Rick Cruz, our new co-leader of FSG’s Education and Youth team, shares his thoughts about important challenges for the sector and talks about his background.
Education has long been a passion of yours. What is your philosophy in improving education for our children?
Educational access and opportunity are important to me and I am looking forward to finding new ways to open doors for our children. By working across different sectors – public, private, nonprofit, philanthropic – communities can develop solutions that are grounded in local experience and local context. I’m also excited to see the movement toward incorporating innovations in instruction and personalized learning that are transforming education and creating new ways to reach young people with different needs and interests.
In the coming year, what do you see as the prime opportunities for the sector?
I think we’ll see an even bigger push toward school models such as charter and blended learning, as well as more focus on how school leadership is navigating these big changes in the sector. Aligning systems change is one area in particular that FSG is very interested in. In order to change academic outcomes for kids you need all education actors in the sector to work together. This isn’t easy, but it’s absolutely necessary if we want to find sustainable solutions in education. There is a real need for us to take a look at career-readiness and the types of programs that middle and high schools offer in the way of career and technical education and how they link to the work of community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities.
What do you see as the biggest challenges?
Too often in our haste to make change happen, organizations overlook the important work of engaging communities—parents, families, local stakeholders. Our wins will only be short-term and half-realized if we don’t engender the support of those we wish to serve. This, again, is hard work but it is absolutely essential.
You have worked in both the education and consulting sectors. How will that background shape your approach to helping children and youth?
I was a strategy consultant before turning to the education sector, where I became vice president of regional operations at Teach for America and then served as chief field officer for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a nonprofit that works through curricula, experiential programming, teacher training, and volunteer engagement to help kids acquire skills directly transferable to the real world. Immediately prior to joining FSG I served as CEO of a DC charter management organization. I’ve run business lines and nonprofit organizations and spent a good deal of my career advising executives on their most pressing challenges and opportunities. I have a deep appreciation for the complex environments that drive the challenges we’re seeking to address and how they cut across sectors. I currently also have the privilege of serving on the Board of the DC Public Charter School Board, which authorizes and oversees the 100+ public charter schools that serve nearly half of all students in the District of Columbia. This provides me a fascinating window into the real impacts of public policy.
What has been your favorite moment so far at FSG?
I’ve had the opportunity already to work with so many amazing organizations and executives and have seen firsthand how they are making an impact each day. My favorite moment thus far was facilitating a panel on workforce development at the “Transforming the Role of Business in Education” conference FSG hosted with SSIR at Stanford University in October - so many cross-sector leaders coming together for a day to discuss new ways to work together and solve the problems we see in education globally.