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Ex-Obama Adviser Schnur to Step Down as ‘New Leaders’ CEO

By Alyson Klein — January 06, 2011 2 min read
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Jon Schnur, a former top K-12 adviser to the Obama presidential campaign, announced today that he is planning to transition out of his role as chief executive officer of New Leaders for New Schools. Schnur, who led the development of the $4 billion Race to the Top initiative, President Obama’s signature K-12 program, says he will help New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in developing a new philanthropic strategy aimed at improving education, including K-12 schools.

And, separately, he’ll be starting a new nonprofit initiative. Schnur says the organization will officially launch in the fall. Since it’s still in the planning stages, Schnur didn’t want to get into specifics just yet. But he says the organization’s purpose will be to identify and act on strategies that nonprofit groups and philanthropies can use to “effectively drive comprehensive reform” of education systems.

In both of his new gigs, Schnur says, he’ll be really interested in exploring the question: “What’s the highest value-add that the non-profit and philanthropic sector can provide” to improve whole systems of schools?

In addition, Schnur plans to write a book that will touch on his policy experiences but also examine what separates schools and school systems that are able to achieve major progress from those that make just incremental change. He’ll says he’ll aim to “use that analysis to lay out a road map for what’s needed to drive large-scale success in American education.”

(There’s no publication date yet, so hang on to that Amazon gift card you got for the holidays.)

In 2000, Schnur co-founded New Leaders for New Schools, a New York City-based nonprofit that trains principals for work in underresourced schools. The organization has placed principals in 12 districts. In some districts, including Baltimore, Memphis, Oakland, and Washington, its members make up 20 percent to 25 percent of all principals.

Before his work with New Leaders, Schnur served as a special assistant to Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, as President Clinton’s White House associate director for educational policy, and as a senior adviser on education to Vice President Al Gore.

Jean Desravines, who currently serves as New Leaders’ chief officer for cities and policy, will be taking the helm as CEO. Desravines, who spent the early part of his childhood in Haiti and grew up in Brooklyn, previously served as a senior counselor to Joel I. Klein, then the chancellor of the New York City schools. Check out his full bio here.

Schnur will stay on as an adviser at New Leaders until later this spring to help ease the transition. Then he will become the chairman of the board of the organization.