Meet Our 2013 Education Pioneers: Mark Muenchau

August 9, 2013

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Since 2005, the California Charter School Association has welcomed graduate students each summer from the Education Pioneers Fellowship program to provide their expertise, perspectives and elbow grease to some of the pressing challenges that charter schools face. The mission of Education Pioneers is to identify, train, connect, and inspire a new generation of leaders dedicated to transforming the educational system so that all students receive a quality education.

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Mark Muenchau is currently a Master in Public Policy candidate at Duke University. Before attending Duke, Mark was an Assistant Principal of Instruction with IDEA Public Schools in the Rio Grande Valley. Currently, Mark is working with CCSA to develop a toolkit for high performing charter schools seeking to replicate. He loves to run and participated in the Golden Gate Trail Marathon in July.

Describe the project you worked on this summer.

I worked on a charter school replication toolkit. The toolkit consists of guides and questions around Readiness, Growth Models, Asset and Challenge Mapping, and Work Planning. The Readiness Tool provides a targeted evaluation of whether or not a school is prepared to replicate its impact and helps teams think through challenges and success of the current program. The Growth Models Tool helps school teams examine options for different kinds of operational structures, organizational structures, and governance structures when managing growth.

The Asset and Challenge Mapping Tool helps teams think through critical questions about leverage points for aiding growth and identifying challenges that can impede the process. Lastly, the Work Planning Tool outlines milestones and checkpoints to guide teams through the replication process, ensuring that everything necessary for a high quality school is in place before students ever walk through the new school's doors.

What are you interested in doing after completing graduate school?

I will find my niche within the education sector, where I am able to have the greatest positive impact on the education of students within the community.

What drew you to the Education Pioneers Program?

The diversity of backgrounds and experiences from other fellows within Education Pioneers gives me critical insight about how different stakeholders view both the challenges and solutions to educational inequity and access.

What has been the most surprising thing you've learned in the course of your work this summer?

Associate Superintendent of Oakland Unified School District, David Montes de Oca was on a panel at one of the Education Pioneers workshops and said, "When you are changing something, it means you are interrupting something else." As I sat with that for a while, it helped me bring a new lens to the work that is taking place within the education sector. It's a good way of thinking about what the consequences are of changing the status quo, both positive and negative. Knowing what is being interrupted with each change is a great way of looking at impact for all pieces and stakeholders involved.

What was your familiarity with charter schools before working at CCSA? How has your view of charter schools changed?

I was a teacher, an instructional coach, and an Assistant Principal of Instruction at a charter school in South Texas. Before CCSA my knowledge base was limited to the instructional and staffing side of charter schools I worked at and visited. Having interviewed leaders within the charter movement in California has helped broaden my understanding of the myriad challenges that charters face when trying to do what's best for kids, including funding, politics, and governance structures.

What changes would you like to see in our public education system?

I would like to see true access and choice for parents when they are determining what is best for their child and their child's future. I would like to see enough space for students to discover their passions and communities in which they can thrive.

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