2023 Change Makers

2023 Change Makers

Our 2023 Change Makers are people, in and around authorizing, who are working and persevering to meet the needs of students, families, and communities. Their work reminds us of the connection between quality and innovation and remind us that excellence still matters—it just needs to evolve. 

Stay tuned for more change makers being added to this post throughout the month of December. 


Frances Messano

CEO, NewSchools Venture Fund 

In her role as CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, Frances Messano leads the organization’s strategy and oversees its $45M annual grantmaking budget across four investment areas: Innovative Schools, Learning Solutions, Diverse Leaders and Racial Equity. Throughout her eight-year tenure at NewSchools, Frances has had a broad set of responsibilities, including creating the Diverse Leaders investment strategy and leading the Innovative Schools team.  

During our NACSACon 2023 keynote session, The Evolution of Excellence: Authorizers at the Forefront, Frances shared a compelling personal story that spoke to equity, quality, and the intersection of innovative schools, authorizing, and quality. Watch her full presentation here 

Lakisha Young

Founder & CEO, The Oakland Reach

Lakisha Young is Founder & CEO of The Oakland REACH. Her formula has guided the REACH’s work since day one: Ask families questions. Listen to their aspirations. Build the solutions. Liberate our communities. This formula has produced groundbreaking solutions over the last 6 years, including The Opportunity Ticket, which gives vulnerable students higher preference for enrolling in quality schools, and the Virtual Family Hub, which lifted literacy outcomes in the midst of the pandemic. Lakisha then built The Liberator Model, which trains parents and caregivers in the community to become tutors in some of the lowest-performing Oakland schools. She is a respected national voice on parent power — featured on CNN, NPR, Today.com, East Bay Times and more — and provides consultation to other cities interested in REACH’s transformative model.

Listen to Lakisha describe the importance of listening to and acting from community aspirations and needs here


Stacey Wang

CEO, Yu Ming Charter School

Stacey Wang is the chief executive officer at Yu Ming Charter School. Prior to Yu Ming, Stacey was the CEO of the San Francisco Education Fund, an accelerator for critically important efforts for SFUSD students and mobilized over $12M of resources during her tenure for SFUSD students, teachers, schools, and families.

Formerly, she was a partner at Transcend Education dedicated to accelerating innovation in the core design of “school” and she served as the advisor of the Superintendent and Director of Personalized Learning for Oakland Unified School District, where she collaborated with system and school leaders and the broader community to transform schools to personalized learning schools for 7,000 students. 

Most recently, Stacey completed the Broad Residency and received her master’s degree in education leadership. Stacey has served as a consultant for numerous education organizations such as Education Pioneers and the New York City Department of Education. 

At NACSACon 2023, Stacey shared the positive student outcomes she’s witnessed as a result of building an equitable and intentionally diverse school. Watch her full presentation here.

Margaret “Macke” Raymond

Director, Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO)

Margaret (Macke) Raymond has served as the director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) since its inception. She has steered the group to national prominence as a rigorous and independent source for policy and program analysis.She has done extensive work in public policy and education reform and is currently researching the development of competitive markets and the creation of reliable data on program performance. She also leads CREDO in investigating the effectiveness of public charter schools. Before joining Stanford in 2000, she held faculty positions in the political science and economics departments at the University of Rochester. She also worked for a number of years in the telecommunications industry and was president of Raymond Associates, a private consulting company specializing in public policy research projects and telecommunications policy formulation, from 1985 to 2000.

Listen to Macke explain what CREDO’s latest report reveals about authorizers and the important work they are doing here.

Dr. Bernadine Futrelll

Deputy Assistant Secretary Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, USDE

Dr. Bernadine Futrell serves in the Biden-Harris Administration as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. At Ed, she leads the agency’s equity action plan and the elementary and secondary discretionary grant programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In this role, she has sought to advance equity in grant process strategies through the Growing Our Grantees initiatives and programs. 

Before coming to the Department of Education, Bernadine served in the Biden-Harris Administration as the Director for the $12 Billion Head Start program. As Director of OHS, she led efforts to safely return children and families to in-person services through the Head Start Forward Campaign; implemented policies to make it easier for SNAP-eligible families to enroll in Head Start; reestablished the Head Start Fellowship program; established the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Analyst position within OHS; issued policy guidance to improve compensation for the Head Start workforce and launched “Get a Head Start” a unified recruitment message to help Head Start programs increase enrollment. Firmly committed to education as an equity accelerator, she began her career as an Assistant Head Start Teacher. Most recently, she was the Senior Director for Effective Practice at the National Head Start Association (NHSA) and Director of the Leadership Network for the American Association of School Administrators.  

At NACSACon 2023, Dr. Futrell helped remind us that access to quality education is life-saving.  Watch her full presentation here.

Alex Kotran

Co-founder & CEO, The AI Education Project

Alex oversees strategy, partnerships, fundraising, and external relations for the AI Education Project. Prior to founding the AI Education Project, Alex built the AI Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility function for H5, Inc., a pioneering AI company in the legal services sector. At H5, Alex led strategic partnerships with organizations including the United Nations, NYU School of Law, the OECD, and IEEE to develop judicial education programs and high profile convenings. Prior to his time in the social impact and non-profit space, Alex managed brand and policy communications for companies including Oracle, Airbnb, Nissan, HP, Adobe, and SAP. He was a lead Field Organizer in Columbus, OH for the 2012 Obama Campaign and served as a Presidential Appointee under HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, where he managed communications and community outreach for ACA Open Enrollment, two SCOTUS rulings, and the 2015 Ebola outbreak

  Listen to Alex describe AI’s role in the future of education here

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