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E.L. Hayne's 3rd Annual Toast to Transformation

Last week my wife Michele and I spent an evening among a packed roomful of people gathered to learn about two organizations that are trying to make the world a better place. We had the fantastic opportunity to attend the third annual Toast to Transformation fundraiser for E.L. Haynes Public Charter School. The event honored Joe Bruno, president of Building Hope. His talk on that Wednesday night was fascinating.

Mr. Bruno described the highly innovative educational program being offered by E.L. Haynes, which was created in 2004 by head of school Jennifer Niles. For example, the charter now educates over 1,200 students from Pre-Kindergarten to twelfth grade on two campuses. It was the first charter to win Fight for Children's Quality School Award. Several years ago E.L. Haynes started the Capital Teacher Residency program in a partnership with KIPP DC, which trains fellows alongside experienced teachers. It is estimated that by 2016 over 30,000 students will have been taught by a CTR instructor. He explained that the charter has played a leading role in D.C.'s Race to the Top U.S. Department of Education award and in preparing schools for implementation of the Common Core Standards.

Mr. Bruno spoke about the E.L. Hayne's Power of Planning project, a one year program designed to increase academic achievement through effective school planning. Mr. Bruno mentioned its student data platform that is available to all facilities. Professional development is shared amongst citywide educators through the school's Learning Communities. He stated that the charter is now focused on special education and competency-based graduation. Not brought up by the Building Hope president is the fact that E.L. Haynes was one of six schools recently awarded the first Breakthrough Schools: D.C. grants through a partnership of the CityBridge Foundation and Next Generation Learning Challenges. The charter won for its entry on its high school redesign which will focus on academic improvement of those students who are behind grade level and preparing their pupils for college.

The record of Building Hope is no less impressive. Since 2003, when it was created by Sallie Mae CEO Al Lord and general council Marianne Keler, the organization has provided over $150 million in facility financing. It has issued over $40 million in loan guarantees. Building Hope has aided in creating over 5.5 million square feet of school space which has accommodated more than 60,000 students. To understand the span of these accomplishments consider that Building Hope has created charter school facility space equivalent to filling the Sears Tower in Chicago.

In addition, Building Hope is a full-service firm. It provides pro bono technical assistance and consulting nationally, assisting over 600 schools. The organization offers business services including accounting and employee benefits to more than 40 sites. As it did with Washington Latin Public Charter School, upon whose board of directors I serve, Building Hope provides project management services from property identification, building design and development to financing. Moreover, Building Hope, in partnership with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, currently operates six incubator facilities with three more in the works. In Florida, Building Hope, together with the Florida Department of Education, manages a program that provides intensive and targeted support for new charter schools in the areas of school administration, curriculum, finance, and governance. The organization now has offices in Washington, D.C., Florida, and Idaho. Building Hope supported E.L. Haynes acquiring its second campus through $5 million in financing.

Both E.L. Haynes and Building Hope believe they can be doing more. It became clear to me and my wife that this is how we should be spending our time. One glorious night in the nation's capital, present among heroes who are doing all they can to assist those less fortunate than themselves.