and Laura has benefitted from their feedback.
  • Following that process, and informed by both our consultant’s report and the three group stakeholder interviews, members of the Board interviewed Laura. Last week, the full Board voted unanimously to extend Laura the offer to become our next CEO.
  • We are delighted that she has accepted our offer!

Laura joined DC Prep two years ago as our Chief Talent Officer responsible for Recruitment, People Operations, and PrepEX!  During that time she has built a high-functioning Talent Team, evolved our diversity recruitment and improved our faculty compensation.  She has also served as a member of the Executive Team and worked especially closely with our President and CAO, Katie Severn.

A graduate of Kenyon College and of New York University School of Law,  Laura has devoted her career to the field of education.  Prior to coming to DC Prep, she worked on education-related projects as a consultant at McKinsey & Co. and in New York City and Newark Public Schools. She then served as Chief Talent Officer for Uncommon Schools, a high-performing charter network based in New York.

It is never easy to succeed the founder of an organization who is as successful and well-respected as Emily Lawson, but the Board and I feel very fortunate to have someone of Laura’s experience and talent here at DC Prep who is committed to leading our schools into the future. Laura is already deeply immersed in the people management aspects of DC Prep, which is a foundational part of our organization. Over the next few months, Laura will delve into the other aspects of DC Prep and will benefit from having Emily’s support and counsel as she transitions into the CEO role in early November. Once Laura takes on the full responsibility of the CEO role, Emily will serve as a Senior Advisor and will remain on the Board of Directors to be available to Laura. We are also developing a plan that will enable Laura to better get to know the many members of the DC Prep community, including many of you.

At DC Prep, we are very fortunate to have a strong leadership team — including our principals and academic and executive leaders. We also have an experienced and committed Board of Directors. I am proud to serve as DC Prep’s Board Chair, and I look forward to working with Laura and with all of you to ensure the continued achievement of our students in the future.

None of us will ever be able to properly thank Emily and Terry Eakin, my predecessor as Board Chair, for all that they have done for DC Prep.  I am personally delighted that Emily will stay involved as an active member of our community in the years ahead.

Thank you for your support.”

Ms. Lawson mentions that she has been in her current position for 17 years.  Of course, this is not the first time she tried to relinquish the job as CEO.  Six years ago, current chair of the DC Public Charter School Board Rick Cruz was named as her replacement.  A year after starting in the position he resigned.  You can read my interview with Mr. Cruz here.

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