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Mashea Ashton selected for the Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Program

Mashea AshtonMashea Mason Ashton '96, M.Ed. '97, Chief Executive Officer, Newark Charter School Fund (NCSF) is among the 2010 Fellows in the Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Program. The Aspen Institute and NewSchools Venture Fund announced the selection of the third cohort of the prestigious Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellowship Program. These 24 accomplished leaders will join with fellows from the first two cohorts as participants in the program, which is designed to recognize and support exceptional entrepreneurial leaders who are committed to transforming public education. 

Entrepreneurial leaders in education are crucial change agents. They bring to public education reform a sense of urgency, a dedication to meritocratic and performance-based cultures, an action orientation, a dogged optimism that ambitious goals are achievable, and a tenacious dedication to the work of transforming public education so that it serves all students well. As a group, the Aspen-NewSchools Fellows represent impressive and diverse experience from across the public, private and nonprofit sectors - a powerful combination that is necessary to dramatically improve American public schools.

"The social entrepreneur movement in education has reached a critical moment. They have proven that public schools can consistently prepare low-income students of color to succeed in college and life, and their significant achievements have contributed to dramatic public policy changes designed to apply at large scale the kinds of high-quality, performance-driven practices and tools entrepreneurs have used at a smaller scale," said Kim Smith, Executive Director of the program and senior advisor to NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit venture philanthropy firm she founded in 1998 to support education entrepreneurs. "These policy changes create a need - and an opportunity - to reach a greater scale and greater number of high-need students, but also a need for a new wave of innovation. As such, it is vital that we invest in sustaining and diversifying our current cadre of change agents, and identifying and developing the next generation of these entrepreneurial leaders."

In collaboration with the Aspen Institute, Smith launched the fellowship program in 2007 in order to provide these entrepreneurial leaders with the opportunity to sustain and advance their work through cohort-based leadership development. Each cohort includes a diverse array of forward-thinking education leaders who gather in Aspen, CO for seminars that include thought-provoking reading and discussions about leadership, diversity, and important issues in public education and social change. When they complete the program, fellows become part of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, which now includes 1000 entrepreneurial leaders from 43 countries.

Mashea Ashton serves as the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund (NCSF), a private foundation established in April of 2008, that makes grants to support the quality and sustainability of Newark's charter schools. NCSF is dedicated to improving Newark's charter schools and generally to creating a thriving public school sector in Newark that prepares all Newark public school students for college and work. Mashea previously served as the Executive Director for the New York Program and Senior Advisor for Charter School Policy for New Leaders for New Schools.   At New Leaders, Mashea worked with over 100 New Leaders impacting approximately 40,000 students and families in New York City and Newark. Mashea also served as the Executive Director for Charter Schools for the New York City Department of Education. As head of the Charter Schools Office, Mashea set the vision and policy direction of nearly 50 charter schools throughout the Big Apple and supported the city's unprecedented $130 million effort to open 200 new small schools, including 50 new charter schools. Mashea formerly served as the National Director of Recruitment and Selection and Midwest Director of Business Development for the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). She worked to establish and maintain relationships with key decision makers in Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Detroit to support the development of KIPP schools. Mashea served several years as a special education teacher in Williamsburg, Virginia and Washington, D.C. She serves on the boards of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the National Alliance for Public Charters Schools and the William and Mary Alumni Association. Mashea has a M.Ed in Special Education with emphasis on learning disabilities and emotional disturbance and a B.A in Sociology and Elementary Education from the College of William and Mary.