Kim Perron began her career as an educator in a familiar setting — her own high school — and with a common first-year teaching experience. “I taught off a wheeled cart in a high school with three floors,” she says. “It was a whirlwind introduction to my career in education.”
Perron’s subsequent experience at City on the Hill Charter Public School provided opportunities for teacher leadership and “expanded my interests beyond the classroom,” she says. After returning to Harvard to seek certification as a principal, she took a position overseeing the charter application and amendment process at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Charter School Office, followed by another authorizing role at the State University of New York’s Charter Schools Institute. “SUNY was on the forefront of authorizing, and a lot of cool stuff was happening in the charter school movement in New York,” she says, adding that the experience piqued her interest in “how policies impact the direction and work of a school.”
That interest in the intersection of policy and practice led Perron to SchoolWorks upon returning to Boston, where along with working with clients including the New York State Education Department, she served as director of project management, ensuring that the company’s work remained aligned with each client’s needs. Her role focused on “really listening to what the client needs in terms of the process and the outcome, and making sure that there’s a protocol to guide the work,” she says.
Out of those efforts came the SchoolWorks quality criteria, which Perron developed with a team from Harvard University. A series of research-based conditions that need to be in place to improve schools over time, the criteria have served as a lens to shape the company’s work with clients. “It’s an example of how we learn in order to bring the best to our clients,” Perron says.
Named SchoolWorks President in late 2012, Perron has overseen a strategic shift that has led the organization to work more directly to improve conditions in low-performing schools, as seen by its work in Holyoke Public Schools, among other districts. “We wanted to have a direct and positive impact not just on educators, but also on students and their families,” she says. “The best way to do that was to get closer to students so our work has greater impact.”
Perron relishes the opportunity to ensure that SchoolWorks is focused on building the capacity of individuals and organizations to advance all aspects of student achievement and well-being. “It’s great working with a team of people who are mission-driven and committed to supporting schools and districts,” she says.