Commercial real estate executive Tony Dona, of Thackeray Partners in Dallas, will serve as the new Chairman of the Board for Uplift Education, North Texas’ largest public charter school network, through 2016.
Mr. Dona, who has sat on the board since 2009, moves from the Vice Chair role. He succeeds outgoing Board Chairman Kevin Bryant, whose term concluded at the end of the 2013-14 school year. Mr. Bryant is the general counsel of Crow Holdings. Melissa McNeil will transition from chair of the facilities committee to Vice Chair.
As Chairman of Uplift’s Board, Mr. Bryant helped lead enrollment and financial growth for the charter network as it more than doubled in size, increasing from 5,000 to nearly 12,000 scholars at 32 schools across Dallas-Fort Worth.
Uplift CEO Yasmin Bhatia worked closely with Mr. Bryant and the Board to build out a robust school network capable of serving families in diverse communities across the DFW Metroplex.
“The Board’s steady guidance under Kevin’s leadership was essential during this rapid growth period. He helped us think through the financial implications of our decisions, as well as the related real estate matters. Every step of the way, he was focused on the vision Uplift founder Rosemary Perlmeter and founding Board Chairman Phil Montgomery had for providing a high quality college preparatory education for all the children in North Texas. We are grateful for Kevin’s service to our community,” Ms. Bhatia said.
During the three years Mr. Bryant served as Chairman, Uplift schools graduated 1,000 scholars, all of whom were accepted to a four-year college or university and were awarded almost $200 million in scholarships and financial aid. Uplift also opened five new schools, implemented a pay for performance program for all staff, and introduced a revised campus leadership structure to support Uplift’s growing organization.
“The credit for our successes goes first to our teachers, who dedicate countless hours to our scholars. We also have a great team of school leaders and executive leadership who consider our scholars with each decision they make. Working with them has been one of the highlights of my career,” Mr. Bryant said.
He steps away knowing the future of the network is in good hands.
“I believe we’ve built a high quality educational choice for North Texas families. That’s one of the most important things we did together during my term as Board Chairman. We showed that when we establish high expectations for our scholars, they rise to them. In my years of working with Tony, Melissa, and the rest of the Board, they have continually demonstrated their own commitment to high standards. I am confident the Board will provide the leadership Uplift needs to help our scholars continue to grow,” Mr. Bryant said.
Mr. Dona will now look ahead to the next stages of the network’s growth. The current strategic plan calls for growth to 13,000 scholars by 2015. Uplift will likely exceed that enrollment goal at the start of the 2015-16 school year. Organic and strategic growth will lead to an enrollment level of at least 18,000 scholars by 2019.
“My goal for the Board is to make sure we support the Uplift team as they get each scholar ready to be successful in college. We need to be prepared to achieve our big goal of 70% of Uplift alumni graduating college within six years. Nationally, only 8% of first generation college students are graduating in that time. To do this, Uplift Education will need to continually improve academic outcomes at all grade levels. I also look forward to working closely with other Board members and the Uplift leadership team to strengthen our balance sheet so we will have the financial ability to pay our people well and grow the network in communities where there is a need for academic options,” Mr. Dona said.
With the transition completed, Uplift executive leadership has entered the new school year relying heavily on a Board that shares Uplift employees’ deep concern for the accessibility to a high quality college preparatory education in Dallas-Fort Worth.
“Both Tony and Melissa are deeply committed to the academic success of all students in North Texas. Already, for the past several years, both have worked tirelessly alongside our other Board members to support the work of Uplift in the classroom. Under their leadership, I am confident the network will grow stronger, and I am looking forward to working with our entire Board as we carry out our mission during the next several years,” Ms. Bhatia said.
To view our complete list of Board of Trustee members, go to www.uplifteducation.org/board.