The Partners in School Innovation staff

We kicked off the 2019-20 year with our annual “Launch” convening — two days of professional learning and fellowship. Teams from the Mid-Atlantic, Nevada, and Bay Area regions enjoyed re-connecting with each other in person and welcoming four new team members.

Professional Learning

Launch is, at its core, a professional learning activity designed to help us improve the support we provide to our partners in the field. This year’s Launch began with celebrations of how we helped our partners achieve success in 2018-19. We then took deep dives into topics that will strengthen the support we provide, with Partners team members from across the organization leading sessions on improvement science, instructional coaching, project-planning software, instructional coaching, district partnerships, and our change agent rubric (a guide for assessing the skills we help educators develop).

We also spent significant time discussing the design of our internal professional learning communities that focus on race, class, culture, gender, and power. This year’s PLCs will focus on producing tools and professional development activities for educators who view equity work through a variety of lenses.


Another purpose of Launch is to foster in-person connection among team members who don’t often get to work side-by-side. The face-to-face contact that happens at Launch helps team members learn from one another and increases esprit de corps, which sustains staff members throughout the year as we fight for equity in our public education system.

The highlight of our team-bonding was our “Tasty Pastry Baking Contest,” which is a recent tradition. This year, for the first time, all of our bakers were men! To determine the contest winner, we naturally applied our School Transformation Review methodology, deploying three staff members to assess each entry according to a carefully constructed rubric. Alex MacIver took home the top prize for his version of the Five-layer Cookie “Box” Brownie Cheesecake.

Special guests

Helping make Launch especially meaningful this year was the presence of two special guests — Michael Hornsby and Eli Pristoop. Michael has been a Partners board member since 2017 and currently serves as our vice chair. Mr. Hornsby traveled from his home in Washington, D.C., where he works as a Customer Success Director for SalesForce, to share his wisdom with us.

Eli is our program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We greatly appreciated that he traveled from Seattle to be an active participant in all of our Launch activities.

Ready for Success in 2019-20

For many years, Launch has been an energizing experience, and this year’s gathering was no different. We’re excited about 2019-20!