‘We are the Innovative Hubs’: An Interview with Jared Austin

Kairos Public Schools celebrates last year's opening of a brand new campus in Vacaville, CA.

As a concept, “charter schools” has evolved to mean many different things to many different people over the past 30-plus years.

In fact, there are likely as many interpretations of the concept as there are charter schools in operations.

Jared Austin
Co-Founder & Executive Director, Kairos Public Schools

And yet some themes persist, especially where hardworking, visionary school leaders – sometimes from nontraditional backgrounds – both understand the origins of the charter school concept and view their school’s mission as inseparable from its founding principles.

That’s certainly the case for Kairos Public Schools and its Co-Founder and Executive Director, Jared Austin, whose passion for innovation, community involvement, and disruptive change have been major factors in the growth of Kairos.

CSDC recently caught up with Jared to discuss how his work at Kairos Public Schools and how events like CSDC’s Leadership Intensive (June 24-27, 2024 in Sacramento, CA) can help new charter school leaders better contextualize and invigorate their roles. Registration for this year’s cohort closes May 30.

How/why did you first get involved in California charter schools? What still excites you about charters?

I started my charter school career as a non-credentialed long-term substitute career and technical education (CTE) teacher in 2005. I was asked to cover a semester for a teacher that vacated mid-year. I had industry experience, but at 20 years old I had no teaching experience, just a desire to see young people learn new skills that could open their doors to various opportunities. I ended up falling in love with that desire to prepare the next generation of students and nearly 20 years later I am still passionate about equipping young people to be successful in an indeterminate future. My entry into the charter schools sector was non-traditional for education, and I continue to look for non-traditional, innovative ways to prepare students. Charter schools are still the best public alternative to the slow-moving traditional system.

What does Kairos Public Schools do especially well? What can we celebrate?

Kairos Public Schools (KPS) has served the Vacaville community over the past decade by trying new, innovative things in our community. KPS operates four different academies in Vacaville, two classroom-based academies and two nonclassroom, or hybrid academies, that meet the needs of our community. The foundational principle of KPS is serving our community and developing responsible citizens. Every grade level serves in some way to make the community better, volunteering at over 80 locations throughout Solano County. The foundation of community service with pillars of high academic achievement are best preparing our young people for a successful future.

Kairos has a long record of participating in CSDC events dating back nearly a decade. What’s unique about CSDC’s events? Why do you return?

Kairos Public Schools attends every CSDC event it can, because we know CSDC is going to take complicated, nuanced legislation, budget information, policies, and more, and provide us school leaders with practical steps and technical assistance to make our jobs more manageable. Whether it’s budget information or adoptable board policies, CSDC has provided our organization with resources since we launched and as we have grown over the past decade. As the state has added more reporting requirements and more laws, CSDC never fails to respond with new resources for us and we are incredibly grateful for that support!

Are there specific things you’ve learned from your participation in CSDC events? If so, could you share a few?

We have sent every new administrator to CSDC events. The Leadership Intensive, CBO Training, and more. As our organization has grown, the training and specific charter school history, resources, and advice have equipped our team with tools they need to be successful as school leaders, with an added benefit of training through a charter school leader lens. Our CBO came to us with many years of industry experience, but no school finance experience and CSDC was able to provide a bridge to school finance and be an exceptional partner even after the CBO Training Program. Two of our site-based administrators have attended the Leadership Intensive, providing a leadership bridge between teacher and administration. The network CSDC provides along with practical application tools has been a successful blend to our leadership team and has made leadership growth and succession smooth and achievable.

Consider someone new to charter school leadership (e.g., a teacher promoted to director or a “traditional” principal moving into the charter sector). What leadership concepts are absolutely critical for this person to understand before they begin their new role?

Kairos Public Schools has had two of our administrators with teaching experience attend the Leadership Intensive. The ability of the LI program to provide an understanding of the origins and purpose of charter schools is critically important, especially with many educators coming from traditional school districts. Additionally, an understanding of the LCAP, board policies, and the differences between what districts and charters must do is important for giving direction to new leaders.

Are there ways in which Leadership Intensive educates participants — especially newcomers — about the original purpose of charter schools?

It's hard to go against the flow. CSDC does a great job of reminding people that we are the innovators and disruptors. We are the innovative hubs for districts to model, and innovation is hard. We go against the flow.

2024 Leadership Intensive

June 24-27, 2024
Sacramento, CA

Registration Deadline
Extended Until May 30, 2024!


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