National education advocacy group Chiefs for Change has a new CEO, and he comes from the Ocean State. The group has tapped Rhode Island Mayoral Academies (RIMA) CEO Mike Magee.
Magee, who co-founded RIMA with then-Cumberland Mayor and current Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, will step down from the organization on September 1st.
RIMA paved the way for the first mayoral academy charter school in Rhode Island, Blackstone Valley Prep. The school receives more freedom from state mandates than other charter schools. For example, mayoral academies are not required to pay prevailing wages to teachers, and they do not have to contribute to the state pension fund.
Currently, there are two mayoral academies in Rhode Island, one in Providence and one in Cumberland. A third school is scheduled to open in Woonsocket in September.
Rather than stand-alone charter schools, mayoral academies include multiple campuses with a goal to serve students from Kindergarten through the end of high school. They are designed to draw students from multiple communities, for a mixture of urban and suburban students.
Academic programs at mayoral academies feature longer school days and a heavy focus on sending all students to college. Some parents groups and teachers unions have opposed the schools, citing concerns about rigid discipline and competition for students with local school districts.
The group Chiefs for Change has championed the expansion of charter schools, along with policies like the Common Core State Standards and the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. The advocacy nonprofit, founded by Republican Jeb Bush, represents a group of of state and large city education officials, including former Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist .
As head of Chiefs for Change, Magee says he hopes to expand the group's mission to include more services for members.
"I plan to do a lot more listening than talking to my members," Magee said. "We definitely want to convene more often and give members the opportunity to learn, plan and problem solve with their peers."