#NACSAcon Virtual: Opening Remarks by NACSA CEO Karega Rausch, PhD

#NACSAcon Virtual: Opening Remarks by NACSA CEO Karega Rausch, PhD


Good afternoon! I am Karega Rausch, NACSA’s new President & CEOLet me tell you why I’m here today. I’ve had experiences where I have witnessed, firsthand, the importance of charter school authorizing and the need to do better by kids.   

Some of you may know that I was an authorizer at the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office. I’ve spent a lot of time working with school districts with too many children of color in special education, and too many children of color and kids with disabilities being removed from school via suspension and expulsion. I served on the leadership team at Indiana University’s Equity Project. And most recently, I’ve led NACSA’s research initiatives and worked to create a strong evidence-base for quality authorizing. 

 These experiences have left me with many questions. But this I AM clear about– there are questions we need to answer together in order to evolve. Think about this: 

 How do we truly center our work in the hopes and needs of communities—while not patronizing them as if they’re not capable of doing so much more than what we’ve already collectively achieved? 

 Here is another question: How do we think more broadly about what a good school is, and honor different ways in which schools can demonstrate excellence—while not throwing away important methods that we use to identify and address opportunity and achievement gaps? 

 And finally: And how do we do this work in a principled fashionnever compromising our values—while not alienating people of goodwill who think differently than we do? 

Authorizing needs to evolve.

The key to our future lies in answering these and other critical questions. Together. That’s why I’m so glad we are here today. During the next three weeks, please join me in reflecting, evolving, and innovating. As we gather virtually to radically imagine what the next 20 years of charter school authorizing can do for students.  

 My ancestors radically imagined a future that didn’t exist. It is not lost on me that I am the first Black CEO of this organization. That is both an enormous opportunity and responsibility. I think about those who have come before me like my grandfather, who became a great mechanic but there were few opportunities available to him as a Black man. Today, I honor the people who worked, tolled, and died in order for me to have this opportunity. I hope I make them proud. 

 And so, my commitment to you, as NACSA’s new leader, is to ensure that when we talk about “all kids,” we are truly talking about ALL KIDS. One thing the past few months has laid bare—between the pandemic and racial injustice—is that this isn’t always happening as it should. 

 I come before you today to unequivocally say that we cannot—must not—return to the status quo. We must find new ways to educate students that meet every child’s unique needs, and to raise the bar for what is possible within our public education system for all students.   

During the next three weeks, I invite you to consider how our profession can innovate to uphold quality and equity. I don’t have all these answers. But I do know that if we are going to build an education system that truly works for all students, 

  • It must involve listening to a variety of people with different experiences and perspectives. 
  • It means pushing ourselves to think in new ways that challenge how we currently see the world. 
  • It involves intersectionality between education and justice.  

Education and justice.  

That is exactly why we’ve asked Eight Black Hands to lead us into our conference. This group of freedom fighters shows up to fight for the students and families who have waited too long for justice that has been delayed and denied.  

Before 8 Black Hands takes us forward, a few housekeeping items: 

Please spend some time with our conference platform, Crowd Compass. It’s a great way to virtually network with colleagues through a chat function. You can also set up meetings with other attendees, bookmark your schedule, and learn about our conference sponsors. 

All session materials will be available after the live sessions in our online learning system, AuthoRISE. 

Finally, today’s opening session looks a little different than a traditional Zoom meeting. It’s a Zoom webinar, a format that we will use in some other sessions as well. The big difference is that you can only see the faces of the speakers, not the faces of the participants. There is a “Q&A” option at the bottom of your screen—and we encourage you to use that when you want to ask the panelists a question. 

So, I warmly welcome you—the nearly 950 participants (and growing) in this first-ever virtual NACSA Leadership Conference, in a year of first-evers, for all of us. 

And now, it is my distinct honor to welcome Eight Black Hands to our 2020 Conference: NACSA National Advisory Board member Sharif El-Mekki, and Chris Stewart, Charles Cole, and Ray Ankrum. Gentleman, it’s all yours.

Listen to the full opening session with 8 Black Hands here.


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