CEO Reflects on Supporting Educators During the Pandemic


Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Supporters:

All of our lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic for more than a year now, and the resulting shift to virtual-only instruction for most of our partner schools has been deeply challenging. The difficulties of ensuring all students can access virtual instruction equally, combined with the isolation, stress, and fear from the pandemic, have produced a deep sense of uncertainty about the future. In the face of that uncertainty, the education community has shown admirable resilience and dedication. 

Schools serving high percentages of students of color challenged by poverty are no strangers to uncertainty. Finding a way forward for students in the presence of seemingly insurmountable challenges is essentially the job description of teachers and leaders in our most challenged schools. As such, adjusting to the pandemic environment, forming teams to solve problems, and working to maintain equilibrium through it all are well-oiled muscles for these teachers and leaders.  

This is also true for Partners staff members, who have maintained strong relationships with our partner schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and Philadelphia throughout the pandemic. In the past 12 months, we have provided virtual support to 50 schools serving 2,400 teachers and more than 26,000 students. This included 800 hours of network sessions, 2,700 hours of follow-up coaching, and 250 hours of intensive support to build the capacity of educators to improve outcomes for students who are furthest from success. In-person school was understandably halted, but adult professional learning was NOT.  

The number of schools we are impacting is the greatest in Partners’ history. Our recent growth is in large part due to a major investment by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation beginning in the fall of 2019. The foundation’s five-year, $13.66 million grant has allowed us to expand our networks for school improvement, which represent a more wide-scale approach to school-transformation than the Intensive model we have implemented for more than a decade. In the near future, the grant will allow us to seek out partners in new regions. 

Another way Partners is broadening its impact is by operating an online alumni network. About 115 educators who have worked with and/or for Partners have joined this community of equity-focused change agents. In the years to come, we will expand this national network and build out the learning opportunities offered there.

Doing this work is not easy. Our staff face the same challenges as our partner educators — balancing family obligations with professional responsibilities during an especially stressful time. Our adherence to Partners’ core values — commitment, integrity, mutual respect, and optimism — propel us as we take on these challenges.

We’re excited that the end of the pandemic is in sight, but please let’s not be content to “return to normal.” For the students we serve, “normal” was not nearly good enough. Let’s build on the innovation that we exhibited in our use of technology to enhance instruction, and let’s continue looking for ways to keep our students, families, teachers, and leaders invested in each other and the success of their schools.

The pandemic and the inequities that it has brought into clearer view have tested us, but we remain vigilant in pursuit of our mission. We thank you for your stalwart support as we work for a more equitable and just future.


Derek S. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Chief Executive Officer

Our revenues & expenditures in 2019-20

Our recent financial supporters

To read about specific ways that we are helping our partner educators, please see our “Stories from the Field.”