November 30, 2020 20th Anniversary, Blog

In Times of Change and Uncertainty, Fund Champion Patrick Haugh Continues to Fight for Educational Equity

In the fight for educational equity, Patrick Haugh has led work from many angles: as a classroom teacher, as a founding member of an education technology company, as a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) staffer, as a leader at The Fund, and most recently, as the CEO of the nonprofit Teaching Trust. Through two decades of changing landscapes and roles, he has learned about the importance of self-reflection, humility, empathy, adaptability, and seeking out and amplifying the voices of those most impacted by the work. 

Patrick’s professional journey in education began in 1998 as a Teach For America corps member teaching fourth grade at P.S. 130 in the South Bronx. Although Patrick remembered creating a “safe, engaging, fun, joyful environment in which the students in his class could be themselves,” he ultimately reflected that a lack of training and experience left him ill-prepared to provide the kind of high quality instruction that his students—most of whom were low-income students and students of color—deserved.  

Recognizing he was better suited to impact students through other means, Patrick still recalls the experience as a powerful learning moment: “The biggest lesson I learned was that all kids have tremendous potential and it’s up to adults and the system to provide the opportunities for them to thrive.” 

This commitment to unlocking student potential is what motivated him in 2000 to become a founding member of The Grow Network (Grow), an educational technology company which received investments from CPS and The Fund to more effectively leverage data technologies to improve instruction and drive student achievement. 

After McGraw Hill acquired Grow in 2004, Patrick worked in the Chicago education landscape from yet another lens, spending one year leading the launch of an instructionally-focused assessment program across the Chicago Public Schools. 

After leaving the district to pursue his MBA, Patrick eventually found himself back at The Fund leading a slate of Program Investments in 2009.

“Being a grantee, and then part of the CPS system—and then being back in the organization as a staff member was fascinating,” he stated. “My experience adjacent to The Fund provided invaluable perspective that enabled me to more effectively navigate turbulent times for the Chicago education landscape.”

During Patrick’s tenure, Chicago cycled through two mayors and four CPS CEOs, providing him the opportunity to help lead a strategic adaptation of the Fund’s mission. 

“It was a time of real change and a lot of soul searching in terms of what the organization should be and how it could fulfill its mission most impactfully,” Patrick said. “It was an incredibly dynamic time and I felt fortunate to be in the middle of a lot of that change.”

“The Fund is situated at the confluence of public education impact and innovation in Chicago, intersecting with CPS, the Mayor’s Office, and Chicago’s civic, philanthropic, and business communities,” Patrick added. “We had a remarkable vantage and we approached the work with purpose and urgency. We viewed this time of volatility as a particularly potent opportunity for leadership, collaboration and impact. We were trying to make sure that we were fulfilling our commitment to the community and maximizing our value for our board and stakeholders.” 

But this moment of change actually became Haugh’s crucible for innovation: “The moment that was really definitive and life-changing for me was being able to develop and launch this innovation fund during a time of real transition and change in Chicago. We worked with the board to launch an initial one million dollar innovation fund that would explore opportunities to empower leaders and educators to think differently about time, technology and talent.”

That experience proved useful for Patrick’s next professional stop, as the CEO of Teaching Trust, a Dallas-based nonprofit focused on cultivating and supporting outstanding school leadership. Similar to The Fund’s mission, the organization was “based on a belief that leadership is the most powerful lever for driving significant, sustained improvement in schools, particularly in schools that serve students from low-income communities and students of color.” 

Teaching Trust offered “high impact professional development and coaching for teams of teachers and school leaders, focusing on four essentials: strong instruction, effective use of data, team effectiveness and school culture.” 

Haugh summarized their mission simply as “great leaders plus great teams equal great schools.” 

In July, Teaching Trust announced it would be winding down operations due in part to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis and in part to an incomplete internal transformation to truly center equity at the core of its work. But Haugh stated, “Teaching Trust’s legacy of impact will definitely live on through the 1,500+ leaders that we partnered with over the last 10 years.” 

Reflecting on his experience at Teaching Trust and the need for more inclusive and relevant programming in the future, Haugh stated, “What I’ve realized over my career and over the past two years in particular is the importance of centering the voices and the experiences of those who are most impacted by the work.” 

“So many initiatives are well intentioned but they fail to seek out and incorporate perspectives from the community—so it’s not all that surprising when things don’t work. True, lasting and transformative impact are possible—but only when we start with the voices and experiences of those in the community. Only then will we achieve the true change that we’re trying to achieve.” 

Like he has done so thoughtfully in past moments of change and challenge, Haugh will apply these lessons to whatever new opportunities lie ahead. 

But one thing’s certain amidst all the uncertainty: Haugh will continue to work in education. 

“I am deeply committed to educational equity. And I’m excited about the opportunity to live that value through work that centers the community and students, and disrupts the systemic and structural inequities and that have disenfranchised generations of students from low-income communities and students of color.”