Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of district and state education leaders, today announced that Barbara Jenkins will lead the network’s Women in Leadership initiative. The network shared the news of Dr. Jenkins’ new role at a Chiefs for Change Women in Leadership convening in Dallas. Dr. Jenkins is superintendent emerita of Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida, the nation’s ninth-largest school system. She served the district for 30 years.
Through Chiefs for Change and professional associations, Dr. Jenkins has long mentored and supported emerging education leaders. Specifically, with Chiefs for Change, she has coached several members of the Future Chiefs leadership development program who have gone on to become superintendents, providing invaluable guidance about what it takes to effectively lead a school district. Women in Leadership is an extension of the Future Chiefs program.
As one of America’s most highly respected K-12 leaders, Dr. Jenkins has helped build the pipeline of outstanding superintendents by sharing her expertise on navigating the job search process, leading on day one, developing sound strategic plans, and creating organizational structures designed to meet the needs of all students. She has advised on successfully managing large budgets and capital campaigns, establishing and sustaining strong relationships with board members and staff, and much more.
“Anyone who takes on the role of superintendent has to work exceptionally hard and demonstrate that they are capable not just on the instructional side but on the business side,” Dr. Jenkins said. “In many ways running a school district is like being the CEO of a major corporation. Leaders must invest the time, the effort, and the continual learning to be at the top of their trade—and in our case, to provide students the education they need for a bright future. The job is both exhilarating and challenging.
“I have mentored phenomenal women and men leaders. Women who are equally capable often still do not receive equal pay or equal respect. I’m proud that Chiefs for Change offers programming specifically for women in leadership. My goal is to ensure that our women chiefs continue to have a strong peer network of support and the opportunity to learn from those who know the role.”
Dr. Jenkins has been a member of Chiefs for Change since 2016 and is a chief in residence. In that capacity, she has provided coaching, advising, and thought partnership to members and Future Chiefs. Many of these leaders shadowed her during her time in Orange County to see how she approached day-to-day operations, worked with her board and cabinet, and made decisions that impacted thousands of students and staff.
“There is no better leader for sitting chiefs and aspiring superintendents to learn from than Barbara Jenkins,” said Chiefs for Change board member and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson. “She has an unwavering commitment to doing what’s best for children, and the students of Orange County made tremendous gains under her leadership. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Barbara has been on the ground and leading through some of the most challenging times public education has ever faced. Having her oversee Women in Leadership dramatically elevates the initiative. Barbara will create programming informed by her firsthand, proven expertise so that other talented women leaders can learn from strong mentors and peers, grow in their leadership, and make a meaningful difference for kids.”
Chiefs for Change operates the largest community of practice for education leaders. In 2018, women in the network asked for a forum that would allow them to talk with their female peers, specifically, about their approach to the work and how to manage difficult aspects of the superintendency.
“I admire Barbara not only for her outstanding leadership in Orange County, but for the way she shares her wisdom and time with those who want to take on this complex and very important job,” said Chiefs for Change member and former Mississippi State Superintendent Carey Wright. “As many of us who have been leading systems for years pass the torch, Chiefs for Change leadership development initiatives are helping to ensure current chiefs and the next generation have what they need to succeed in their roles and carry the work forward. Barbara is one of the most renowned chiefs in the country. With her charting the course for the Women in Leadership program, Chiefs for Change will do even more to support the kind of leaders who are urgently needed at the top of our nation’s school systems.”
Dr. Jenkins received a presidential appointment as a director of the National Board of Education Sciences in 2017. She served as Chair of the Board for the Council of the Great City Schools and is a member of the Florida Council of 100. She is also a board member for Educational Testing Service and is past president of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.
In 2017, Dr. Jenkins was named Florida Superintendent of the Year and was one of four finalists for the national title. The Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents named her Hispanic-Serving School District Superintendent of the Year, and the Florida Association for Career and Technical Education (CTE) named her CTE Superintendent of the Year. Both the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Magazine have named Dr. Jenkins as one of the 10 Most Powerful people in Central Florida on multiple occasions; in 2018, Orlando Magazine ranked her number one in education among its 50 Most Powerful. The Orlando Business Journal honored her as a CEO of the Year in 2015. She also received the Visionary Award from the Girl Scouts of Citrus Council and was named Central Florida Woman of the Year by the Women’s Executive Council.