Leadership Update

Distinctive Schools is looking ahead to the future, and the next decade of Distinctive Schools. As we continue to invest in our leaders, our priorities remain steadfast – culture, equity, & innovation. As a growing organization, welcoming ~400+ new students this fall, we continue to focus on organizational stability and sustainability. 

As a network committed to culture, we will continue to foster a strong Distinctive culture that provides pathways to roles, responsibilities and opportunities aligned to network needs, and interests and skill sets.  Sankofa – we look back at where we were before the pandemic, and know that we are coming out of this better together. We are committed to moving forward with and investing in our leaders and staff into the future. We’d like to send deep congratulations to the following team members, who we welcome in new roles for Distinctive Schools: Katie O’Connor (Chief Education Officer),  Jeff Donoghue (President and Chief Financial Officer), and Cassie Williams (Deputy Chief of Education-Michigan).

We are continuing our commitment to educating the whole child through addressing both academic and social-emotional needs, practices embedded into all organizational work. In the 2021-20222 school year, Distinctive Schools will prioritize Mental Health & WellnessLearning Acceleration and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion across all areas of the organization. 

“We set these priorities with equity at the forefront of everything we’re doing” shared Frauenheim, “We’re not going back to ‘the way things were’ before the pandemic. This is an opportunity for us to create lasting change, to invest in what we believe in, and to create community hubs that provide services for families in recovery. We know that our families deserve more than just recovery, we don’t want to just recover or respond, we want to offer opportunities and remove all barriers to learning.”   

To support the mental health and wellness of Distinctive Schools staff, students ,and families, we will leverage partnerships to support trauma informed practice and provide training and resources to support response to national and local tragedies and events. 

In partnership with The New Teacher Project, Distinctive Schools will focus on learning acceleration. Our teachers and leaders will ready students for new learning rather than focus on items students have failed to master.   This innovative learning model, learning acceleration, strengthens practices in backwards planning, addressing learning gaps, providing authentic assessments as well as small group instruction and extra support for students disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are committed to creating a culture of action, and actively building anti-racist schools, designing structures to identify, oppose and dismantle racism. Distinctive Schools provides professional learning and support across all areas of the organization and continues to interrogate and revise structures, systems and practices. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Expanded Design Team will continue to grow and push Distinctive Schools forward. 
About the Team:
Katie O’Connor Chief Education Officer
Katie has been named Chief Education Officer, overseeing the strategy, oversight and accountability for our educational work leading alongside and in partnership with our Chief and Senior Leaders. Katie has been with Distinctive Schools since 2002 and has held various roles as a teacher, instructional coach, literacy director and recently our Chief Schools Officer. In this newly defined role, Katie will oversee all academic, educational and school based leadership along with regional and network leaders. 

Jeff Donoghue President and Chief Financial Officer
Jeff has brought incredible perspective and expertise to the growing team and organization, and has already made an impact on Distinctive Schools, strengthening the sustainability of the organization amidst a pandemic.  Jeff brings 20 years of public education experience as a strong advocate for ensuring our schools continue to be at the center of healthy communities as hubs of support and excellence.  In addition to his financial role, Jeff’s work as President will be focused on prioritizing leadership development within Distinctive Schools, especially investing in Distinctive Schools’ ability to respond to the needs of children and communities. 

Cassie Williams Deputy Chief of Education-Michigan 
After almost two years as Executive Director of Schools-MI Region, Cassie has been named the Deputy Chief of Education – MI Region, expanding her leadership from schools and Principals to supporting Distinctive Schools in Michigan and leading the entire MI regional team in partnership with regional and operational leaders. Cassie will be responsible for teaching and learning, school performance, Principal leadership and coordination of regional oversight in all areas of our work in partnership with regional and network teams.