Innovate Public Schools has named veteran nonprofit leader Michelle Vilchez as Co-CEO of the nonprofit organization, which builds the leadership and power of parents and educators to realize the excellent, equitable public school systems that deliver for the children who have long been marginalized – Black, Latinx, low-income, English learners and students with special needs. Vilchez will join Innovate’s founder Matt Hammer in co-leading the organization this March.
“Her deep professional experience and her lived experience as a daughter of immigrants, a Latina and a mom make her an amazing champion for families.”
Since Innovate was founded in Silicon Valley in 2012, it has grown into a statewide organization with a staff of 50 and a base of 450 active parent leaders who activate thousands more each year across Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and the mid-Peninsula (Redwood City and East Palo Alto). Innovate also hosts a World-class Schools Fellowship for school leaders in both district and charter schools. Since launching its national training programs in 2015, Innovate has trained over 100 staff from 45 nonprofit education and civil rights organizations and schools and 1,000 parents in cities around the country.
“This global pandemic has been devastating for millions of the most vulnerable children in California and across the US. If we don’t act with urgency now to address this unprecedented loss in learning caused by school closures, we’re going to lose a generation of children who will have even less chance of graduating from college,” said Matt Hammer. “I am so excited to have Michelle as my partner in helping lead our organization in rising to this challenge. She walks the talk in fighting racism and creating a more equitable community where everyone is included and belongs. Her deep professional experience and her lived experience as a daughter of immigrants, a Latina and a mom make her an amazing champion for families.”
Michelle has been executive director of the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center (PCRC) for more than a decade, where she brings community members, faith-based groups, schools and local government together to address society’s most complex issues. Michelle has built deep partnerships with schools and districts to implement restorative justice practices, has worked with youth in the juvenile justice system and co-founded the Fatherhood Collaborative in San Mateo County. She was named 2016 Woman of the Year by the California State Assembly and is creator and designer for the Silicon Valley Multicultural Awards Program, a multi-year fellowship to support nonprofit executive directors of color. In 2019, Michelle was selected for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation fellowship, which supports leaders across the U.S. to connect, grow and lead transformational change toward a more equitable society.
“I joined Innovate’s board four years ago because education is so deeply interconnected with issues of economic opportunity, health and because I believe building the power of communities is what is needed to shift systems,” said Michelle Vilchez. “I feel like my experience to date has been training for this moment. The pandemic has accelerated existing disparities. If we are building a just society for the long-term, one that truly delivers opportunity for all, we must center children in the recovery and prioritize education. So much of my life’s work has been engaging others around a shared vision and taking them on a path to be part of the solution and the movement long-term. Rising to the challenge will require bringing in people who aren’t yet singing in the choir – who might not know this is a problem or see how they can play a role in addressing it. I’m excited to be a part of growing Innovate’s impact.”
Michelle was born and raised in Southern California in a family of farm-workers and faith leaders deeply rooted in service to others, and has called the Bay Area home for the past 30 years. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and Cross Cultural Education. Get to know Michelle more through this recent profile.
“Our mission has never felt more critical. Families are worried about the future for their children. Our parent leaders have never been more fired up, and we have never had more partners approaching us for training and consulting on how to organize to build community power for education,” said Matt. “Innovate is deeply committed to doing whatever it takes to rise to this challenge.”
“School systems cannot adapt to address learning loss in the years to come without working in deep partnership with parents as co-educators,” said Michelle. “We’re excited to deepen our partnerships with school districts to make this happen and to make sure parents have a seat at the table and voice to hold the system accountable for investing in addressing learning loss and centering children in the recovery.”
Join us for a Lunch Chat
Learning Loss, Parent Power and What’s Next
Join Michelle, Matt, and Innovate parent leaders discuss how the pandemic is affecting our most vulnerable students and how Innovate is rising to the challenge.
Facebook Live | Tuesday, Jan. 26 | 12 p.m.
“We believe that with Matt and Michelle at the helm, Innovate will be able to powerfully deepen and extend its impact in the decade to come,” said Alex Cortez, Chair of Innovate’s Board of Directors. “Michelle brings incredible relationships and wisdom and skills in powerfully engaging stakeholders across lines of difference to address complex challenges. That is exactly what is needed as parents and educators come together to do the tough and urgently critical work of transforming our education system.”
Innovate Public Schools is a nonprofit community organization that builds the capacity of parents and educators working together to create excellent and equitable public schools.