Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of state and district education chiefs, today announced the appointment of Robert Runcie as CEO. He was selected after a nationwide search and has led the organization on an interim basis since May 2022.
Runcie has extensive experience as a K-12 leader. For a decade, he was superintendent of Broward County Public Schools in Florida, the nation’s sixth-largest school district with 260,000 students and 35,000 employees. He also held strategic leadership positions in Chicago Public Schools.
“Bob has done an extraordinary job as our interim leader at Chiefs for Change and has strengthened this organization,” said Chiefs for Change Board Chair Pedro Martinez, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. “He has made important changes to serve our members. We have increased technical assistance, have expanded leadership development initiatives, and are advocating broadly for policies and practices that make a difference for students. In addition, as the former head of a large, urban district, Bob knows the job of superintendent well. His experience and steady leadership at Chiefs for Change are what our members need as we address historic inequities and work to ensure that every child receives an excellent education. The board and I look forward to the organization’s continued impact under Bob’s leadership.”
Chiefs for Change currently has 49 members—69 percent are people of color, and 55 percent are women.
“As I look across the country, I see the difference that our members are making in students’ lives—strategies to accelerate learning that are working; systems that are posting significant academic achievement gains; districts that have created innovative initiatives to support students’ mental health; and communities that have launched new school models,” Runcie said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve these bold leaders alongside such a committed board. Together, we will continue to drive change so that America’s schools serve all children well.”
Nine chiefs have joined the network since Runcie became interim CEO. In that time, Chiefs for Change has made significant strides across key domains.
- Runcie restructured internal operations and created a new technical assistance division to meet members’ needs and respond to requests for support.
- Since the launch of that division, Chiefs for Change has provided technical assistance to approximately 30 systems.
- Assistance is available at no cost to members in a variety of areas. These include assessing programs funded with federal Covid relief aid; designing best-in-class initiatives; establishing high-dosage tutoring programs; advancing efforts to support student wellbeing; and adopting effective change management strategies.
- Chiefs for Change launched the seventh cohort of its Future Chiefs leadership development program for educators ready to take the next step in their career and become a superintendent or state education commissioner.
- Since May 2022, seven members or alumni of the Future Chiefs program have become chiefs.
- Runcie named former Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins to oversee the network’s Women in Leadership initiative, which offers programming specifically for women who are current chiefs or Future Chiefs.
- Chiefs for Change hosted its first convening for Future Chiefs alumni, giving them an opportunity to discuss problems of practice with one another and share solutions.
Resources for Education System Leaders and Policymakers
Runcie and members of the network will host a briefing for policymakers and their staff on Capitol Hill next month in connection with the network’s report, A Work in Progress: How Covid Aid is Helping Schools Recover and the Need for Sustained Federal Support. Chiefs will discuss promising initiatives funded with emergency K-12 aid and efforts to continue impactful pandemic-recovery work.
In addition to that report, Chiefs for Change has produced the following briefs and resources under Runcie’s leadership:
- The State of the Superintendency: Insights on how to Navigate K-12 Leadership in a Challenging and Politicized Education Space
- Middle School Strategy: Leveraging the Science of Learning and Development to Inform Education in Middle School
- The Power of Procurement: How Effective District Procurement Operations Can Make a Difference for Students
- Resources to Strengthen Mental Health Services for Students
- The Implementation Engine: A Guidebook to Support Leaders from Initiative Planning to Execution
- Resources to Help States Replicate Tennessee’s Registered Teacher Apprenticeship Program
Runcie knows firsthand how a high-quality education can transform a person’s life. He moved to the United States as a young boy and became the first in his family to finish high school and graduate from college, earning his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and his MBA from Northwestern University.
“My family came to the United States from Jamaica when I was 6 years old because we wanted a better life,” Runcie said. “The legacy I come from is one of folks working really hard, doing difficult labor—cleaning bathrooms and bedpans at nursing homes, digging ditches with a shovel in 90-degree heat, and washing dishes in restaurants. I am proud of that legacy and know that with hard work and a good education, all children can succeed—no matter where they come from or what their home life is like.”
Runcie was recognized as Superintendent of the Year by Florida Association of District School Superintendents; National Alliance of Black School Educators; Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents; and Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools.
Alma Advisory Group supported Chiefs for Change in the CEO search, which began in March. The network received 1,169 applications for the position. All Chiefs for Change members were invited to participate in the search and selection process. Members took part in a variety of ways—from having discussions to establish key competencies for the CEO to interviewing candidates.