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Brent Bushey: Preparing students for a new economy

Brent Bushey (TFA Greater New Orleans - Louisiana Delta ‘99) saw firsthand how his students struggled because of lack of resources and low expectations. His passion for creating lasting change brought him to LEE's New Venture's team and the Executive Director Boot Camp. He now runs an organization that helps public schools in Oklahoma fight educational inequity.

Explain what led you to care deeply about educational equity. What personal values, experiences or beliefs inform this? 

I was raised in Flint, Michigan, and my family always stressed the idea of working hard and striving for the common good.

I joined Teach For America (TFA) after graduating from college, and the experience opened my eyes to the myriad challenges that students in low-income communities face, as well as the problems with our current public education system. The primary challenge that stood out to me in the classroom was the same one that I see today: we don't hold high expectations for many communities — and because of that, we fail to provide options that allow said communities to address challenges and be successful. 

How has LEE helped you in your mission to end educational inequity? 

My primary interaction with LEE was through the New Ventures program. I was part of a cohort of TFA alums that have started new social ventures. The opportunity to interact with and learn from folks facing similar challenges across the country both inspired me and created countless learning opportunities. The growth I experienced through this program — and the additional coaching LEE provided — makes me a more effective Executive Director. 

Tell us about your current role. What’s a typical day like? What is the impact you’re having on educational equity? 

As Executive Director of the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC), I have the opportunity to work with public schools across the state. Our staff provides consulting, professional development and products that focus on helping school leaders save money, remove roadblocks and, ultimately, implement transformational programs that can provide greater educational outcomes for all students. 

Every day is a new challenge. My work includes managing our Board, fundraising, providing feedback to staff on their programs, visiting school-member sites and meeting with schools to convince them to join the OPSRC. 

What is your vision for ending educational inequity in the U.S.? 

The factory down the street from my childhood home employed most of my neighbors and friends’ parents. Today, I when I visit my family, I get lost because the factory near our home is gone. Not closed, but physically not there. 

My concern is that the majority of schools in the U.S. today are preparing students to work in jobs that aren't even there anymore. Even worse, those same schools have done a poor job of providing equitable opportunities for many communities. 

I envision supporting school that recognize these critical challenges and want to take on the critical work of building schools that provide skills necessary in our transformed economy and will hold high expectations for all students, regardless of their parents’ income levels, their ethnicities, their genders, their "IQs," or any other labels one wants to identify. 

What do you see as your role in achieving this vision? 

 The OPSRC works to do this every day by providing innovative solutions and support to public school leaders across the state. We're in our third year of serving schools in Oklahoma and over 20% of the schools in the state are members of our organization. We're encouraged by this progress, but we know that we need to both expand our reach and provide even greater support to schools to help them provide transformational opportunities for their students.