Two Ways to Lead an Award-Winning Charter Network

Winter 2024

Denniston Reid ’94 is co-CEO of Excellence Community Schools.

Denniston Reid ’94 is always looking toward the future. As co-CEO of Excellence Community Schools, a charter management organization founded by his wife, co-CEO Charlene Reid, in 2016, Reid starts each day thinking about how to make the K-8 education network better at preparing students to gain access to and excel at some of the nation’s best high schools, colleges, and universities. Here’s how he’s doing it:

Leadership Development

Reid’s job is to foster an organization that continuously thinks about how teachers and leaders at Excellence Community Schools — which has six charters split into six elementary (K-4) and six middle (5-8) schools in separate locations across the Bronx, N.Y., and Stamford, Conn., with a 13th on the way — can best serve students and families. He facilitates leadership learning processes through which network leaders unpack the intersectionality of their upbringing and their sensemaking about its impact on their roles as influencers inside their respective school communities. Another critical piece of the puzzle is supporting the pursuit of continued formal education: “We offer opportunities for both our leaders and teachers to continue their education … we are an educational institution, and so it is the thing we value most that people are continuing to pursue education at the highest level.”

Data Analysis

Each year, Reid and his leadership and teacher teams set goals and identify benchmarks to monitor their progress. At the end of the year, they analyze student performance data to help understand why a goal was not met. “We spend a fair amount of time analyzing what the students are producing and figuring out what we need to do differently to get them better at the thing we’re asking them to learn.

“A big part of the challenge we have in front of us now is getting everyone to refocus and relearn what it means to be excellent post-pandemic … that’s a lot of what we’re doing now, trying to create school environments that adults want to come to, that kids love being a part of, and having activities or engagement that both adults and kids feel really good about.”

The Results

In September 2023, the U.S. Department of Education recognized Stamford Charter School for Excellence and Bronx Charter School for Excellence 2 as National Blue Ribbon Schools. Stamford and Bronx Excellence 2 joined Bronx Excellence 1, distinguished in 2012. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.”

More About Reid: Inspired by his grand- aunt Lucille Williams from Clarendon, Jamaica, he began his career in education by participating in Teach for America after graduating with an educational studies degree from Colgate. He holds a master’s in politics and education from Columbia Teachers College and an EdD in educational and organizational leadership from the University of Pennsylvania. Before his role at Excellence Community Schools, he managed another small charter network, served as an elementary school principal, was a program officer at a New York City public school reform nonprofit, and taught at traditional public and charter schools in the Bronx and Harlem. Reid serves on Colgate’s Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors for New York Cares.