The Mind Trust founder moving on

The Mind Trust plays an integral role in the growth of charter schools in Indianapolis. 

After 11 years of service, The Mind Trust founder and CEO David Harris announced his departure in March. Harris will continue his work in education with a newly forming national organization. 

The Mind Trust was created in 2006 to close that gap and offer every child in the city the opportunity to receive the best education possible. In Indianapolis, 78,000 children do not have access to a quality education. The Mind Trust’s mission is to create transformative schools in Indianapolis by launching great schools, investing in world-class talent and engaging the community. 

Brandon Brown, current Senior Vice President of Education Innovation will take over as CEO of the organization.

“We plan to continue our current strategy for improving education in Indianapolis,” Harris said. “I firmly believe The Mind Trust’s best days are ahead, and I’ll be eager to support its success however Brandon and the team think I can be helpful.”

To date, the organization has made it possible for nearly 6,000 students to receive a better education. The path to make that a reality began with recruiting educators to Indianapolis from Teach For America and TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project). Next, they created three educational incubators. Through these incubators, the organization invests in education and social innovators to provide them with the time, expertise and support needed to launch autonomous public schools and education nonprofits.

The Mind Trust also works to ensure students of color have more educators that look like them through fellowships, including the highly selective Education Entrepreneur Fellowship, which asks educators to identify a barrier between parent choice and student access to good education. The fellows then devise a solution to remove the barrier. Half of the fellows selected have come from communities of color and all four fellows selected for this year’s Innovation School Fellowship are Black. Successful fellows have gone on to create organizations like Enroll Indy, Teach Plus and Purdue Polytechnic High School.

“Cultural competence is a huge part of the fellowship, but it really starts with the type of people that we invest in,” Senior Vice President of Strategy and Community Engagement Kameelah Shaheed-Diallo said. “We have a strong belief and core conviction in the fact that representation matters and we’re intentionally invested in high caliber talent that also happens to reflect the community they serve.” 

Harris will leave The Mind Trust next month to work in education on a national scale. Brown, who becomes CEO at the end of April, says he feels good about the organization’s direction. 

“The plan that we have in place is the plan we’re going to pursue in the future. We don’t really expect a lot of changes,” he said. “We’re convicted about the fact that schools need support. Historically, we have spent much of our time and resources in the school incubation phase, but we think it’s equally important to support them once their school is open. I’m really excited to expand our school support work, to meet schools where they are and make sure that schools across the city have world-class support.” 

The charter school incubator was created to grow the best charter schools in the city. So far, The Mind Trust has been able to support the launch of five charter schools. On average, students enrolled in Indiana charter schools are outperforming their peers in traditional public schools. According to a 2012 Center for Research on Education Outcomes study, Black students in poverty and enrolled in charter schools in Indiana show significantly better performance in reading and math than their peers who are enrolled in traditional public schools.  

Lastly, the Innovation School Fellowship is a partnership with Indianapolis Public Schools and the Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation. With this program, fellows have the opportunity to launch schools that have the freedom of a charter school, while being able to receive the resources and support of a district school. Although this partnership launched in 2014, The fellowship has already launched seven schools serving over 2,200 students in IPS, with at least three more schools set to open this fall.

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