Getting Charter School Board Members on Board…and Loving It

Name: Carrie C. Irvin

Current role: CEO and Co-Founder, Charter Board Partners

Length in current role: 6 years

Previous roles in education or other sectors: Policy analyst, Director of Strategy, teacher, board chair

Why I chose my career path: A deep commitment to improving public education options for all students, especially those whose families typically have not had the choices my family has had about where to send their children to school. All children deserve to attend a great school, regardless of where they live or how much money their parents earn.

Favorite thing about what I get to do everyday: I feel on a daily basis that I am part of the fight for better public education for all children, which to me is the most urgent issue of our time and my greatest responsibility. In addition, I get to work with fantastic people inside my organization and more broadly–smart, committed, dedicated, passionate, and really mission-driven.

Person/Place/Thing That Best Exemplifies Me: Maybe a heart–symbolizing my love for my own children, the love I am lucky enough to get from my parents and family and friends, love as the most powerful and joyful and significant emotion that weaves a community and a society together, the love that trumps hate and can motivate us all to do better by our fellow citizens and leave the world a better place than we found it.

My Superpower: I love to connect people to other people!!

Best lesson learned from a mentor or someone I admire: 1. It’s often a struggle to maintain a balance between all the elements of life (e.g., work and time with your kids), but the struggle is worth it. 2. Walk in others’ moccasins–things that come easily to me are as scary to others as the things that are scary to me. 3. Keep things in perspective. Many of my problems are problems I am lucky to have.

What I do to make lemonade out of lemons on my toughest days: Feel grateful for the people in my life and the opportunities I have. Gratitude is very powerful. And I try to see the opportunities buried in the bummers.

What education equity means to me: If some families have choice about where to send their children to school, then all families should have choice. And if this affluent country cannot find a way to allocate resources to improve the quality of public education for our most underserved children, then we have to look in the mirror and acknowledge that it’s a matter of our policy choices and will and desire to maintain the current power structure–not an issue of resource scarcity. We can do it. We are just not, which is an abdication of the promise of this democracy. Our democracy cannot function without an educated electorate and must prioritize addressing the choices we make every day when it comes to education.

My favorite thing to do to relax and rejuvenate: I love to hang out with my kids, I like to run, and I like to bake. And be with good friends. Preferably over a glass of wine. Or a cake.

The practices/habits that help keep me grounded and maintain perspective when I’m feeling stressed, overworked, or unmotivated are: Deep breaths. Consciously feel gratitude. One foot in front of the other–deal with the problem immediately in front of me and try not to look at the whole mountain. Go for a run or a walk with a good friend. Start checking things off the to do list, even little things.

Who I turn to for advice or guidance when I need career direction: Members of my board, longtime colleagues, members of my Pahara cohort (Fall 2015), my dad.

The advice I’d give to someone trying to find their career sweet spot: Talk to as many people as possible about what they do, what they did, and why. There is SO much cool stuff going on. Find out about it. Meet people. Stay in touch with them.

Learn more about Carrie’s work at and connect with her at