Relationships and Lifelong Learning: How Kennedy Hilario Keeps Up with California Charter Schools

Managing the finances and operations of a California charter school can be extraordinarily complex.

To keep up with it all, you might think you need the academic pedigree of an Ivy League graduate or the business acumen of a management consultant.

Kennedy Hilario, Chief Executive Officer of ACE Charter Schools, has both, and even for him, the pace of change proved formidable.

Kennedy had already been the executive director of a California charter school for several years when he and his family relocated to Massachusetts in 2015. While there, Kennedy led a network of high-achieving public charter schools, opening two new schools in the span of 3 years.

Despite his successes in Massachusetts and his previous stint as a California charter school leader, Kennedy was taken aback by how much had changed when he returned to California just several years later.

“I thought I could brush up and pick it up but everything was different: the standardized testing, the school funding system, facilities financing, governance–everything I thought would stay the same was different.”

To accelerate up the learning curve, Kennedy joined CSDC’s CBO Training Program, the comprehensive school fiscal management training with a unique, charter-specific focus.

The 15-week program is offered in a hybrid (in-person and online) format and is intended for charter school leaders with significant fiscal management and oversight responsibilities.

“I love the way [the program] is structured. You have this combination of in-person training but also a lot of virtual training where you can go slowly [over the content].”

With Kennedy Hilario at the helm, ACE Charter High School has shown their students and families how college is possible, with 90% of graduates qualifying for 4-year colleges and universities.

CBO Training program content is developed and presented by CSDC’s charter school experts, including Founder & Executive Director, Eric Premack, and Joyce Montgomery, a longtime CSDC guest instructor and former CFO of Summit Public Schools.

“Joyce is a master of charter school finance,” Kennedy says. “On day 1, she gave us a budget template that we filled out as the program went on. I learn more by doing that than anything else.”

Other hands-on training topics have included:

  • State and federal funding programs
  • Strategic fiscal management
  • Attendance accounting
  • Accounting and auditing
  • Compliance and risk management
  • Management ethics

CBO Training not only provides charter-specific training on these (and other) topics, but also demonstrates how these concepts are interconnected.

“It behooves you to understand how all these pieces are linked together. It just makes you a better leader, the more conversant you can be” in all aspects of charter school finance and operations.

In addition to 60+ hours of instructor-led training program, the program also features numerous relationship-building and networking activities.

“You work in cohorts with people who have common interests and common challenges ... You have real, tangible learning together,” Kennedy says. “It’s a sector built on relationships. It’s a great place to meet other folks and get in sync.”

Participants of the 2023 CBO Training Program during an in-person session in Sacramento, CA. Registration for the 2024 CBO Training Program closes January 9, 2024.

Equipped with the knowledge and relationships CBO Training provides, Kennedy made a strong reentry into the California charter schools sector, serving in executive roles at several California charter schools.

Most recently, at ACE Charter Schools, Kennedy and his colleagues have worked tirelessly to prepare ACE students for college, with 90% of students qualifying for a 4-year college or university–a percentage that is four times higher than the rate of local neighborhood schools.

And as a further testament to the unceasing pace of California charter schools, Kennedy continues to learn, having recently attended the CBO Training program for a second time to further deepen his skills and knowledge.

“CSDC is always at the forefront of the change,” Kennedy Says. “CBO Training is invaluable–no matter how much experience you have.”

2024 CBO Training Program

January 16 - May 7, 2024

Program Format
Online on Tuesdays from 9:30AM-12:30PM
In-person in Sacramento, CA on January 23-24, 2024 and April 2-3, 2024

Registration Deadline
Standard: Tuesday, January 9, 2024


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