Teach For America chatted with Patricia Arvanitis and Erika Beltran, who lead Leadership ISD, a local nonprofit that works to empower business and community leaders to positively influence public education in Texas.
April 6, 2016
Patricia Arvanitis is the co-founder and executive director of Leadership ISD. The local nonprofit works to recruit, inform, and empower business and community leaders to positively influence the direction and outcomes of public education and actively support educational excellence and equity for all students.
Erika Beltran recently launched the organization’s expansion into Tarrant County in order to bring this important work to the Fort Worth community.
TFA: What are Leadership ISD’s goals for Tarrant County?
Patricia: The goal of Leadership ISD (LISD) for Tarrant County is to cultivate a broad base of community members who are informed, empowered, and influential in education. We run a 10-month fellowship program designed to delve deep into a wide range of topics in education. You can read more about the program commitment here. Through this work, we hope to connect leaders from the business, nonprofit, and faith-based communities to public schools and key decision makers so that they can be empowered to take action on education issues they care about.
We’re excited to be growing in this community! I have to say, the timing of our launch in Tarrant County is perfect. We have a new superintendent at Fort Worth ISD, we have a growing network of concerned citizens who are focusing on the success of schools, and we have a growing infrastructure of nonprofits to support public education.
TFA: How is your role positioned to lead change in Tarrant County education?
Erika: LISD’s work will be critical in building community support and capacity to sustain positive change in education for kids across Tarrant County. We strongly believe that in order to transform education, we have to have people from all sectors of our community informed, engaged, and taking action. Every year, LISD will train leaders to help them better understand the opportunities and challenges we face and equip them with the tools and skills to tackle the issues head on. We hope to create a growing network of concerned and passionate citizens who will advocate for educational excellence and equity for all kids. We envision our program will create a pipeline of leaders who will stay connected to a school through volunteerism, serve on nonprofit boards, or even consider running for elected office in their community.
TFA: How has your background shaped the way you view education and your current work?
Erika: I grew up in Fort Worth and am a product of Fort Worth ISD public schools, so this work is very near and dear to my heart. My experience as a student on the north side of Fort Worth shaped my career choices and passion for this work. I had the great fortune of having an amazing teacher in the second grade who changed my life by opening up more doors and educational opportunities. I’m a first-generation college graduate and believe wholeheartedly that education can transform lives.
Leading this work in Tarrant County, in my hometown, is very exciting. I believe we have the potential to change the dialogue around education and start changing the narrative for kids who, like I did, face a lot of challenging odds. I know that Tarrant County is a community full of people who want to see every kid succeed — and we’re hoping to leverage that strength and passion to create a new story and new opportunities for kids to reach their fullest potential.
TFA: What are some of the organizations working in partnership to improve education in Tarrant County?
Patricia: Tarrant County has a wealth of organizations and initiatives focused on issues from early childhood education to supporting students through college. We’re very fortunate to have recruited a stellar Tarrant County Advisory Board that is made up of leaders from the philanthropic, business, nonprofit, and faith-based sectors. Those include leaders from the City of Fort Worth, United Way of Tarrant County, North Texas Community Foundation and several others. You can click here to see our full list of amazing advisors.
In addition to our advisors, Fort Worth has a place-based initiative called the Morningside Children’s Partnership focused on providing comprehensive services to a the Morningside community. As we mentioned earlier, Dr. Kent Scribner just started as the new Fort Worth ISD superintendent and he’s bringing a lot of great energy to the school district. Of course, we’re also really excited that Teach For America is continuing to place teachers in Fort Worth ISD as well. There are too many players to mention, but suffice to say that there is a growing network of organizations and leaders who are “all-in” for Tarrant County and we’re excited to be a part of it.
TFA: What do you see as the most promising example of hope in Tarrant County education?
Erika: I think the most promising example of hope in Tarrant County are the many community leaders who are giving so much of their time and energy to this work. Those leaders include school board members, educators, nonprofit and faith-based leaders and many others. When I start talking to people in Tarrant County, I know that we’re not alone in this work and that others also see what is possible for kids in our community. Not only do these community leaders have a vision, but they are collaborative, willing to help, and they’re not giving up. That gives me a lot of hope.